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‘Say no to ugliness’, housing commission urges planners

A housing development under construction in Moss Side, Manchester, UK.

The UK should reject ‘ugly’ housing projects and prioritise attractive developments when giving planning permission, The Building Better, Building Beautiful (BBBB) Commission has said.

In its interim report, Creating space for beauty, published today, the independent body urged local authorities to involve the public at an earlier stage in the design process, rather than later at the planning stage.

The commission has stressed that councils must focus on redeveloping brownfield sites into mixed-use communities, supported by quality public transport to reduce reliance on cars.

Nicholas Boys Smith, interim chair of the BBBB Commission, said: ‘Redeveloping abandoned out of town retail parks and ugly old supermarkets would deliver something much more beautiful in the form of thriving new communities where people can raise a family, work or settle down.

‘Our initial report sets many ways we can make our country more beautiful while fulfilling the needs of future generations who will need a roof over their head.’

The commission, set up by the communities secretary James Brokenshire last November after encouragement by the think tank Policy Exchange, also recommended that councils should have confidence in ‘saying no to ugliness’.

Councils should actively celebrate bad schemes they have turned down and use them as examples to encourage beautiful design, the report explained.

The interim report also recommends making high streets beautiful, walkable and well-connected places with greater variety in building use, while Homes England and local councils should ‘aim for beauty’ in any financial support they give to new developments.

The commission added that local governments should work together across different levels to set out clear visions for redevelopment that reflect local geography, culture, and economic priorities.

Responding to the report, Brokenshire said that while the UK should aim to hit its target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, the commission is right to say that this should not be ‘at any expense’.

Brokenshire said: ‘We owe it to the next generation to not just build more homes, but to build communities people can be proud of.

‘As a country, we should not shy away from talking about what building beautifully means – and this report is an important contribution to that discussion.’

The Town and County Planning Association (TCPA) also welcomed the interim report, saying it ‘rightly’ places emphasis on placemaking rather than just housebuilding.

The association added that the commission should also recommend in its final report a statutory need for the planning system to focus on outcomes for people and the introduction of a ‘Healthy Homes Act’.

‘Such legislation would set out principles defining what constitutes a decent, beautiful home and make sure that new housing, and the communities it is located within, support people’s health, safety, wellbeing and life chances,’ said the TCPA’s chief executive Fiona Howie.

The BBBB Commission’s final report, which will include its recommendations to government, is expected to be published in December this year.

Photo Credit – Alex Pepperhill

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