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Putting beauty back at the heart of how we build

Published 20th July 2021

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has hailed the work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission as he laid out his vision for the country’s planning system.

Robert Jenrick, in a speech at the Policy Exchange, said the new Office for Place, the new National Model Design Code and the revised National Planning Policy Framework marked a significant change in direction for the country’s planning system.

Too often, he said, new housing paid little heed to local identity, and suggested people preferred the design of homes built before the 1947 planning reforms.

“We are putting beauty back at the heart of how we build,” he said. “It means resetting our approach, so we are not just building houses, but creating beautiful, greener, enduringly popular places where people want to live and can prosper, and which we will be proud to hand on to our children and grandchildren.”

This vision, he said, had been inspired by the “invaluable” work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

The commission report, Living with Beauty, published in January 2020 set out to explain how high-quality design for new homes and neighbourhoods could be achieved across the country.

The report has also helped inspire a number of landed estates, including the Hadlow Estate with the masterplan for Tudeley Village, as they consider how best they can help provide housing for the future.

Mr Jenrick said: “Today I have set out the Government’s vision for a planning system that make beautiful, sustainable and life-enhancing design a necessity, rather than a luxury.

“Our revised National Planning Policy Framework will ensure that communities are more meaningfully engaged in how new development happens, that local authorities are given greater confidence in turning down schemes which do not meet locally set standards.

“This is about putting communities – not developers – in the driving seat to ensure good quality design is the norm, and the return to a sense of stewardship – to building greener, enduringly popular homes and places that stand the test of time in every sense.”

Nicholas Boys Smith, Chair of the Advisory Board for the Office for Place, said: “Britain has created and is creating some of the best developments in the world. But the quality achieved remains stubbornly inconsistent. We must do better, more often for the benefit of communities, to contribute to the economic success of our towns and cities and to look after our planet.

“Our vision is to help families, neighbourhoods, councils, landowners, housebuilders and developers more easily create places in which our communities can prosper. The Office for Place aims to encourage the British design and development industries to be the best ‘place-makers’ in the world aided by improving data on the discoverable links between place with happiness, health, popularity and sustainability.”

Mr Jenrick also highlighted the important role people can have in helping shape their new communities, and spoke of how residents being involved in the design of their new homes helps to foster community ties.