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Call for new homes in the UK to be more attractive

Housing developments in the UK should give more priority to making homes more attractive with the onus projected onto councils to make sure ugly buildings are not given planning permission, according to a new report.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful (BBBB) Commission, set up by the Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire last November, has published its interim report called Creating Space for Beauty.

It urges local authorities to involve the public at an earlier stage in the design process, rather than later at the planning stage and also calls on them to look more at the re-development of brownfield sites, adding that mixed-use communities work well but need to be supported by quality public transport to reduce reliance on cars.

‘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,’ said Nicholas Boys Smith, interim chair of the BBBB Commission.

‘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,’ he explained, adding that councils should have confidence in ‘saying no to ugliness’.

‘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,’ said Brokenshire.

The BBBB Commission’s final report, which will include its recommendations to the Government, is expected to be published in December this year. The interim report has been welcomed by the Town and County Planning Association (TCPA).

‘The interim report rightly places great emphasis on the value of place making rather than just house building, and argues that beauty should be considered in relation to buildings, places and where places are located,’ said Fiona Howie, Chief Executive of the TCPA.

‘We are also pleased that the interim report builds on a number of themes raised in the Raynsford Review of Planning, published in November 2018, which informed the evidence we presented to the Commission. These themes include underfunding of local authority planning departments, a loss of public trust in the development process and the need for meaningful community engagement in planning,’ she explained.

‘We hope that the interim report will raise awareness within Government of just how important planning, design, building and regeneration is for people’s health and well-being. Looking ahead to the final report, and drawing on the emphasis in the interim report on communities, we encourage the Commission to set out a clear recommendation for a statutory purpose for the planning system that focusses on outcomes for people,’ she added.

‘In light of the Commission’s emphasis on the need for a level playing field, we also hope the Commission will recommend 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,’ she concluded.

The Design Council also welcomed the report and chief executive officer Sarah Weir described it as bold and imaginative. ‘I am especially pleased to see a strong focus on true collaboration and much earlier community engagement, the emphasis on the value of holistic place making and the recognition that sustainability and green infrastructure needs to be at the heart of planning and design,’ she said.

‘The call for a greater emphasis on design skills in local authorities is particularly important and reflects our evidence to the Commission. The Design Council is also ready and eager to play our role as national advisory body for Government, working closely with the Commission to help ensure consistently high standards of design nationally. This interim report has the clear potential to ensure an even wider impact can be felt across the country in the final report. We look forward to being a part of it,’ she added.