The government’s beauty watchdog has called on councils to ‘say no to ugliness’ by naming and shaming bad housing developments
An interim report by the commission, due to be published today (9 July), has urged town planners to publicise examples of ‘bad schemes’ they reject to encourage better design.
The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission also calls for retail parks and large supermarkets to be transformed into mixed-use communities, and greater use of master-planning.
The report explores the ‘fundamental reasons’ for ugly developments, and also calls for communities to be given an earlier say in the development process.
Nicholas Boys Smith, the founder of think-tank Create Streets, who is now leading the panel, said: ‘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. We need to move the democracy up-stream from development control to plan-making.
He added: ’Beauty should not be just a property of the old buildings or protected landscapes but something we expect from new buildings, places and settlements. We need to deliver beauty for everyone, not just the wealthy.
‘This will require, ultimately, some fundamental changes. Hopefully our report will start part of that important debate with the public and the professions.’
In addition to singling out poorly designed schemes, the commission praised ‘beautiful’ developments, including Ash Sakula’s riverside housing scheme The Malings in Newcastle.
Ash Sakula’s Malings scheme in Newcastle
Source: Hunter Johnstone
According to the commission, the development is ‘in-keeping’ with the traditional terraced properties in the area.
The findings included that any financial support from Homes England and local councils should ‘aim for beauty’, with more work required to understand how this might be achieved and measured.
Ian Tant, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said the commission has ’helpfully steered the conversation’ about beauty to placemaking and places importance on planners to play a ‘decisive role in changing the status quo’.
Tant said the government should take note of the commission’s wide-ranging recommendations to ’use the planning function more creatively’ for place-making rather than development control.
Asked what powers councils should have to be able to refuse schemes based on appearance, an RTPI spokesperson said ’poor design quality’ should be stated in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as being sufficient grounds for appeal dismissal.
RIBA president Ben Derbyshire praised the interim report for recognising the ’power of placemaking’ and ‘giving the subjective “beauty” some meaning’.
He added: ’This can only be supported through a properly resourced planning system, community engagement and by empowering local authorities to make the right decisions for their area.
’There is no greater challenge than tackling the climate emergency and I welcome the recognition in the report that sustainability and beauty must be in symbiosis.’
Boys Smith was appointed to replace the commission’s previous chairman, the outspoken academic Roger Scruton, who was sacked in April after the government said comments he gave to The New Statesman were unacceptable.
The magazine has since published a clarification of his comments on China and anti-Semitism. However, it was not the first time the government faced criticism over the appointment.
Labour MPs had previously called for his removal over his comments described Jews as forming part of a ‘Soros empire’ and his views on homosexuality. In 2007 Telegraph article about gay adoption as ‘not normal’.
Scruton also claimed in a public speech in 2005 that there was no such crime as date rape and described sexual harassment as merely ‘sexual advances made by the unattractive’.
The commission, which plans to submit a final report to the government before the end of the year, has taken evidence from over 120 stakeholders and received evidence from over 70 bodies and individuals including members of the public.
The panel also includes property consultant Gail Mayhew and chair of the TCPA Mary Parsons. A third commissioner, the landscape architect Kim Wilkie, has stood down from the commission.