The Building Better Building Beautiful Commission has released a report aimed at councils throughout the UK with the aim of rejecting plans for ‘ugly’ housing schemes and to try to prioritise low car developments. The report wants to see a greater importance places on attractive housing developments, calling for a creation of space for beauty and urging council planning departments to have enough confidence to say no to developments deemed ugly. One way in which the report aims to promote this is through a suggestion of local communities being welcomed into the planning stage at a much earlier phase than is currently the case.
There has been a development in the conversation in recent times about how beautiful new developments should be a realistic possibility for all areas of the country, not just for the wealthy. An important factor in helping urban areas of the UK to become a greater beacon of environmental sustainability is to promote pedestrianisation of high streets, welcoming car-free city centres and building mixed-use communities, instead of focusing on residential-only construction developments. This will help to reduce the need for a vehicle to get to amenities that instead can be found in the building a person lives in.
No matter where and why a development is going ahead however, the report proposes that beauty should become of greater importance in the planning application stage, with an emphasis on developing brownfield sites and delivering the framework for communities to thrive. Beauty is possible in all sorts of renovation and redevelopment, whether the project aims to redevelop an out-of-town retail park that has been abandoned or is failing, or a large wealthy estate. Beauty should not be the property of the wealthy alone.
The UK Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, is committed to building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid 2020s, but it is important that this new wave of redevelopment and new housing is constructed with the future in mind. Not only must the construction be as environmentally friendly as possible, sustainable with an eye to the future, but also beautiful and have the approval of existing local communities. He said; “But it’s right that we do not do this at any expense – what is built must stand the test of time”.
It is important to have that balance between progressive design and modern architecture alongside old communities and architecture that is of historical and cultural significance. Urban centres and the lives of those who live and work within them will undoubtedly and demonstrably improve with fewer cars and congestion on city centre roads. Learning how to have this perfect balance between necessity and economic potential with the redevelopment of old sites and brand new housing is an important process to get right. With such ambitious plans for large-numbers of new housing within the UK over the course of the next few years, it remains to be seen whether proposals and reports such as this one will be taken seriously enough by planners across the country, or whether beauty will remain at the bottom of considerations during the planning process.