Planners appointed to advise government's beautiful buildings commission

The chair of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and two planners are among the commissioners and advisers that have been appointed to the government's new task force aiming to boost the design quality of new developments.

Newhall, Harlow: shortlisted for Stirling Prize in 2013
Newhall, Harlow: shortlisted for Stirling Prize in 2013

The government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, was announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) last November with the aim of promoting "beautiful buildings".

Among the four commissioners announced by MHCLG this morning is Mary Parsons, TCPA chair and trustee and a group director at housing association and housebuilder Places for People.

The three other commissioners are: 

  • Gail Mayhew, a property consultant with experience in regeneration and place-making, who is currently advising on the regeneration of Purfleet in Thurrock; 
  • Nicholas Boys Smith, the founding director of Create Streets, a research group that aims to promote high density and high-quality street-based developments that involve the community; 
  • Kim Wilkie, a landscape architect and environmental planner, who has sat on the mayor of London’s Public Realm Advisory Group and the Royal Parks Advisory Board. 

The four new commissioners will join the commission chair, conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton.

Sir John Hayes MP, a former transport minister and strident critic of brutalist architecture, will also support the commission, MHCLG said in a statement. 

In addition, nine specialist advisors will join the commission, "supporting specific aspects of work."

They include two chartered planners: Adrian Penfold, head of planning at developer British Land and a former government advisor; and consultant Peter Studdert, chair of quality review panels for the London Legacy Development Corporation and the London Borough of Haringey.

The other seven are:

  • Stephen Stone, executive chairman of housebuilder Crest Nicholson
  • Sunand Prasad, a past RIBA president and senior partner of architectural practice Penoyre & Prasad
  • Ben Bolgar, senior director of built environment charity The Prince’s Foundation
  • Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE, master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
  • Patrick James, founding director of The Landscape Agency
  • Paul Monaghan, Design Council Trustee and a director of architecture firm AHMM
  • Yolande Barnes, professor of real estate at UCL and former head of research for consultancy Savills

According to the ministry, the commission "will advise the government by developing practical measures to ensure new housing developments meet the needs and expectations of communities, making them more likely to be welcomed rather than resisted."

The commission's three aims are:

  • to promote better design and style of homes, villages, towns and high streets, to "reflect what communities want";
  • to make the planning system "work in support of better design and style, not against it";
  • to explore how new settlements can be developed with greater community consent.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire said: "This commission will play a crucial role in ensuring the homes communities need are built, accepted and loved by those who live in and near them.

"I’m delighted Sir Roger is being joined by such a talented team of highly-respected professionals, along with a list of distinguished advisors who will bring a wealth of expertise and a range of viewpoints."

Meeting once a month, the MHCLG said the commission will report back "in due course" once it has taken evidence and developed recommendations on how the government can improve the quality of new homes.


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