Low-rise, high-density champion appointed interim chair of government's design commission

The founding director of a research group that promotes low-rise, high-density, street-based developments has been appointed as interim chair of the government's Beautiful Buildings Commission, replacing Sir Roger Scruton who was fired last month.

MHCLG: interim replacement for design commission chair announced
MHCLG: interim replacement for design commission chair announced

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has announced that 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, has been appointed to take over from Scruton on an interim basis.

Brokenshire made the announcement yesterday in a radio interview with LBC.

The government sacked Scruton earlier this month after what the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) described as "unacceptable comments" made in an interview with the New Statesman by the writer and philosopher.

Boys Smith was already one of three commissioners appointed to the Beautiful Buildings Commission task force.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire said: "The commission has an integral role in ensuring the homes communities need are built, accepted and loved by those who live in and near them.

"I am delighted that Mr Boys Smith has agreed to step into the role as interim chair and continue to advance this important work."

Boys Smith said: "I look forward to leading the commission in the interim, using my and fellow commissioners’ experience and expertise to champion beauty in the built environment."

MHCLG said that a permanent chair for the commission will be announced "in due course."

An essay by Boys Smith, published in 2016 by the influential Policy Exchange think tank, said the mayor of London’s London Housing Strategy and the London Plan should be rewritten. He said density targets were "used to justify a range of tower blocks and large multi-storey blocks".

Boys Smith also said the London housing shortage could be solved for several generations without building above six storeys and with a "conventional urban arrangement interspaced with squares and pocket parks".

Speaking at a Planning conference in 2017, Boys Smith urged planners to trust local people’s responses on design. "Popular design is a good way of getting intuitively to good design," he argued. Boys Smith also advised planners and designers to make more use of the wealth of data on responses to design made available by new technology.

Boys Smith previously sat on the government’s estate regeneration panel.

This article was updated at 08:45 on 01/05/19 to include further details on the appointment from MHCLG.

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