Planners and architects have 'scarred' towns, planning minister says

Too many "proud towns" have been "scarred by architects and planners" who have "no regard for what local residents want," housing minister Esther McVey has said in the foreword to a collection of essays on the importance of beauty in the built environment, published by think tank Policy Exchange.

New homes: Policy Exchange essays stress need for good design
New homes: Policy Exchange essays stress need for good design

The free market think tank today published The Duty to Build Beautiful: A collection of essays on embedding the beauty agenda in policymaking. 

Writing in the forward to the document, McVey said: "New developments should enhance the beauty of local places, rather than looking like they could have been built anywhere.

"Building in this way will help to unlock public consent for delivering the homes the country so desperately needs."

She blamed architects and planners for allowing towns to be "scarred" because they have had "no regard for what local residents want".

"New buildings can blend seamlessly into an area if they reflect the historic form, style and the character of the community living there.

"Indeed, this strengthens the sense of belonging and affinity people have to their community and environment," she said. 

McVey's comments come two weeks after the government published a new National Design Guide, setting out national standards for design.

The design guide says that it forms part of the government’s collection of Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) and should be read alongside updated planning guidance on design.

It advises that well-designed places should have "compact forms of development" and make "efficient use of land" that "optimises density".

Elsewhere in Policy Exchange’s collection of essays, Sue Chadwick, strategic planning adviser at law firm Pinsent Masons, called for the planning system to better incorporate digital technologies into consultation on new development.

Meanwhile, Greg Beales, campaign director at homeless charity Shelter, argued that social housing should be at the forefront of the government’s push for beauty and better design.

In another essay, Robert Kerr, director at architecture firm ADAM Architecture, slammed "dreary, ugly and bizarre [office] buildings" that "dominate and loom over cities" and argued for a shift towards mid-rise office developments.


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