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Local councils may get powers to ‘say no to ugliness’ on property developments

by: Marc Shoffman
  • 10/07/2019
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Local councils may get powers to ‘say no to ugliness’ on property developments
Local councils should be able to reject “ugly” developments and local residents should have more of a say on where new housing is located, a government-backed commission has claimed.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, launched by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in 2018, has issued its interim report on how to improve the look of and trust surrounding new-build developments.

The report said local councils should be allowed to turn down projects it believes will be ugly and argued developments, particularly those funded by government subsidies, should “aim for beauty”.

Developers should focus on creating “places to live,” that are well connected to amenities and transport rather than just homes, the report suggested.

It noted the idea of beauty should be defined locally but recommended embedding the idea in the National Planning Policy Framework and with a ministerial statement.

The report said: “Local Plans should embed this national requirement for beauty and place making from the outset, before any decisions are made about allocating land or making policy decisions.

“What beauty means and how it relates to locality should be discovered and defined empirically and locally by surveying local views on objective criteria as well as from deliberative engagement with the wider local population.”

The document also called for the public to be better engaged with strategic decisions on where development may happen and what it may look like, rather than opposition only coming at the planning stage.

It said: “Much opposition to development is on its location, not just its form, and local communities must be more effectively engaged within Local Plan development.”

Other recommendations include transforming retail parks and supermarkets into mixed-use developments that include housing.

Nicholas Boys Smith, interim chairman of the commission, said: “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.”

Responding to the interim report, communities secretary James Brokenshire, said he was determined that the nation hit the government’s house building target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, but argued it was right that “we do not do this at any expense – what is built must stand the test of time”.

He continued: “We owe it to the next generation to not just build more homes, but to build communities people can be proud of. As a country, we should not shy away from talking about what building beautifully means – and this report is an important contribution to that discussion.”

A full report is due out by the end of this year.

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