Building Better, Building Beautiful consultation submission

11 June 2019

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission recently consulted on a range of questions about beauty and design in the planning process.

These include:

  • Whether 'beauty' should be a broad objective of the planning process
  • About various aspects of good design in residential development
  • Methods for engaging local communities which can help secure support for development.

The Commissioners include Mary Parsons, Group Director for Placemaking and Regeneration at Places for People. Mary is also one of the Great Places commissioners.

The Federation’s submission to the consultation made the following key points:

  • On balance, we would prefer a focus on good design in the built environment, rather than ‘beauty’.

Design includes elements of what might be considered beautiful - but covers a wider range of criteria for successful places. Many of those criteria are capable of consistent and objective measurement. While beauty is a strong and appealing concept it is also malleable and personal, tied up in varied and changing attitudes, fashions and prejudices. There is a risk its adoption would be counter-productive in practice.

  • Housing associations have a good track record of well-designed development.

We highlighted numerous examples of members’ good practice in both the process and product of good design around the country, including award-winning schemes. We pointed the Commission towards the wealth of guidance on good practice in design, including our own - but noted also that there is often insufficient local or national incentive or requirement to apply it, leading to the sub-optimal outcomes sometimes associated with new development.

  • Good design helps communities accept development.

A recent RTPI survey found that almost 90% of respondents felt their experience showed good design helped communities accept development. We also highlighted the recent experience of resident ballots for regeneration schemes in London, where housing associations have been successful in securing high levels of support for their proposals.