Launched in November 2018 the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission was an independent body aiming to advise the government on how to “ensure new housing developments meet the needs and expectations of communities”. The government felt that such guidance would help ensure new developments were welcomed rather than resisted.
As a part of this mission to improve housebuilding Kit Malthouse called for a “golden period of housebuilding” and cautioned that “there’s going to be no part of the country untouched by construction”. As a result, it is important to consider the beauty and aesthetic impact of this extensive development on neighbourhoods and communities.
Two years on from the commission’s launch, what recommendations were made?
The commission’s final report, Living with Beauty, proposes 3 main changes to the planning system. Firstly, to require beauty as part of the planning permission. Second, to refuse planning permission to ugly buildings. Third, to promote the stewardship of the environment for future generations.
Each of these three points is then broken down into more actionable points with elements like expanding education and promoting the democratisation of planning procedures.
The report encourages the government and local councils to “say no to ugliness” and to democratise the process by involving local communities as early as possible. Mixed use developments are highlighted as a way to reduce the prevalence and dependency on cars and pursue car-free high streets. The development of brownfield sites and regeneration of out-of-use buildings are both offered as opportunities for beauty in addition to the environmental benefits.
Predictably, the importance of beauty and thoughtfulness in design is consistent throughout, with examples of success and failure to illustrate the point. Interim chairman Nicholas Boys Smith 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," continuing, “we need to deliver beauty for everyone, not just the wealthy”.