We were interested to hear Planning Minister Nick Bowles’ argument that opposition to new residential development was partly because “few of them are beautiful”. His comments came in a speech at a Town & Country Planning Association conference in London on 6th December.
He said “Since new housing estates are all too often soulless and formulaic, and those who will inhabit them will add to the pressure on local roads, primary school places and doctor’s appointments, existing residents oppose any proposal on greenfield sites, even when the land is of low environmental quality”.
“Local authorities respond to the wishes of local voters by putting too few sites into their local plans, and this drives the cost of development land up to stratospheric levels. Developers respond by stuffing as many units as they can onto any site and, in an attempt to make the properties affordable, skimp on room size, architectural features, vernacular materials, communal spaces and landscape design. In a nutshell, because we don’t build beautifully, people don’t let us build much. And because we don’t build much, we can’t afford to build beautiful” Comments we certainly found interesting, in light of certain recent conversations we have had with local planners.
He said that “The aim of the coalition, and my personal mission as planning minister, is to help us break out of this vicious circle once and for all”. He also added that the aim was to “build beautiful new urban landscapes full of affordable houses surrounded by green spaces”. His comments came as he explained he believed that there should be an increase in the area of built-up land in England, from the current figure of 9 percent to 12 percent.
These are certainly comments that appear to make sense, and it will be interesting to see what, if any, effect they have on current planning legislation.