The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the Government to deliver “more and better homes” in a way that is “more urgent and important than ever before”, the Housing Secretary has said.
Launching a push to replace “ugly, unsustainable and poor quality” buildings with a preference for the “beautiful”, in a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, Robert Jenrick said the word “beauty” will be specifically included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947.
And he said the aim was to echo an era when a greater emphasis was placed on delivering attractive buildings for people that installed a sense of local pride, with the belief that better homes would stop opposition to new developments.
Mr Jenrick said: “The cost exacted by poor homes and places on quality of life, on mental health, on social mobility and opportunity for young people is well known and well-evidenced.
“Less explored is how the decline in quality, and yes of beauty, that we’ve seen since the post-war period has corresponded with ever-increasing opposition to new housing.
“The case for new housing is more important than ever, but it is also more difficult to make than ever.
“So far from beauty and quality being a luxury, it’s clear that they are key to unlocking community consent for development and housing.”
It comes as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the launch of a new Office for Place to drive up design standards.
While the national planning policy framework (NPPF) will put beauty at the heart of the planning system alongside a new set of local, binding standards for developments.
The changes set an expectation that all councils should develop a local design code – an illustrated design guide that sets the standard for a local area – with input from local people.
“After the upheavals of the last 16 months, many people are rethinking what they want from their homes and their local communities,” Mr Jenrick said.
“Those lucky enough to enjoy space to work from home, gardens, or ready access to parks and public spaces, will be making full use of them, not least on beautiful days like today.
“But for those who don’t, or can’t, the need for us as a Government and as a country to respond with more and better homes feels more urgent and important than ever before.”
The Housing Secretary said plans would see the power taken away from big developers and handed to local communities.
And he said: “By making their preferences the foundations of our planning system, we will enable new homes to be built, but also to be built beautifully.”