Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission spells out 45 recommendations

The government should create a fast-track planning system for well-designed schemes as part of a wide-ranging reform of the development process, according to the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

The commission, set up by former housing secretary James Brokenshire, recommended changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to prioritise placemaking and beauty which would make it easier to turn down planning applications on design grounds.

Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton

The report, written by commission co-chairs, Create Streets founder Nicholas Boys Smith and the late Roger Scruton (pictured), who died earlier this month, contained 45 recommendations and sharply criticised the government’s policy on permitted development.

The report proposed that where detailed local design policies with demonstrable local support were in place, “the detailed planning application stage should be relatively straightforward”. It also called for the planting of two million trees on streets.

Responding to the report, called Living in Beauty, current housing secretary Robert Jenrick said he was particularly interested in the idea of a “fast-track for beauty” in the planning system, as well as recommendations around the planting of more street trees.

He added: “Where individuals and developers have put in the time to create proposals for well-designed buildings, which use high-quality materials and take account of their local setting, it can’t be right their planning applications are held up.”

Living in Beauty proposes that “the creation of beautiful places” should be inserted in to the definition of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework.

It also said the NPPF should say clearly that development that is not well designed should be refused, with those applications turned down on design grounds publicised and highlighted by government.

On the relaxation of permitted development (PD) rights, which critics say has been behind swathes of modern ‘slum’ developments across England, the report said that, by deregulating to promote new homes, the government has “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”.

It said PD rights, such as converting offices to homes without planning permission, should not be removed, but that homes should have to meet minimum design standards, where currently they only need meet building regulations.

RIBA president Alan Jones said the report exposed how many public sector policies discriminated against the delivery of good, sustainable buildings and welcomed the comments around permitted development.

He added: “The commission has rightly condemned permitted development rights (PDR), which leave local authorities powerless to stop the development of poor-quality and potentially dangerous ‘slum’ housing.

“The government must acknowledge the dire impacts of this policy and urgently address the commission’s findings.”

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