James Brokenshire announces ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission

On 3 November, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire announced a new  Commission to “tackle the challenge of poor-quality design and build of homes and places across the country, and help ensure as we build for the future, we do so with popular consent”.

The 3 main aims of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission are:

  • To promote better design and style of homes, villages, towns and high streets, to reflect what communities want, building on the knowledge and tradition of what they know works for their area.
  • To explore how new settlements can be developed with greater community consent.
  • To make the planning system work in support of better design and style, rather than against it.

Membership of the group will consist of a core group of four commissioners and a Commission Chair. They will be supplemented by a second-tier group of around 8 advisors, who can be called upon as required.

The body is poised to be chaired by traditionalist philosopher and writer Sir Roger Scruton, once described as “the Alf Garnett of architecture”, pending the outcome of an interview with Mr. Brokenshire later this month. Further commissioners are to be announced in due course.

Commenting on the new Commission, Mr Brokenshire said:

“Most people agree we need to build more for future generations, but too many still feel that new homes in their local area just aren’t up to scratch. Part of making the housing market work for everyone is helping to ensure that what we build, is built to last. That it respects the integrity of our existing towns, villages and cities.

“This will become increasingly important as we look to create a number of new settlements across the country and invest in the infrastructure and technology they will need to be thriving and successful places.

“This Commission will kick-start a debate about the importance of design and style, helping develop practical ways of ensuring new developments gain the consent of communities, helping grow a sense of place, not undermine it. This will help deliver desperately needed homes – ultimately building better and beautiful will help us build more.”

The announcement of the Commission has garnered a mixed reception, with much of the focus on the pending appointment of Sir Roger Scruton as Chair – Sir Roger  has shared his distaste of modern architecture on a multitude of occasions. Others have praised the appointment as a step forward in ensuring quality design is once again a priority.

The move follows shortly on from the Government’s NPPF update, which seeks to strengthen expectations for design-quality and community engagement when planning for development, and reflects the Government’s aim of creating not just more homes, but more beautiful homes.


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