Secretary of State backs calls for better designed homes

A polling report by Policy Exchange entitled ‘Building More, Building Beautiful’  has found widespread support for new developments to be designed in traditional styles – with 82% of people saying new homes should be “well-built, comfortable and beautiful”, and 74% supporting traditional homes which “fit in with their surroundings.”

Policy Exchange is calling for the Government to direct local authorities to draw up so-called ‘design and style guide’ documents detailing design styles for new developments which will be favoured by planning committees at decision-stage.

The report argues that a lot of local resistance to development results from “a largely justified lack of confidence in the appearance of new developments” and that “decisions over space are nearly always financial, not aesthetic, and so the aesthetic needs of the community are too often marginalised.”

In the report’s foreword, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire writes:

“Policy Exchange highlights a major concern in this report – the design, style and quality of new homes. We are currently consulting on the revised National Planning Policy Framework with the quality of development an important part of this.

“We want to see local communities intimately engaged in helping to shape the future of the development in their area, feeding in their views on the design and style of new developments and helping local authorities create style guides and codes which developers can use to meet the needs of communities.”

 The report calls for the inclusion of its findings in the revised National Planning Policy Framework.  Among the reports specific recommendations were calls for:

  • All local planning authorities to produce a ‘design and style guide’ within 18 months.
  • The creation of design panels to advise on proposals for developments of over 10 homes, with local architects and local residents making up at least two thirds of the panel.

Mr Brokenshire did not go as far as to fully endorse the proposals set out in the report, but said in its foreword that he backed:

“…the intention to start a debate about the design, style and quality of new housing and how it best meets people’s needs… We are currently consulting on the revised National Planning Policy Framework with the quality of development an important part of this.” 

These proposals about improving design quality are not completely new, having been championed by former Planning Minister Nick Boles MP several years ago, and evidently have support amongst the public. Our own experience at SP Broadway is that good design, traditional materials, wide tree-lined streets, buffer zones, extensive open space and landscaping make a huge difference to how a development is perceived by existing residents. The more a development can provide, the more likely you are to receive community, and then political support; Policy Exchange and the Secretary of State are onto something!


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