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Creating high quality neighbourhoods: why a sense of place matters

Well-designed, high quality homes and tree-lined streets should be the ‘norm not the exception’

Juliana O'Rourke
31 January 2020
Trees and canals are recommended by the report for creating a sense of place
Trees and canals are recommended by the report for creating a sense of place


A new report from The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission has outlined recommendations for the promotion of high-quality design for new build homes and neighbourhoods.’Living in beauty – the first report of its kind led by the late Sir Roger Scruton and Nicolas Boys Smith – contains over 130 practical recommendations to support the creation of more beautiful communities, including:

  • planting millions of trees over the next 5 years, as well as opening old canals and supporting every home to have its own or access to a fruit tree?

  • speeding up the planning process for beautiful buildings through a new ‘Fast Track for Beauty’ rule for councils?

  • increasing democracy and involving communities in local plans and planning applications, including using digital technology like virtual reality and 3D modelling to help locals shape their own areas?

Welcoming the report at the Garden Museum, Lambeth, the Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: ‘This report is important for many reasons, not least because of the powerful argument it makes that a sense of place still matters – and, arguably, in our fast-paced, globalised world, matters perhaps more than ever.

It recognises that our identities go hand in hand with the places and neighbourhoods in which we live and work.

That’s why beautiful, high-quality homes must become the norm, not the exception.

Mr Jenrick said that there was plenty of evidence that instead of holding housebuilding back “championing quality would help us go further”.

He added:

I am interested in the proposal of a “fast track for beauty”. 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.

I too want to see a return to planting more trees. We set out in our manifesto that we will expect all new streets to be lined with trees and are working to make this commitment a reality.

I want to see zero-carbon homes being built as standard within 5 years as we learn again how our built and natural environments can work in harmony.

And the report is right that local authorities will need to play a leading role in this design revolution. We will need to ensure they have the right skills and leadership to fully carry out their role as place-makers.  

I am therefore determined to do all I can to help achieve the goal you’ve set in the report’s conclusion – that we should aspire to pass on our heritage, the best of who we are and what we have, to our successors, not depleted but enhanced.

Today’s report is the latest step in the government’s commitment to delivering one million well-designed, quality homes by the end of this parliament.

Some of the recommendations are already underway, with a national design guide published by the Housing Secretary last October 2019 and a new national model design code currently in production.

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Oxfordshire County Council
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