The second blog in a new series by FACLT Director Delia Goddard

Based on the ‘Living with Beauty, the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission Report’, published January 2020. HYPERLINK “”rnment/publications/living-with-beauty-report-of-the-building-better-building-beautiful-commission 

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBC) was set up as an independent body to advise the government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new-build homes and neighbourhoods. In its own words, ‘The purpose of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’ is 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’. 

In January 2020 the Commission published its report which takes a long look at the current state of planning in England and the impact this is having on people’s lives. The title of the report is Living with Beauty; it is a detailed 178-page document. In this series of blogs I quote freely from it in order to give a flavour of the breadth and depth of the ambition it embraces. 

For the report the Commission collected information from ‘focus groups, civic societies, academic researchers, planning enquiries and local government; from developers, architects, planning officers and landowners; from successful and unsuccessful schemes, local plans and the many government and non-government organisations devoted to understanding and applying some aspect of the planning process’. 

Living with Beauty asks ‘the government, local councils, investors and developers, design professionals and wider civic society’ to consider 45 proposals for policy change in order to break what it describes as the ‘VICIOUS CIRCLE OF PARASITIC DEVELOPMENT’ and create instead the ‘VIRTUOUS CIRCLE OF REGENERATIVE DEVELOPMENT’. The proposals are thematically divided to cover Planning, Communities, Stewardship, Regeneration, Neighbourhoods, Nature, Education and Skills, Management and in Conclusion one final proposal ‘to monitor the implementation of the report’. 

The report challenges every one of us at all times to ask for beauty in our home-building and to refuse ugliness. It maintains that beauty in our lived environment encourages ‘better public health, happier people, and more sociable communities. It would also help to end the scandal of ‘left-behind’ places whilst restoring the place of nature in the urban environment to the benefit of our lungs and our mental health.’ 

The overarching finding is that ‘people want to live in beautiful places; they want to live next to beautiful places; they want to settle in a somewhere of their own, where the human need for beauty 

and harmony is satisfied by the view from the window and a walk to the shops, a walk which is not marred by polluted air or an inhuman street. But those elemental needs are not being met by the housing market, and the planning system has failed to require them’. 

The report understands that ‘many of the things that make settlements beautiful also make them healthy, happy and sustainable. A beautiful place is a place in which people wish to walk, rather than a place that the car helps them to avoid. It is a place in which they enjoy spending time with one another. Beautiful buildings are conserved and adapted, like the Victorian public buildings that survive long after their initial uses have gone. Ugly buildings are torn down and replaced, at a huge cost in terms of ‘embodied energy’’. 

The question asked throughout Living with Beauty is: How can beauty in new build homes be achieved and sustained? in my next blog I will start to take a look at some of the policy changes it proposes.