House of Commons Library

Beauty and the built environment

Published Friday, October 26, 2018

This pack has been prepared ahead of the debate to be held in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 30 October at 2.30pm on beauty and the built environment. The debate will be opened by John Hayes MP.

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The National Planning Policy Framework provides the framework for producing local plans for housing and other developments, which in turn provide the background against which applications for planning permission are decided. This only applies in England.

The July 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provides guidance on achieving well designed places and includes a section that states that developments should be ‘visually attractive’:

127. Planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments:

[…]

b) are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping.[1]

For more information on the NPPF see the Library briefing paper on ‘What next for planning in England? The National Planning Policy Framework’.

A number of reports and articles have suggested that aspects of developments which some may consider to constitute ‘beauty’, including quality of design, access to green space, and aesthetic elements, can have social and economic benefits (see section 4 on further reading for details).

On 19 October 2018, in response to a Parliamentary question from John Hayes MP on beauty in the built environment, the Minister for Housing, Communities, and Local Government Kit Malthouse MP said the Government were promoting “design quality and beauty”:

The Government recognises the importance to communities of design quality in the built environment for new development. A design team and an architectural adviser to Government have been established, in order to promote design quality and beauty across policy and programmes.

Design quality is an integral part of the recently revised National Planning Policy Framework, which states that development should be “visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping”. The importance of beauty is also highlighted in Government programmes, including the Garden Cities, Towns and Villages programme.

The Government is taking a proactive approach to sharing evidence of beauty in the built environment, and my department hosted the Government’s first design quality conference in April this year. New planning guidance will emphasise the importance of community engagement in plan making and design of projects, and the need to focus on qualities such as the appearance of new development, that appeal to residents and neighbours.[2]

There have been calls for beauty in the built environment to be expanded in the UK’s policy. For example, in 2015, the policy think tank ResPublica published a report which argued that “everyday” beauty was “evaded” in the UK’s national policy framework and suggested introducing a “Community Right to Beauty.”[3]

The report suggested amendments to the Localism Act 2011 to transfer the proposed ‘Right to Beauty’ into law. ResPublica made a number of suggestions to enhance ‘beauty’ including making ‘beauty’ a material planning consideration, creating designations for Areas of Outstanding Urban Beauty, and increasing community powers for influence over local developments.

 

[1] National Planning Policy Framework, July 2018, p.38

[2] PQ 178233, Building regulations, 11 October 2018

[3] ResPublica, A Community Right to Beauty: Giving communities the power to shape, enhance and create beautiful places, developments and spaces, July 2015

Commons Debate packs CDP-2018-0236

Authors: Suzanna Hinson; Philip Abraham

Topics: Countryside, Housing, Planning

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