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Building Beauty: Steering Group letter to The Times

03 October 2016

This letter originally appeared in The Times on Monday 3rd October 2016. The letter can be seen on The Times website here.

Sir,

Today’s speech by Sajid Javid at the Conservative Party conference will surely focus on the question of how to build the one million homes that the government has promised by 2020. However, ministers should also be clear that new development should be beautiful, promote health and wellbeing and be grounded in local people’s aspirations for their neighbourhood. This must be a particular priority in deprived areas, whose residents, whether through neglected green spaces, ugly streetscapes or other sub-standard placemaking, often find beauty hard to come by. If we are to heal the societal rifts Brexit has highlighted, we must acknowledge the importance of this divide.

As advisers to the think tank ResPublica’s Backing Beauty Commission, we urge the government to address this injustice by giving communities the powers and authority to create places that they consider beautiful. Communities could for instance be supported to hold local design competitions to gauge their preferences ahead of any large new development, and the neighbourhood planning process should be strengthened. Government must also pressure developers to raise their game, to look beyond the bottom line and acknowledge their social responsibility to help create a more beautiful public realm.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, former Director General, National Trust;
Wayne Hemingway MBE, Trustee, Design Council;
Clive Betts MP, Chairman, Communities and Local Government Select Committee;
Tom Bloxham MBE, Chairman and Co-Founder, Urban Splash;
Simon Murray, Senior Director for Strategy and External Affairs, National Trust;
Beccy Speight, CEO, Woodland Trust;
Tony Burton CBE, Founder, Civic Voice