Living with Beauty – a report by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission

Q: Living with Beauty, what’s that all about?
A: It’s a report by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission

Q: Who?
A: A UK Government appointed commission whose objectives are 1) promote better design; 2) find out how new development can meet community needs and; 3) make the planning process support better design

Q: Sounds good, where can I get a copy?
A: UK Gov website:

Q: It’s 190 pages long – can you summarise it for me?
A: It tables 44 proposals to create a positive environment for place-led development that values the community, the built environment and a long-term approach to development. Its specific proposals range from the nebulous – “ask for beauty” and “fast track planning for beauty” to the tangible – plant a fruit tree in every garden and plant 2 million roadside trees

Q: What do you mean by “place-led”?
A: Too much of what is built today is the wrong development in the wrong place – for example drive to cul-de-sacs isolating the inhabitants or overly dense small flats in big boxes. Place is where the development is a human scale that promotes civic pride, healthy living, community engagement within a sense of beauty for both the buildings and the surroundings

Q: Beauty again, so it’s a report by a bunch of luvvies?
A: The members were Roger Scruton, Nicholas Boys Smith, Gail Mayhew, Mary Parsons and Adrian Penfold

Q: Roger Scruton – isn’t he?
A: He died in January just before the report was published. The Economist has an obituary

Q: OK, so it’s a pro-Pondbury, anti-developer manifesto?
A: Not exactly. As one senior building company executive put it: ‘Some housebuilders… believe they can build any old crap and still sell it.’ Another contributor remarked, ‘New places are designed by the wheelie bin operators’

Q: Good point. But what is to be done about it?
A: One way of looking at it is to recognise why new developments are always unpopular. To quote the report: At present we are in a vicious circle of unpopular and unsustainable new development, often in the wrong place, an instinctive opposition to new housing in practice (whatever people say in principle), and a political debate about development and planning which, at its simplistic worst, has been unable to break out of a false polarity of either ‘blaming developers’ or ‘blaming planners.’ People have lost confidence in both the industry and the regulators.

Q: What is the relevance for Hereford Community Land Trust?
A: Our aim is to build exemplar housing at socially affordable rents. For any development we will actively engage with community and other stakeholders to ensure what we build enhances the lives of the inhabitants and the broader community, respects the environment and preserves and promotes beauty

Q: So, I should read the report?
A: While you may not agree with everything you read, you may find yourself liking many of its 44 principles and find it a good resource of good and bad examples of buildings and developments. And it is only 180 pages long