Updated Sep 23, 2020

Steps announced to put beauty and design at heart of planning system

In August the Government published proposals for a new, faster, simpler, planning system which will require local authorities to introduce their own local design codes.

This will enhance the beauty, quality and environmental standards by giving communities control over what is built in their areas.

This week the Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, has announced that he has appointed Nicholas Boys Smith to establish a new design body, with the role to drive up design standards and support local communities to produce design codes, defining beautiful design in each community.

Nicholas will chair a new group that will:

  • advise Government on how best to help communities set these local rules for local developments;
  • ensure that for the first time in history beauty, design and high environmental standards are fundamental to every planning application; and
  • support communities in producing binding design codes for local areas, increasing focus on design and quality in the planning process, and ensuring local design and architecture is recognised and conserved.

This work marks the next step in placing beauty and design firmly at the heart of the Government's new planning system.

The Housing Secretary has also announced the appointment of Charles O'Brien as the Government's Listing Heritage Adviser to help conserve some of England's historic buildings as part of the most ambitious local heritage campaign for 40 years.

This is the first time a post like this has been created since the 1980s, and has similarities to the famous 'Monuments Men' who battled to save historic buildings and artefacts from bulldozers during the Second World War.

As a leading architectural historian and commissioner at Historic England, O'Brien will lead work with councils to increase the number of buildings and structures of significant historical and cultural value that are locally listed, helping to protect them through the planning system.

Speaking on the new system, Jenrick said: "The creation of a new design body will empower communities to demand developments are built to local preferences and reflect the character and identity of their communities - assigning 'anywhereville' developments to history".

"Nicholas Boys Smith has established himself as the pre-eminent voice in the movement to create beautiful, sustainable neighbourhoods with an enduring appeal and so I have asked him to help establish the new design body that will enhance what people treasure most about their local area".

Mr Boys Smith, on leading the steering group, said: "New places should be the conservation areas of the future: popular, beautiful, sustainable and supportive of public health and well-being. I am delighted to be asked to be help achieve that and look forward to getting stuck in".

On the appointment of O'Brien, Culture Secretary Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, said: "Historic buildings and monuments give each of our towns and cities their unique character. We're determined to protect them for future generations, so that they appreciate all aspects of our past and enjoy beautiful places to live, work and visit".

"I welcome the appointment of Charles O’Brien to help guide this work, which comes on top of the unprecedented investment we are making to support our heritage sector through the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund".

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