Today’s release of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report has already gathered much comment, and many of the recommendations make clear sense and are to be welcomed – minimum standards for conversions, more planting, design codes, and much more.
As ever, the success of these recommendations will be in the detail of their application if they are to make the move from “aspiration” to “requirement”.
Without careful consideration, there is the potential danger that these recommendations could lead to design conflicts, with appearance taking precedent over long-term function that is able to respond to the future living trends.
Many have identified the Commission’s recommendation of going back to tree-lined streets which will bring many benefits to the quality of place. Whilst this is welcomed (in the right place), with this comes wider streets at a time when others are asking developers to reduce road dominance and promote the take-up of electric vehicles and charging points. Are these aspirations all compatible, and if not, what should take precedent?
In reality the creation of successful places that people live, work, communicate and connect requires a bespoke solution for that location and long-term commitment to what is being delivered, irrespective of the size or use of the development.
Where I feel that the Commissions’ work excels is in making recommendations about the long-term quality that goes beyond the bricks and mortar of what is built.
Recommendations surrounding stewardship and communities taking long-term ownership of the places is arguably one of the most important issues, especially for major new developments such as garden villages and regeneration projects.
A proactive and effective stewardship model from the outset will ensure long-term quality, value and the use. The places we love today are those which have been able to mature and be actively used by the community for uses beyond those originally intended. Ensuring our open spaces and those between buildings are well kept and maintained should be seen as a way of adding value, not a financial burden.
Much like the way Secured By Design is applied now, the proposed “Stewardship Kitemark” could provide a recognised standard for this long-term vision, and will provide comfort to the existing communities that new development, whether it is a new housing estate or a commercial development, will be a beautiful addition.
Ultimately there is little point in Building Better and Building Beautiful if in the long-term this beauty is not maintained.