For once, British architects, the Prince’s Foundation, and NIMBYs have something they can all agree on. In a speech to the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), UK planning minister, Nick Boles, has come out swinging against the “pig-ugliness” of British housing, which has given it a bad name:
“We are trapped in a vicious circle. People look at the new housing estates that have been bolted onto their towns and villages in recent decades and observe that few of them are beautiful. Indeed, not to put too fine a point of it, many of them are pig-ugly [...]In a nutshell, because we don’t build beautifully, people don’t let us build much. And because we don’t build much, we can’t afford to build beautifully. My personal mission as planning minister is to help us break out of this vicious cycle once and for all.”
The criticism has been welcomed by many British architects as a necessary wake-up call for Britain and a call-to-action for its architects.
More on this story, after the break…
Boles identified the Localism Act, which has allowed communities to draw up local plans and shape development in their area, as the government’s “most revolutionary step” towards housing expansion, but recognizes that the future of housing (and its public reception) will truly lie in the hands of planners, architects and developers.
Bole’s position has even brought Architects and The Prince’s Foundation (a traditional housing organization often at odds with architectural innovation) onto the same side. As Hank Dittmar, chief executive at The Prince’s Foundation, has explained: “Our extensive experience with communities shows us that what NIMBYs are really asking for is higher quality development that fits into their communities. If they can be convinced of this point, they will tend to support new development. Design needs to be a key consideration from the outset and new developments need to add value to a place and their communities.”
Executive Editor of BDOnline, Ellis Woodman, agrees, seeing architects as vital players who will not just design beautiful housing, but also make sure that England’s countryside is preserved (Boles has, to the alarm of some conservationists, stated that up to 1.65 million acres of ‘open land’ could be developed): “Having empowered local communities through its radical reframing of planning legislation, the government now has to find a way of persuading them that large-scale development is in their interests. But there are pathetically few recent UK models that would suggest that it is. If architects have a central role in that fight, they are also surely key to ensuring that Boles’ vision of expanding the area on which we build doesn’t result in the obliteration of the countryside.”