The BBBBC Interim Report

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC), established by MP James Brokenshire, is an independent body that promotes better design, explores how new settlements can be developed with greater community consent and to make the planning system work in support of better style. On 9th July the BBBBC Interim Report was published with some potentially contentious findings.

The report states that the development and planning process is not delivering sufficient new homes for people and their needs, or for the planet. This is why Housing Needs Surveys are so important. It helps to assess the level of housing need in a community. The report carries on to mention the key issues with development today.

It is especially important in a rural context that beauty is delivered. As architects, when designing rural developments we make it a priority to maintain the village aesthetic by harmonising the new homes with the local brick.

The report recognises how beauty needs to be delivered for everyone, not just the wealthy, at three scales:

 

All three scales are necessary to ‘grow beautifully’ and meet our housing needs sustainably.

The report identifies eight priorities for reform to achieve this:

Beauty first: Beauty and place making should be a collective ambition and emphasis should be placed on securing them in the urban and natural environments. This should be embedded prominently and alongside sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Places not just houses: we should be building real settlements and walkable ‘mixed-use’ places for all our daily needs. This will require a review of changes in legal and tax regimes that could better support a long-term stewardship model of land and infrastructure investment.

Regenerative development: Developments should make existing places better not just minimise harm. Local policy should encourage, wherever possible, the redevelopment of retail parks and large format supermarkets into mixed ‘finely-grained’ developments of homes, retail and commercial uses which can support and benefit from public transport.

Early collaboration not confrontation: There is enormous scope to encourage the use of deliberative engagement and design processes to facilitate wider community engagement in design solutions at all levels of scale.

A level playing field: Urgent need to reduce planning risk to permit a greater range of small firms and other market entrants to act as developers within a more predictable planning framework. This needs to be accompanied by greater probability of enforcement if clearer rules are broken with stricter sanctions.

Growing beautifully: Mixed-use and ‘gentle density’ settlement patterns around real centres which benefit from the advantages of density and from some of the advantages of lower density are often the best ways to secure community consent whilst also developing in more sustainable land use patterns. The impact of roads, poor public transport and parking on place and community needs review.

Learning together: There is a need to invest in and improve the understanding and confidence of some planners, officials, highways engineers, and local councillors in various design and place-making topics. There is also an urgent need for more high-quality planning, landscape and urban design skills within local authorities.

Making beauty count: Further consideration needs to be given to how planning is resourced and charged to enable better quality, certainty, consistency and efficiency. Highways, housing and planning teams in central government and councils should have objective measure for wellbeing, public health and beauty. We should be measuring quality and outcomes as well as quantity.

It should be noted, however, that this is an interim report and the proposals mentioned above are not yet fully formed.

You can find the full report here.