Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said his planning reforms will prevent architects ‘imposing’ their ‘dreams’ on local communities
The minister, who was speaking at an event organised by the Roger Scruton Foundation, made the remarks as he argued that buildings developed in the future ‘should be locally popular’ and based on ‘the things that people who live those communities admire and respect.’
‘The built environment shouldn’t be something that is imposed upon local communities, it shouldn’t just be something which is the dream of an architect or what is fashionable to a certain type of person,’ he said. ‘If we can [ensure] that [is the case] then we will make a significant step forward.
Jenrick added that currently ‘we don’t listen to people’s views as to what they want to see,’ arguing that some power over building design needs to be wrestled back from architects and planners who ignore the views of the public.
‘I have strong views on what I like and consider beautiful, but I don’t think it’s so difficult to come to a view on what people, broadly speaking, in a particular place want to see,’ he said.
‘Its been a bit of a false argument to say that all of us disagree on this, its horribly subjective, and therefore we should negate the view of the general public and just go on what a small group of people who are professionals or architects or planners say.’
Under the forthcoming overhaul of the English planning system, being brought forward by Jenrick, local authorities will be responsible for creating design codes for neighbourhoods and even streets based on what is locally popular and historically characteristic.
The planning system will then have a ‘fast-track for beauty,’ which will allow developers to bypass some of the planning process if their proposals comply with the local design code.
The Office for Place, headed by Create Streets founder Nicholas Boys Smith, will aid councils in developing design codes, including by helping them engage with as much of their local community as possible.
‘Young people are generally neglected by the planning system – certainly people who are not homeowners are rarely active participants in planning and the same is probably true for design codes and guides,’ he said.
Jenrick said that there was ‘no point in councils appointing a consultancy to produce [a design code] which does not reflect local views,’ and, responding to a question from the AJ, pledged to try and make young people’s voices heard.
‘One of the objectives for the Office for Place is: how do you actually engage with local communities in a meaningful way – how do you use more accessible ways of meeting people?
‘[There are] people who are younger, people of working age, [and] people who may not go to their community centre or village hall to see presentations on a wet Wednesday evening, but would be very engaged by events online or things they can do on their smart phone.’
Jenrick added that the Office for Place may also look at polling as it ‘thinks through what the tool kit is to ensure that local views are represented and that it’s the complete spectrum of people of all ages’.