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Nicholas Boys Smith appointed to establish a new design body, tasked with driving up design standards.

  • Nicholas Boys Smith to lead expert group advising government on how to embed beauty and quality into the new, reformed planning system
  • Charles O’Brien appointed as government’s new heritage adviser to help communities protect their treasured historic buildings and monuments
  • Appointments follow proposals to overhaul England’s planning system, placing beauty and design quality at the heart of all new developments

Last month, the government published proposals for a new, faster, simpler planning system which will require local authorities to introduce their own local design codes – enhancing beauty, quality and environmental standards by giving communities control over what is built in their areas.

Today (22 September 2020) the Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, has announced that he has appointed Nicholas Boys Smith to establish a new design body, tasked with driving up design standards and supporting local communities to produce design codes defining beautiful design in each community.

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Nicholas will chair a new steering group that will advise government on how best to help communities set these local rules for local developments and ensure that for the first time in history beauty, design and high environmental standards are fundamental to every planning application.

The new design body will support communities in producing binding design codes for their local area, massively increase focus on design and quality in the planning process and ensure local design and architecture is recognised and conserved.

As founding director of social enterprise Create Streets and co-chair for the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission Mr Boys Smith has a wealth of experience in researching popular and healthy places.

This work marks the next step in placing beauty and design firmly at the heart of the government’s new planning system and consigning ‘anywhereville’ developments to history.

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 such a post has been created since the 1980s and has echoes of 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, Charles will spearhead 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 at the Create Streets Conference, Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP will say:

“For the first time in this country, we are embedding beauty, design and quality in the planning system.”

“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.”

Nicholas Boys Smith, leader of 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.”

Heritage adviser Charles O’Brien said:

“I am delighted to have been appointed to advise the Secretary of State on the programme to improve and extend the Local Lists of important buildings and places in England. The best way to protect the heritage we value is to identify what matters most to our communities and share our understanding and appreciation of them.”

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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    1 Comment

    1. Design and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. As a member of the general public and a life-long property professional I have spoken at many planning meetings as a member of the public. Quite frankly my experience is that local councillors on planning committees often don’t have the first idea, and some are not even capable of understanding the plans before them; and these are the people often passing or refusing applications. Perhaps they need tecnical education on things like the Georgian Golden proportions as just one example. Remember when Prince Charles made reference to an extension ( I think it was the British Library but my memory is starting to fail) of a famous building in London as a Carbuncle and his views were supported very much by the public but not many Architects. L.B.Bexley has many cheapo ugly buildings with very ugly bin stores abutting the pavements for the ease of council bin collections – but this can be seen in many boroughs. We have all heard councils refer to guides as just that – there to be ignored when cash is king. I very much welcome the idea of quality design and construction and keeping a very close eye on context in which buildings are set but I fear Councils and their staff largely are not qualified to make such archtitectual decissions – although many believe they are! Although I single out one borough most authorities have the same culture. Just look at the many ugly medium and high rise tower blocks again repeating the failure of the 1960’s that will be too expensive to maintain and will be slums of the not too distant future again Money is King! Of course many will not share my views.

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