Editor: I read with interest the recent revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework and the government’s “widespread planning changes” to build beautiful places.
Clearly, the home secretary has a very specific view of “beauty”, as informed by Georgian townhouses and Victorian mansion blocks. However, each generation, whether Georgian, Victorian or otherwise, has continually strived to provide architectural design to reflect the character, individuality and relevance of the age.
It is ironic then that ours is the age of diversity, pluralism and inclusivity, and yet the revised policy sees the future in more conservative and retrospective terms.
Sometimes good planning isn’t about prescription, but about providing the breathing space for imagination and engagement. Sometimes it is all about providing the freedom and space to break the rules.
If we think of the cities we love and the physical aspects that give us real pleasure, it is often the accidental or unplanned that delights. It is all there in medieval alleyways and squares, in the hotch-potch of building styles and uses in our Victorian cities – and even in the juxtaposition of post-war old and new.
It is this ‘accidental beauty’ that makes our cities and towns so intriguing and as we head down the rabbit hole of what is and isn’t beautiful, we would do well to remember that much of what really thrills us about our urban environment is the product of experimentation, well-intentioned mistakes and the freedom to imagine.
Stuart Andrews, partner and national head of planning and infrastructure consenting, Eversheds Sutherland