Give communities more control over their surroundings, says commission

ResPublica launches We Back Beauty campaign

The Backing Beauty Commission has launched a campaign ‘We Back Beauty’ to give local communities greater power to decide how their neighbourhood should look in order to create more democratic access to beauty – and its health and community benefits.

A report, published last summer, ‘A Community Right to Beauty’, by independent think tank ResPublica, showed that households with incomes above £45,000 a year were more likely to have access to beautiful surroundings and that this had an impact on health and wellbeing.

ResPublica also concluded that the current planning system and poorly resourced local planning departments exclude communities from discussion over the future of their neighbourhood. Instead it identified a system of ‘planning by appeal’ whereby objecting to a development was the only input available.

The Backing Beauty Commission proposes devolving more power to local authorities and building on the Neighbourhood Plan scheme to allow local communities to be more involved in the details of new developments. It also proposed financial incentives for developers to include beauty in their schemes, and the creation of listed ‘local beauty assets’.

The commission comprises organisations including the National Trust, Woodland Trust, English Heritage, and the CPRE as well as MPs and Tom Bloxham of developer Urban Splash.

Duncan Sim, senior policy and projects officer at ResPublica, said: ‘Landscape architects have an intimate role to play if our idea of what the planning system could look like – with neighbourhoods proactively feeding into and shaping the vision for their area’s future, guided by experts – is to become a reality.

‘We would encourage members to place the highest emphasis on seeking the views of local people and incorporating these into their designs and plans wherever possible, on account of the benefits our research and other studies demonstrate can be realised when people feel satisfied and comfortable with the look and feel of their area.’

For more information on the campaign, and last-year’s report, visit the We Back Beauty website

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