Public would back more new homes if they looked better, Gove suggests

The public would be more willing to accept housing developments if they were made with more attractive designs, Michael Gove has suggested.

The Levelling Up Secretary today has attacked “indifferent or insipid” planning proposals as the country continues to struggle to balance the need for more housing with local opposition to new projects.

Making the comments in the forward to a report by the Policy Exchange think tank, Mr Gove said that areas must regain their “heart and soul” for levelling up to be a success.

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“While the tradition of great architecture continues to flourish, all too frequently in Britain the places around it do not,” he wrote.

Levelling Up minister Michael Gove at the Blackpool Central developmentLevelling Up minister Michael Gove at the Blackpool Central development
Levelling Up minister Michael Gove at the Blackpool Central development

“How often have we seen what would otherwise be good housing developments let down by poor landscaping or indifferent or insipid urban character?

“How many town centres in our great cities are still gridlocked by arterial highways that sever them from the suburban communities they are meant to both serve and represent?”

Mr Gove said that education was key to the improvement of planning to address the housing crisis.

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“We must do all we can to ensure a new generation of built environment professionals are armed with the best skills and techniques possible to enable them to go out and build beautiful, sustainable places in which people and communities can thrive,” he said.

“Much of the opposition to new housing developments is often grounded in a fear that the quality of the new buildings and places created will be deficient and therefore detrimental to existing neighbourhoods and properties.

“If a general improvement in the standard of design reassures the general public that this will in fact not be the case, then they may be less likely to oppose it.”

The report by Policy Exchange entitled “A School of Place” called for the creation of a national school of urban design and architecture which it claims will “tackle the mediocrity of much British town planning”.

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The intake for the new school would include architects, planners, designers, engineers and consultants in an attempt to break down divisions between these fields.

However, the report makes no mention of building in rural areas and building on Green Belt land, something that has caused problems for the Conservatives, and have been suggested to have contributed to by-election defeats such as that in Chesham and Amersham last year.

Mr Gove did caution that his suggestions for the improvement of housing would not be immediate, but said it was important that the Government should “sow the seeds” for future rewards.

“There is no silver bullet to solve the housing crisis, nor to transform British towns and cities overnight or instantaneously deliver a workforce imbued with the skills to make that transformation possible,” he said.

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“But it is important we continue to sow the seeds from which future rewards can be reaped and those rewards hold the promise of turning our homes, towns, cities and communities into vibrant, beautiful places in which we can be genuinely proud.”

Rome was not built in a day. But it would never have been built at all if those who dedicated their lives and careers to its creation did not first know how to build it.”

The Government is committed to a target of 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the decade but has so far failed to meet that goal, while efforts to boost construction have run into opposition at Westminster and the local level.

Earlier this month MPs passed a watered-down version of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill after its progress was delayed by nearly 60 Tory rebels who pledged to back plans to ban mandatory housing targets in England.

Conservative MP Andrew Lewer later accused his own Government of “failing by following” and chasing short-term political gain.