On 7th February the Government released its Housing White Paper, "Fixing our Broken Housing Market." The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community is pleased that it’s 2014 report ‘Housing Communities: What People Want’ was recognised, and subsequently referenced in the document.
In the report, The Prince’s Foundation argued that people appreciate the need for new housing, but thus far the UK has been unable to build the type of housing that is actually welcomed by communities: appropriate, sustainable and beautiful.
The Housing White Paper suggests that England needs to plan for the right homes in the right places. This is absolutely something that the Prince’s Foundation has been promoting since its inception. Any new development should take into account the natural, social and financial capital of an area, and honestly reflect that. If we are to build new developments that are beneficial, rather than detrimental, they should enhance local areas, with communities taking a central role in shaping them.
In ‘What People Want’ we made it clear that people do not want their areas to lose a strong sense of identity, nor do they want change to be too rapid, gradual, nor overwhelming. It was good to see this backed by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit’s research that was quoted in the white paper, saying that “73 per cent of people say they would support the building of more homes if well designed and in keeping with their local area.”
BIMBY was developed as a way for communities to articulate what they would like to see from their built environment, since it’s launch has been used up and down the country for a variety of purposes, including in Neighbourhood Planning.
Section 1.52 suggests that a “locally led approach is important to ensure that development reflects the character and opportunities presented by each area”. BIMBY encourages people to engage in this process, and “describe what good design and local character looks like in their view”, as articulated in section 1.48 of the white paper.
The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community argued in its 2014 report ‘Housing London: A Mid Rise solution’ that intensification along key routes, infill on small/medium sites, large-scale new build, and estate regeneration were all ways in which mid-rise development can deliver the housing that London needs. It is noticeable that many of these suggestions are mentioned within the Government white paper for urban areas, and we will continue to provide thought leadership around sustainable urban growth.
Within our ‘Six Steps to Estate Regeneration’ report, we suggest that we need to ‘address the misperceptions around high density through good design’. In section 1.51, the white paper specifically posits that ‘when people picture high density housing, they tend to think of unattractive tower blocks.’ We have shown through our ‘Housing London’ and ‘Six steps’ reports that this need not be the case.
We have also argued in ‘Six Steps to Estate Regeneration’ that by encouraging “local planning authorities to consider the social benefits of estate regeneration … deliver(ing) this to a high standard”, we will be able to look to the examples of “some of the most desirable places to live in the capital” such as higher density mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets.
‘Building a Legacy: A Landowner’s Guide to Popular Development’, our prospectus for landowners released in 2017, highlighted that one way to ‘fix our broken housing market’ is to move away from the model of ‘delivering zoned housing estates that create the need for more energy use, increase carbon emissions and foster sedentary lives’. Creating popular developments that have strong local identities with access to all of the amenities which a society needs to function – schools, shops and public transport links has never been so important.
The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community will continue to pioneer practice and promote the benefits of sustainable urban development, community engagement and the traditional building skills that can meet the challenges of the 21st century.