28 March

A Positive Outcome for Planning?

Harold Macmillan was Minister of Housing and Local Government 1951-54 in Winston Churchill’s Conservative Government. He had been given the target of building three hundred thousand new homes every year. The UK was still suffering from the social and economic effects of the Second World War and the demand for clean and safe modern housing was high. The prevailing economic orthodoxy was that, given the undesirability of unemployment, Government had a duty to provide work for the unemployed. Macmillan met his target for appropriate housing, and produced at the same time high levels of employment.

Attribution: Thomas Nugent

The new planning framework does indeed contain a presumption for development of a ‘sustainable’ kind. Five principles are enunciated: living within the planet’s means; ensuring a healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly. Laudable these may be, but are they practical in the realm of implementation?

A seemingly more practical part of the document concerns architecture and community. House-building should not be considered merely from a perspective of homes needed and economic benefit. Buildings contribute towards the health of a community. The guidelines in the new framework are therefore welcome. In a previous blog-post here it was suggested that the Government acquaint itself with Sir Ebenezer Howard’s ideas, implemented in early twentieth-century ‘garden cities’. The Prime Minister himself has recently suggested that a new garden city may be required in response to housing demand.

Most development, however, occurs as additions to existing communities. Whilst Howard’s ideas are most easily realised in wholly new settlements they can also be implemented in such additions. Developments should not clash with the existing natural and built environment. They should provide for ample open space and offer opportunities for local employment. Development should take place in such a way as to support and enhance social communities. It is pleasing that the Government seems to have taken note of this in planning requirements. Time alone will test its resolve to maintain them against commercial pressures.

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