This week, the Prime Minister announced that some of the UK’s least attractive housing estates are to be torn down and replaced with attractive, safe homes: a move we called for in our Community Right to Beauty report. The scheme is set to be part of a series of measures to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged, supporting the arguments ResPublica will continue to make through its Backing Beauty campaign.
Regular access to beauty in both rural and urban settings is open only to a narrow section of society, with households earning over £45,000 most likely to find the area they live in beautiful. Our report published in July 2015, demonstrated the powerful effect of local beauty on outcomes including their mental and physical health, their experience of their local community, and local economic growth. Yet it also argued that beauty has an important inherent value to people, enriching their lives beyond the economic or wellbeing benefits it provides. For all of these reasons, we argued that beauty is integral to the creation of a just society, and should therefore be at the heart of local planning considerations.
Communities should be able to take control of the process of shaping and improving their local places. This is why we call for a cultural change, prioritising the creation of beautiful places to live for everyone. The Prime Minister’s announcement is therefore an important step in the right direction, highlighting the need for place-making not just home-building. The announcement acknowledged the links our report identified between the poor appearance of an area and numerous social problems. Increased crime rates and anti-social behaviour, as well as economic disadvantage, go hand in hand with restricted access to urban beauty. Our report set out plans to work with housing estates to transform these areas of generational disadvantage and inequality.
The commitment to work with residents in drawing up the regeneration plans for the new estates is encouraging. So is the recognition that this programme offers an opportunity to increase housing density within the estates, providing additional housing for new residents once regeneration is complete. However, we believe the aims of this scheme should be applicable across the country, not just confined to those places where the need is most visible. Community involvement in improving the quality and appearance of local places, and a commitment to genuine locally-led place-making, has the potential to improve the lives of people in cities and towns throughout the UK. We therefore call on the Government to give communities the powers they need to begin making this vision a reality.