The think tank ResPublica is today launching the Backing Beauty Commission with support from the National Trust and the Woodland Trust. The Commission aims to put beauty, placemaking and community participation at the heart of local planning and wider public policy.
The Commission comes at a vital time. There is a problem that needs solving:
- The planning system that traditionally has protected beauty is coming under severe strain – our report on areas of outstanding natural beauty showed how they are coming under pressure and the latest round of reform to the planning system could see if turn into a service for developers to get their schemes past local communities, no matter what their visual impact is
- Spending cuts are disproportionately affecting less well off areas – the ability of councils to have the resources to manage development and the planning system is being weakened, and keeping parks and streets well maintained and free of litter is going to be an increasing challenge as funding gets squeezed more
- And this is on top of the fact that poorer areas were losing out even before the squeeze on public spending – there may be characteristics of the areas that make maintenance and cleaning more of a challenge and councils may have lower expectations of deprived areas and more vocal demands from richer areas (see here and here)
So we’re going to be working with the Commission to explore how access to beauty can be democratised and not just reserved for those on higher incomes (see ResPublica’s previous Community Right to Beauty report on this). This should include:
- Keeping the planning system as an effective and integrated system, and changing tack on the current round of reforms
- Building on the Government’s good record of supporting neighbourhood plans to ensure poorer areas don’t miss out
- Looking at new approaches to ensuring less well off areas don’t lose out in spending cuts and the devolution agenda (as with our work on parks and green spaces)
The National Trust’s core mission (as set out in our founding Act of Parliament) is about protecting places of historic interest and beauty. But beauty should be part of the everyday and the everywhere, not only reserved for a few locations people can escape to.
You can read more about who’s on the Commission here.
Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director