6: Building beauty? Place and housing quality in the planning agenda

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This chapter spotlights the cyclical interest, at a governmental level in England, in design governance, characterised by discrete periods of strong public oversight and relative market freedom. The chapter analyses the failure to deliver a consistent approach to place and housing quality over the last decade – a period in which the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment’s role in design scrutiny was ended while greater ‘market freedoms’ arrived in the form of an extension of permitted development rights. It notes that while permitted development rights are producing the ‘slums of the future’, a conservative ‘beauty’ ethic that will affect future planned development has been re-rooted in the Office for Place, marking the standard cyclical return to design oversight, though one that leans heavily on traditional urbanism. The chapter argues that the return of oversight, albeit in a very different form, might be cautiously welcomed if it can be evolved to correct at least some of the failings of design governance that have become apparent in the last decade.

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