Building beautiful

The Prince’s Foundation recently published ‘Housing Britain: a call to action’. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reception it has received, it is clear that we are not alone in our desire to see more thought and care taken when building new homes.

Our President, HRH The Prince of Wales, wrote his ‘Vision for Britain: a personal view on architecture’ 30 years ago and many of its principles still hold true. For example, the idea that if you try to fit in with your local surroundings and complement what is already there, using the same local styles and materials, then the local community will be more amenable and positive about the new development on their doorstep.

Planners need to include local communities right at the start through proper consultation, rather than just lip service after land has been allocated. In fact, last year’s Policy Exchange report, ‘Building more, building beautiful’ , found that 85 per cent of those surveyed wanted new homes that either fit with their traditional surroundings or are identical to the homes already there.

In the past 30 years, so many successful projects have sprung up triumphantly across the UK. Inspirational pioneers have managed to create homes that are well-served, part of walkable, mixed-use communities and are beautiful and ecologically sound.

Just one example of this is at Poundbury in Dorset, where landowners have worked seamlessly with planning departments and developers to create a long-term and self-sustaining community that now ploughs £100 million back into the local economy through goods and services every year.

Elsewhere, Neath Port Talbot Council, property developer St Modwen, The Prince’s Foundation and Swansea University have proven that even an old BP oil refinery site can be developed into beautiful homes (pictured), successful businesses and a state-of-the-art university campus. The business district at Coed Darcy now provides 1,500 jobs, and the university has secured 183 contracts so far. This type of investment is incredible.

These projects have been developed with an understanding that comes not only from years of learned experience, but also from bravery to bring creative solutions and a willingness often to take on a level of financial burden at the beginning before house prices rise as the area becomes more desirable.

If more landowners could take this approach, we might just find the wider market takes our lead and the face of UK housing is changed for the better. Our 14-point call to action in ‘Housing Britain’ is a very clear list of standards that has been honed through the years to yield results. With this, we intend to provide a common language with which to approach new projects.

What I am getting at is that this effective reference guide can be used by anyone in the industry. In the long term, it will result in better buildings, thriving communities and healthier lives. I hope this has inspired those all-important planning departments to take a harder look at the proposals landing on their desks.

The Prince’s Foundation is a charity that supports people to make the most of their community. For more information, and to view ‘Housing Britain: a call to action’ in full, please visit www.princes-foundation.org.

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