Can we have both quality and quantity in new homes?

By Michael Burton | 17 July 2019
  • Michael Burton

There is a certain irony in the timing of the Mayor of London’s decision to reject a 1,000ft skyscraper in the City dubbed the Tulip – or by one critic as just ‘a liftshaft with a bulge’. Days previously on 9 July, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published the interim report from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, Creating space for beauty. The report wants beauty imbedded in the planning system and the public to be more involved earlier to avoid ‘identikit homes and boxland developments’. It also suggests retail parks and ‘ugly old supermarkets’ should be converted into mixed use developments supported by public transport to reduce reliance on cars.

There can be no one who advocates the opposite, that ugliness should be imbedded in the planning system, mainly because they don’t need to as it already is. In the past week there has been much publicity about the tiny rental flats developers have been squeezing (lucratively for them and often funded by the taxpayer through housing benefit) into former office blocks, since office to residential conversions don’t require planning permission. Leading builders such as Persimmon have also been criticised for poor quality homes. Huge new housing developments are constructed without the necessary infrastructure or consideration of impact on other local public services. In my outer London borough the waiting time to see our GP has suddenly doubled to four weeks because the NHS has been unable to agree a new GP practice to service a nearby development of 1,300 homes.

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