He is starting to sound statesman like. It also reminded me of Patrick Abercrombie - bare with.
The preample to the Greater London Plan 1944 states ‘A community is not made up of a number of single buildings, unrelated to each other, and which manage to be at best harmless or devoid of offence. House-builders especially, who have failed in the recent past, must set themselves a higher standard.’ It could have been written by a politician today.
However, I suspect that the ‘pig ugly’ he also refers to is actually the reality of the not so old days of PPG3 on housing. At its best it did allow for innovation, however, what we witnessed more often was the same mundane houses, designed at less than 30 dwellings to the hectare, just pushed closer together with gardens squeezed and car parking fudged. It achieved the higher densities but often on sites poorly equipped to deal with it, such as greenfield, but easier to finance and develop. So you get larger numbers of people, suggesting large numbers of car journeys and hey presto the infrastructure of roads and roundabouts gets ever larger, making walking and cycling far harder. The highways win and the place making loses and its no one faults. The density is not enough to create a place in itself so it seems place-less.
We just don’t have an idea about how to develop integrated policy that allows us to make places that are attractive, healthy, and safe and provide good access to good jobs. Instead, we obsess about numbers of car parking, what the density is, the percentage of affordable, etc… all the stuff that is measured and quantifiable rather than other, more quality based indicators. We should promote a liveability index – the number of schools that can be reached without the need to use a car, employment per hectare in the area, accessibility to the high street by bicycle or on foot, for example. There are plenty to choose from.
This would not stifle design or imaginative approaches but it would lift the mediocre and ‘pig ugly’ to being better places to live, work and visit and design of the houses would be far, far less important than design of the place. It would take it out of the command of the housebuilders and put it back into the hands of the urban designers to lead the engineers, planners and architects.
Politicians, and shareholders of house builders for that matter, will not appreciate the luxury of allowing things to develop or mature over time. For all his welcome words about beauty, we will get the places we deserve if we allow politicians or house builders to determine how places, and not just houses, look and feel.