Robert Jenrick wants beautiful new housing on leafy streets

Dream on! Owl imagines that, having gained outline permission under the proposed zoning system, developers will argue that they can’t afford tree-lined streets and access to green spaces. 

Remember that Cranbrook was a pioneering example of “developer led” development.

George Grylls, Political Reporter

All new homes should be built in traditional architectural styles on tree-lined streets with access to green space, the government will announce today.

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, is set to outline a new national model design code, stipulating the types of façade and materials local authorities should demand of new buildings.

Councils will be asked to have local design codes that fit the history of their area. Traditional stonework will be encouraged in southern cities such as Bristol and Oxford, while developments in northern towns will be asked to reflect their red-brick heritage.

The Prince of Wales, who has advocated traditional architecture with his neo-Georgian developments at Poundbury, Dorset, and Nansledan, Cornwall, is a key inspiration for the reforms.

In a speech to the think tank Policy Exchange today Jenrick will also unveil the new national planning policy framework which will recommend that developments provide access to nature and include schemes to improve biodiversity. All new streets will be planted with trees as part of an effort to plant 7,000 hectares of woodland a year.

Writing in The Times Red Box today, Jenrick says people have become disillusioned with developers after decades of poor design and that new homes must be beautiful to win public approval.

“Urban planning since the war has at times been a disaster,” he writes. “It is little wonder people are sceptical of new housing. It is a logical response to unimaginative development and poor planning.

“Good design, ready access to nature, high environmental standards, should be for all, from Haringey to Hartlepool. This is about putting communities, not developers, in the driving seat to demand beauty, and insist on a return to a sense of stewardship — to building greener, popular homes and places that stand the test of time.”

Nansledan, near Newquay, is cited as a successful example of design. The 540-acre site will accommodate more than 4,000 pastel-coloured homes. The houses have traditional pitched roofs and are built using local materials.

To help deliver the plans, Jenrick has created a taskforce to drive up standards in the building industry, with developers, architects and planners all represented.

The Office for Place will be chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith, director of Create Streets, which lobbies for more terraced housing. Boys Smith collaborated with the late Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton on the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, which recommended that aesthetic considerations should be factored into planning decisions.

The announcements form the first part of the government’s planning reforms. A planning bill will come before the Commons this autumn amid unrest from Conservative backbenchers, many of whom blame the party’s humiliation at the Chesham & Amersham by-election last month on the unpopularity of the proposals.

Under the reforms, a zonal system will prevent homeowners from objecting to developments in their area.

Ministers believe that overhauling the planning system is crucial if the government is to hit its target of building 300,000 houses a year by the middle of the decade and enable younger generations to buy their own home.

In the past year, house prices have surged thanks to the temporary lifting of stamp duty taxes. The pressures of the pandemic have also led more people to seek out roomier properties with gardens. The average house price has risen to a record £338,000, according to Rightmove.