Philosopher admits controversial report may not gain political traction 

Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton has admitted he is not confident the findings of his Building Better, Building Beautiful commission will be adopted by the government when the final document is published.

Scruton – who was appointed in November to lead the commission tasked with putting “beauty” into housing policy – said it would be up to ministers to take on board the results of his research.

“I’m not confident [they will], but [the report] will be a true reflection of what we have found,” Scruton told BD at last week’s Better Design For Better Places conference in Birmingham.

An interim report will be published in June, Scruton said, with the final document coming out in December.

The philosopher’s remarks come despite the announcement that former PRP chairman Andy von Bradsky has been made the government’s new head of architecture with the specific task of advising ministers on how the commission’s recommendations might best be implemented.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire and minister Kit Malthouse have explicitly stated they hope the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC) will show them how to make developments more acceptable to local communities.

Scruton said he and his fellow commissioners – none of whom are architects – wanted “to give a voice to those people who haven’t been heard” when it came to the types of housing scheme that end up being approved by planners.

Malthouse, who had been due to appear at the conference but had to remain in Westminster for the latest Brexit vote, said in a videoed address that the industry was seeing “pushback from communities” over controversial developments. He said better engagement could improve the situation for all sides.

“The construction industry and local people have to be persuaded to collaborate on creating places people can be proud of,” he said.

“We should be making room for design and for beauty. As an industry you need to ask yourselves, are you building the conservation area of the future? The industry has to acknowledge there is a need for beauty [in such schemes].”

Also speaking at the conference Steve Quartermain, chief planner at the MHCLG, said Scruton’s task was to try and identify common ground around beauty and design “and find what the barriers are”.

“The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report will answer some of these questions,” he added.