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New Towns event calls for beauty in placemaking

29 April 2019

Last week we attended the New Towns for the 21st Century event at the Policy Exchange, one of the UK’s leading think tanks. The panel event was a discussion to consider how best the government can support the creation of new towns. The event was standing room only to hear the much-anticipated speeches from the two-top tier political speakers – Sir Oliver Letwin MP and newly appointed Shadow Housing Minister Alex Cunningham MP.

Sir Oliver, author of the government-commissioned Independent Review of ‘Build Out’, was first to speak, and the theme running through his remarks was how more should and could be done to accelerate house building, with place and beauty being the key tenants of a future successful policy. Perhaps his most memorable comment was he found it peculiar that ‘beauty’ wasn’t spoken about in politics a great deal, despite it being essential to and significant to everyday life. This, Sir Oliver argued, is because people choose to live in a place for reasons beyond convenience of work and school. He also called for the beauty and place debate to be architecture led – but with local community buy-in, which chimes with the community outreach work currently being undertaken here at Otterpool Park.

There appeared to be a high level of agreement on housing policy between both Labour and Conservatives. Discussions from both speakers included how to make more land available at a price that can deliver more good quality homes and also how we offer councils more powers to help speed up how we can together tackle the housing crisis.  Judging by the appetite and interest in the room, policy discussions around garden towns, place and beauty are set to continue. It is clear from this event that, if approved, Otterpool Park has so many of the key ingredients to make this work – offering a style of life in the countryside which respects beauty, a place that is extremely connected as well as rich in creativity.

Simon Petar, iNHouse Communications

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