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Congratulations to Nicholas Boys Smith, the founder of Create Streets, who has been appointed the “acting Chair” of the Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. This is the post that became vacant after Sir Roger Scruton was dismissed by James Brokenshire, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary. As has been widely reported, Sir Roger was interviewed in the New Statesman. His views on various matters were misrepresented – but Brokenshire ousted him before this became clear.

Interviewed by Iain Dale on LBC yesterday, Brokenshire said:

‘I have a huge amount of respect and acknowledgement for Sir Roger’s focus on aesthetics, that he is a leader in his field.

“In hindsight I look back on the handling of this and, yes, we could have done things differently. That is something I do acknowledge. It is difficult and I’m very saddened by the whole situation as to how this has occurred.

‘I very firmly thank and recognise all of the work that Sir Roger has done on this.’

That falls short of an apology – and the delay before expressing any contrition is also unfortunate.

The good news is that Boys Smith is an excellent choice as successor. He has contributed several pieces to this site outlining his thinking on architecture.

In some ways Boys Smith is better suited than Sir Roger because what is needed is not persuasive arguments for a beautiful built environment. Most of us are already convinced. Those of us who are not convinced tend to the ones with the power – the architects and the planners – who are unlikely to be converted by the essays and speeches of Sir Roger, however elegantly phrased. Where Boys Smith should do well is coming up with a list of viable demands to put to the Government to solve the problem. That is to see homes built, and for that building to be popular because the homes are attractive.

It is likely that we will have a new Prime Minister in a few months but I suspect the work will continue. Certainly meeting the housing challenge will be a key test for leadership rivals. Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, looks to Tokyo.  She wants more “upward” development. But Boys Smith points out that there is a difference between high density and high rise – Tokyo is lower density than London. Truss is quite right to wish to allow new homes on the Green Belt – but the way to achieve that is with the proviso is that they are traditional and use local materials – not concrete tower blocks.

Anyway, however angry Conservatives, and other fair-minded people, might feel about the treatment of Sir Roger, it is welcome that his mission continues.

43 comments for: Boys Smith takes over from Scruton, chairing the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission

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