A report published in the UK today by ResPublica is entitled "A community right to beauty: Giving communities the power to shape, enhance and create beautiful places, development and spaces".

Amongst its recommendations are the establishment of Areas of Outstanding Urban Beauty (the UK already has Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the launch of Community Improvement Districts for those places without much visual appeal. The key recommendations are as follows:

Power to the people:

  •  The public should have the power to choose their preferred design and developer. Communities should be consulted on proposed new developments, a range of options should be subject to a local vote.
  • Citizens’ Juries would oversee problematic developments. Residents supported by experts working within a public budget would make decisions that the local authority would be bound by.
  • A Community Right to Reclaim land should be extended to buildings and other local assets to enable the public to challenge authorities to improve derelict or unsightly developments.

Financial incentives:

  • To incentivise visual improvements that communities want there should be Capital Gains Tax relief for developers.
  • VAT relief on refurbishment costs, where a community calls for or takes a lead on improvement to a building. For buildings listed as ‘Local Beauty Assets’ (see below) the relief should be greater.
  • A system similar to Business Rates Retention, which helps economic growth, should be used to recognise the value a beautiful development adds to an area.

New areas of beauty:

  • Areas of Outstanding Urban Beauty: Similar to Conservation Areas these would recognise beauty that isn’t just historic or green.
  • Buildings, areas and spaces with local importance should be labelled ‘Local Beauty Assets’ and preserved and maintained.
  • Areas without much visual appeal should be designated Community Improvement Districts. In these areas communities would be empowered to demand policies to tackle problems such as Litter Abatement Orders where litter is an issue.

Caroline Julian, report co-author and Head of Policy Programmes at ResPublica, says being surrounded by beauty should be a right for all not just for the privileged. She added "......Those who are surrounded by beauty are more likely to take care of it, become more involved in their communities. Uglier places see higher levels of anti-social behaviour, crime and more litter. We have to create a system by which we all have a Right to Beauty.”