Portrait of Michael Gove

Michael Gove vows to block "ugly" developments from being built in the UK

UK levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has told a think tank that the government will use all its powers to stop the development of houses that are "not aesthetically of high quality".

The comments, which were reported by The Independent, were given in a speech at the conservative think tank Centre for Policy Studies.

Aesthetic quality of what builders produce is "disappointing"

According to Gove, who is the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities and minister for intergovernmental relations, the UK government will use its call-in powers to review developments and could stop them from being built if they do not live up to its standards.

"We will use all the powers we have, including call-in powers, in order to make sure that developments which are not aesthetically of high quality don't go ahead," he said.

He added that communities do not want "ugliness imposed upon them".

"For those who are seeing the new houses built the fact that so many of our volume house builders use a restricted pattern book with poor quality materials and the aesthetic quality of what they produce is both disappointing and also not in keeping with high aesthetic standards that may already exist," Gove said.

"That is a reason why communities say no, they do not want ugliness to be imposed on them."

New buildings to have focus on beauty and infrastructure

In the future, he said planning reform should follow BIDEN, an acronym that Gove unveiled during the speech that stands for beauty, infrastructure, democracy, environment and neighbourhoods, reported Local Government Chronicle.

According to the Independent, Gove also said that it would be easier for developers to get planning permission for buildings if they follow new design codes that will be introduced by the government.

The minister mentioned Poundbury, the Dorset town designed for King Charles III, as an example of a beautiful town.

"People say oh, it's pastiche and you know, the King, the Prince of Wales his architectural vision, you know, misty eyed, old-fashioned – that's all rubbish," he said. "The thing about Poundbury is these are beautiful homes."

Gove's announcement is in line with earlier statements by the UK's Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, which was founded in 2018 and has urged UK councils to reject "ugly" housing schemes.

In 2020, the commission's final report recommended incentivising developers by fast-tracking planning for attractive housing. It was followed by proposals by the UK government to speed up planning approval for developments.

The subject of beauty in architecture has also been contentious in the US, where then-US president Donald Trump passed an executive order in 2020 that stated new US government buildings had to be beautiful, citing classical and traditional architecture as the preferred style.

However, current US president Joe Biden revoked the executive order after becoming president, just 69 days after it was signed.

Gove has previously intervened to halt the demolition of a Marks & Spencer flagship store on London's Oxford Street.

The photography is courtesy of the UK Parliament.