19 December 1959: The report of the Royal Fine Art Commission strongly criticises the way in which our towns and cities are developing
Strong criticism of the way in which our towns and cities are developing is made in the report of the Royal Fine Art Commission covering the period January, 1958, to August, 1959.
Not only does the commission find that legislation to create green belts and to build new towns has failed to check the spread of the suburbs but in the centre of these cities development of office and commercial buildings has presented further serious problems. “All too often,” the commission says, “the dominant motive is to attain the largest amount of lettable floor space that planning legislation will allow in the most sought-after areas.”
Redevelopment in the replanning of cities should cover far larger areas than are usually the subject of present schemes, the commission considers. “It will be objected that the initial outlay may be heavy. But in the past well planned and attractively designed development has over a long-term paid very good dividends both financially and in other ways. We believe that it will be the same in the future.”
Even so, the commission realises, comprehensive redevelopment is of itself no guarantee of good design. High standards will not be attained unless positive action is taken by the planning authority in determining the form of redevelopment.
The best method in important cases, the commission suggests. is to prepare a master plan with an architect planner appointed, as was done for the surroundings of St Paul’s in London.
“It is not enough to invite private developers to submit their own schemes with little guidance from the planning authority and then to accept the highest bid whatever architecture may happen to have been included. Without such a master plan the outlook for London and our other large cities is indeed a poor one.”