Secretary of State's speech at the Design Quality Conference 2018

Secretary of State Sajid Javid's speech at the Design Quality Conference 2018

Winston Churchill famously said: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

That’s certainly true for me.

As you may know, I grew up above the family shop.

I lived on a road that has been labelled by one newspaper as “Britain’s most dangerous street”.

Those experiences taught me a lot.

The value of family and hard work.

How few things are more important than feeling safe in your own home and your your own neighbourhood.

And – crucially – how to hold your own against 5 siblings.

Now I know that I’m not alone.

Our homes, for all of us, are the making of us.

That is why today’s event is so important.

And why I’m delighted that so many of you could be here today.

And why I want to say a massive thank you for your interest and support.

I can’t recall when a government last held a conference on design quality.

It’s a measure of our commitment on this vital issue – as not just something that is nice to have.

A bonus that if you are lucky enough to be able to afford it.

But as something that’s fundamental to everyone’s quality of life – regardless of whether you’re buying or you’re renting a place, or whether you’re in the private sector or the social sector.

It’s very fundamental to the way we feel when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed.

To the opportunities that we have and the futures that we can imagine for ourselves.

To people coming together to create, quite simply, great places to live.

Which is why there’s absolutely no question of having to choose between quality and quantity when it comes to building the homes that our country so desperately needs.

As you will have no doubt have heard many times today, the 2 – quality and quantity – go very much hand in hand.

With communities that are much more likely to welcome new development, if it’s attractive, thoughtful and in keeping with the local area.

But the gains are, of course, much bigger than just somewhere that looks good.

It could be a quiet place to study that means you get a better chance at school.

Parks and other outdoor spaces will be good for your health and your mental health.

And public spaces that design in opportunities for people to come together across generations can end up designing out isolation and helping to build those strong communities.

To achieve this, to really raise the bar on design quality, we need to see stronger collaboration right across the whole sector – which is what today’s event is all about.

It sounds like you’ve had a busy and interesting day, with lots of great speakers lots sharing their ideas and expertise.

And excellent examples, such as the University of North Cambridge development, that where they aren’t just aiming to meet short-term targets, but are very much taking that long-term view that we all want to see.

Something that’s crucial for creating homes that are a much-loved part of the fabric of our local areas not just now, but, potentially, well into the next century and beyond.

I’m also pleased to see that today’s conference has thrown up another positive variation of NIMBY – BIMBY or Beauty In My Backyard, from The Princes Foundation.

I’m looking forward to that phrase catching on!

The new technologies on display at the exhibition are also hugely impressive – as are the new technologies highlighted by the Farmer Review that address the need to build at pace and scale whilst still promoting quality and consumer choice.

And it was especially inspiring to see that we focused on the views, talents and aspirations of young people.

We’re remembering one of those young people this week – Stephen Lawrence.

An aspiring architect, whose murder 25 years ago, is still hard to bear.

The work of the Stephen Lawrence Trust – who we heard from today…

…which gives young people the opportunities which he was denied, to pursue a career in architecture…

….is a fitting tribute to his memory.

And I’m deeply grateful for all the efforts of everyone involved.

Their work is a poignant reminder that, in shaping homes, we’re also shaping lives.

And we owe it to this and the generations to come to leave a legacy of places that, whether you’re putting down roots or just passing through, lift the human spirit.

Inspired by a strong vision of what we want for our villages, our towns and cities, what we want them to look like and feel like in the future.

In doing so, we can draw on a rich history of British housing and urban design that is the envy of the world.

The elegant terraces and town houses, squares and crescents of the Georgian period.

Victorian terrace houses, avenues and parks.

Edwardian mansion blocks and flats.

The detached and semi-detached homes and garden suburbs of the 20th century.

What will our legacy be like for the 21st century?

What design approaches are we pioneering that will become the original features of the future?

What new built environments are we developing that meet the challenges of our age?

What trails are we blazing?

Are we truly drawing on the talents of all our people – with their diverse backgrounds and their perspectives – as we build that modern, global Britain?

This is what I want us to be thinking about and aiming for – with all of us doing our bit.

For our part, in government, we’ve strengthened the expectations for design quality and community engagement in the planning system.

This doesn’t, in any way, involve the government dictating what good design looks like, but it makes it clear that it must be rooted in and it must be backed by the local communities.

Of course, local authorities, they too have a leading role to play in setting a vision for their areas and their plans.

And it’s the job of developers and their designers to respond positively to these expectations; harnessing the talents of skilled professionals – urban designers, architects, engineers and landscape designers.

The great projects we’ve heard about today show that we’re already achieving this in many places and creating beautiful, safe, healthy neighbourhoods that command local support.

The challenge, now, is to deliver this consistently right across the country, so that high quality design is the norm rather than the exception.

I’m confident – from the ambition and wealth of talent I see before me – that that prize is very much in our grasp.

It only remains for me to thank you all, once again, for attending and contributing – particularly our speakers and sponsors at the event. Thank you all very much.


Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP