Podium: When we build, let us build for ever

Prince Charles

From a speech given by the Prince of Wales at

a Housing Corporation conference and exhibition in Brighton

LAST YEAR I became the patron of the Guinness Trust, which has been working hard to promote more thoughtful and far-sighted approaches to the layout and composition of new housing projects. The Guinness Trust has also been immensely helpful in my own efforts to provide new housing of a decent standard at Poundbury, in Dorchester.

Here, on Duchy of Cornwall land, and amid considerable controversy, we have now secured a development programme whereby housing for affordable rent and for open market sale is successfully under way alongside new factories, workshops and community amenities.

Through careful planning, Poundbury is beginning to add a new district to the town of Dorchester, not as soulless suburban sprawl but as a place which, in its own way, will have as distinctive a character as Hampstead has in London, or Clifton has in Bristol.

We are building a place - somewhere which is recognisably a neighbourhood, and where, over time, it should be quite possible to live, to work, to shop and to take leisure, all within an easy walking distance. Far from being "old-fashioned", Poundbury has merely tried to revisit those timeless principles that are best able to create a real sense of community.

I mention Poundbury partly because it is a project that represents what for me are fundamental qualities that distinguish good housing development from bad.

These qualities are widely accepted as ones that help to sell historic homes; they are the essential ingredients for many of the villages, towns and cities which people most enjoy visiting, yet they remain curiously absent from most of what we build today. Could this partly explain why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to new building development? Think of Edinburgh New Town, historic Bath, Chelsea or Marylebone. All of these are highly "liveable", prized locations, but densely populated, too.

And yet so much of what has been built, and much that continues to be built, ignores the basic rules of place-making or, to borrow Al Gore's phrase, "liveability".

Houses are thrown together in chaotic disorder, or segregated by isolated culs-de-sac and walls. Shops are bundled into large retail centres or malls, and workplaces are separated off into so-called "business parks".

All of this undermines the interactions and encounters that sustain good-quality community life, and corrodes neighbourhoods. People stop walking because everything needs a car journey. This is obviously still more of a problem for those who have no access to a car, or can ill afford a bus journey.

Physical and social disintegration is almost inevitable in these circumstances.

One problem is that the whole planning process tends towards conflict and hostility, rather than involvement and reconciliation. This does nothing to help improve the quality of what is built, which then further undermines people's confidence in the very notion of new development of any sort.

We used to have so-called Nimbys, but now I'm told that we have a newer, even tougher generation, known fondly as Bananas ("Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything"!)

There was a time when new building wasn't taken as a byword for destruction or uglification, and an aerial view of most historic market towns and villages, in this country and abroad, will usually display a fine blending of scale, layout, topography and materials, such that town and country coexist happily. Rarely do we build such places now. By contrast, the character of most new house-building completely shatters any such relationship. Instead, the buildings seem to stand quite apart from the landscape - an alien intrusion instead of a sympathetic and logical extension. An A3 standard house type therefore looks identical whether it's in Aberdeen or Exeter, Dover or Carlisle.

In many cultures, over thousands of years, such an invasion of the integrity of land and landscape would have been taken as sacrilegious. Whatever one's spiritual beliefs, I think it is clear that our individual and collective sense of well-being is deeply affected by the character of our natural and man-made landscapes, and the relationship between them.

If this generation builds badly, then it leaves a blight for generations. Ruskin said that "When we build, let us think we build for ever", a point worth making when people speak widely about sustainability but less about its true meaning, which I believe to be about recovering that which is timeless, indeed, sacred.

Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map