“Life shouldn’t be ugly just because you’re poor”

Excellent article recently by Clare Foges in The Times ($, 7th Nov 2016). “Life shouldn’t be ugly just because you’re poor”. Sadly it’s behind the heavy paywall, but here are a few highlights…

There is a kind of inequality that few mention in this country — an inequality that is as stark and dispiriting as the rest. Let’s call it aesthetic inequality.

Many deprived areas are horribly ugly — and we should take more seriously the effect this has on people’s spirits and lives. … how does it corrode aspirations and limit horizons if everything around you is grey, decrepit, rubbish? … What if your constant visual diet is the wind-whistling plazas in fifty shades of grey, the corrugated retail warehouses; the blank, depressing faces of municipal buildings; the graffiti and litter; the asphalt and concrete; the brutalism and boxiness? When driving through parts of Wembley, Blackpool, Coventry and Luton, I have raged at the fate of those stuck there without hope of a change of scene, at the thoughtlessness that has condemned them to constant ugliness. [all of which] that tell you this is where you belong, this is what you’re worth …

[We need] a planning system that demands more thought, subtlety and beauty. Why, for instance, do we only insist on elegant shopfronts along listed high streets in leafy, wealthy areas — while everywhere else there is a garish corporate free-for-all that assaults the eyes? Why not make every high street a listed high street? It needs more imaginative civic leaders [and we] need to squash the notion that caring about aesthetics is trivial, marginal, unimportant in the scheme of things.

The context was a speech by John Hayes, the current Transport Minister in the UK. It doesn’t seem to be online as audio, but the text of the speech is here. Predictably it was condemned from the left by the usual lumpen Tory-bashers, who can’t see beyond the end of the snivelling noses when it comes to the economic ramifications of policy.

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