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18/01/2011
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People and places

As of 2010 just 37% of people believe they can influence decisions affecting their local area. This is down from 44% in 2001. And only than one in five people took part in a ‘civic consultation’ during 2009, even fewer than five years ago.

The government wants to change this. They see it as an essential part of the Big Society.

People and places was a CABE research project about involving people in shaping the look and feel of the places where they live. The barriers to involvement include lack of confidence, uncertainty about language, or just a sense of pointlessness.

One way to encourage involvement is through a subject about which everyone has a view. Everyone has a view on what's beautiful, and what isn't, where they live.

Does beauty matter?

Asking ‘does beauty matter?’ is a way to get people talking about what they want for their places, a practical starting point for constructive debate and active involvement:

  1. People in Sheffield told us what they thought about beauty.
  2. Ipsos MORI set this in a national context with a poll and research
  3. Seven public figures responded in a series of essays.
  4. CABE ran a competition to find Areas of Outstanding Urban Beauty.
  5. Several articles responded to the ideas raised in the research and essays.
  6. Now we want to hear what you think - does beauty matter?

Most people think beauty matters, and the writers agree.  We see ourselves reflected in our places, and beautiful places boost our sense of well-being, personal worth, pride and aspiration.  When we have a stake in beauty, we have a good reason to help lead change and improvement in our neighbourhood.

Beautiful Sheffield?

If you cannot see the video(s) below go to www.cabe.org.uk/redirects/videos

Public attitudes to beauty

People and places: public attitidues to beauty

CABE commissioned MORI to create a research report called People and places: public attitudes to beauty. This reveals that most people think access to beauty matters, regardless of whether you are rich or poor.

Just 18% of people thought that beauty matters less if you're poor; and an overwhelming 81% said that everyone should be able to experience beauty on a regular basis.

Interestingly, they also think councils have most responsibility for doing something about it.

Seven essays on beauty

We asked seven public figures to respond to our research:

Online debate

The themes of this project have also been debated in several articles:

  • Let's not be shy about beauty - Ben Rogers (OurKingdom)
  • The “beauty debate” isn’t even skin deep - Austin Williams (The Independent)
  • The problem with beauty - Jonathan Tilley (Planning Blog)
  • Architecture and our duty to beauty - Julian Baggini (The Independent)
  • On beauty - Ben Rogers (RSA Journal)
  • On everyday beauty - Ben Toombs (RSA blog)
  • Beauty and the big society – Tom Bolton (RSA blog)

Areas of Outstanding Urban Beauty

There are 35 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. But 90% of us live in towns and cities and most people rarely get out and visit them. So CABE held a photo competition to find ‘Areas of Outstanding Urban Beauty’.

Your comments

Janet Pell. Landlife / National Wildflower Centre on

Landlife has been working to bring beauty into local places using native wildflowers. These actions act as a prompt for the imagination, provoking discussion and raising hope that can inspire local people to believe in better environments. We believe that everyone can experience beauty and that nature is a key provider if we only stop to look. Surveys show that wildflowers communicate new social values very effectively, encourage community spirit and effect healthy behaviour. Beauty is at the heart of Landlife's work and central to our motivation.