Last week I spoke at the launch of a very interesting new think tank pamphlet calling for a 'right to beauty'.

The ResPublica report, 'A Community Right to Beauty: Giving communities the power to shape, enhance and create beautiful places, buildings and spaces', argues for the restoration and democratisation of beauty in public policy.

It points out that beauty plays a central role in enabling people and communities to flourish.  It highlights the health, economic, social and civic benefits of living near beautiful surroundings, and reasserts the importance of its intrinsic value.

I spoke alongside the food critic and heritage chief Lloyd Grossman, the leading architect Terry Farrell, and the former director general of the National Trust, Fiona Reynolds.

We all agreed that beauty is undervalued in public policy, and that if for instance new housing developments were more attractive there would be far less opposition to them.

It's unusual to think of beauty as a 'right', and of course it is not a fundamental or enforceable human right. 

But it's true that wealthy people have the means to ensure they are surrounded by beauty, while the less well off have little choice but to accept the environment in which they live.

Neighbourhood planning has shown how communities can be given the power to shape their areas for the better.  The report urges this policy success to be strengthened, and I agree.

In France, the proposal to build a road bridge across the spectacular Tarn Gorge was controversial.  But the resulting Millau Viaduct, designed by a British architect - Sir Norman Foster - is stunningly beautiful and attracts great admiration.

Much of Britain's historic heritage is loved not just because it's old but it's beautiful.  Think of our own local picturesque historic towns such as Petworth or Arundel.

We need to re-learn the importance of beauty in buildings and public spaces.  Let's start by building a beautiful bridge across the Arun for the much needed Arundel bypass.