10th February, 2021
The Government seeks to encourage beautiful development
There has long been a sense that ugly development has occurred and that local voices and the local character of places have been ignored.
Government is consulting on draft changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the draft National Model Design Code (the Code) together with accompanying guidance notes. The consultation runs from 30 January 2021 to 27 March 2021.
The Code and accompanying guidance run to 148 pages. This is, therefore, not intended to be a discussion of the detailed provisions.
The draft Code is designed to provide the detailed guidance on production of design codes, guides and policies by councils. The government says that the full suite of changes are to implement the recommendations of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s report “Living with Beauty”.
The NPPF changes are designed to put “beauty” and well designed places at the heart of the NPPF, but they also make amendments on flood risk, climate change and changes derived from legal cases. The Code will form part of the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) and will therefore be guidance and not a statement of national policy. The intention is that the Code is used to assist in the production of local design codes.
The idea of the Code and subsequent design codes is to provide a set of parameters applicable to types of area which dictate some of the broad aspects of development. The role of design codes is stated to be to influence the design of the majority of buildings, the housing, shops and workspaces that make up the fabric of places. Therefore, where a particular area currently has a predominant style of development, a code may seek to encourage development that fits with it.
Significant weight in the planning balance will be given to potential development which conforms with the design codes. The codes may allow for certain departures/variations. It will still be possible for designs which do not comply with the codes to gain approval but it will be much harder.
Compliance with the codes will be a part of showing that a potential development is “well-designed”. It will be harder (but not impossible) to show that potential development which is not in conformity with a code (or allowed by its stated exceptions) is “well-designed”.
Since the local population will have been involved with the production of the codes it is envisaged that designs which comply with the codes will be seen to be appropriate in a locality and therefore objections from local residents would carry less weight.
As well as encouraging “beautiful” development, the proposed changes aim to provide more certainty for developers.
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