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Model Design Code for Model Communities?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has recently launched a consultation on its proposed National Model Design Code (alongside various other amendments to the NPPF), which is aimed at embedding principles of "good design and beautiful places" in both strategic plan-making and decision-making.

The introduction of the Model Design Code has been developed in response to the government's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission - which had the primary objective of "championing beauty in the built environment, as an integral part of the drive to build the homes that our communities need".

The government intends for the Model Design Code to form part of its planning practice guidance, which would render it a material consideration in decision making. Using the overarching Model Design Code, local planning authorities will be expected to produce their own bespoke local design codes, which establish good design principles and overarching vision for communities during the decision making process - with an emphasis on beauty as a requirement throughout the planning process.

To support the introduction of the Model Design Code, a number of amendments are proposed to the NPPF to ensure these principles are enshrined in the development plan. These include:

  • Paragraph 8 (sustainable development): the overarching objective has been amended to refer to "well designed, beautiful and safe places", providing greater emphasis on the importance of good design and beauty.
  • Paragraph 130 (tree lined streets): this new paragraph introduces a requirement that "planning policies and decisions should ensure that new streets are tree-lined, that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments […] and that existing trees are retained wherever possible".
  •  Paragraph 133 (design test): this new paragraph introduces a presumption against development that is not well designed, stating "development that is not well designed should be refused, especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design".
    Other amendments proposed to the NPPF adapt a number of environment-related policies, including changes to policies around flood risk and climate change.

The introduction of the Model Design Code is not without difficulty, as the concept of "beauty" is obviously very subjective. It will therefore be up to local authorities to create clear design parameters for new development when producing local design codes, to minimise the scope for uncertainty around design requirements.

Nonetheless, the introduction of the Model Design Code represents a positive step towards the government implementing its proposed planning reforms set out in the White Paper (Planning for the Future) in August 2020, putting a requirement for beauty and good design at the forefront of the planning system.

The consultation runs until 27 March 2021. If you would like to comment/respond, you can do so through the following link.

For more information on the article above please contact David Richardson.

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