Laura Sharman 24 May 2021

Councils given £50,000 to develop design codes

Councils given £50,000 to develop design codes image

Planners have welcomed the Government’s announcement that 14 local authorities will be given £50,000 each to develop new design codes but called for more funds for local planning teams.

The councils will take part in a six-month testing programme to apply the new National Model Design Code (NMDC) in their area.

The code is intended to provide councils with the guidance and parameters needed to ensure future developments are beautiful and fit in with local character.

‘We should aspire to enhance the beauty of our local areas and pass our cultural heritage onto our successors, enriched not diminished,’ said housing minister Christopher Pincher.

‘In order to do that, we need to bring about a profound and lasting change in the buildings that we build, which is one of the reasons we are placing a greater emphasis on locally popular design, quality and access to nature, through our national planning policies and introducing the National Model Design Code.

‘These will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

‘Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.’

The Government recently consulted on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to take this forward, alongside the draft NMDC.

Following a consultation period, more than 70 Expression of Interest submissions were received to test the NMDC. The final 14 applicants were then shortlisted to ensure a geographical spread and a range of development types and given a £50,000 grant to carry out the project.

Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service, commented: ‘It is really exciting to see the National Model Design Code being tested by local councils across the country.

‘The outcomes from this first set of pilots will help to build the capacity and collective learning that we need across the sector. I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve with their communities by using this new code.

‘The testing programme is a step towards this aim and the findings will help inform potential further developments to the NMDC and the use of design coding in the planning system.’

Commenting on the announcement, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said that the pilot schemes would help identify problems that might arise in the code’s application, but warned that increased resourcing was needed for local authority planning teams if the scheme was to be rolled out across the country.

‘The Government’s announcement today of the 14 places which will take part in a testing programme for the National Model Design Code is a pragmatic way of identifying problems that may arise in the application of the code and will also hopefully provide some potential solutions,’ said RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills.

‘The RTPI has no doubt that only a multi-disciplinary approach - involving planners, architects, developers, ecologists, highways authorities and communities - will lead to effective delivery of quality design outcomes. These pilot programmes should help to identify how these relationships will work in practice. We will keep a close eye on the results.’

‘However, what is already clear is that substantial extra investment into the planning system will be needed if planners are to play their part fully – almost 90% of our members have told us that they want to prioritise “beauty” in their work but lack the policy support and resources to do so.’

Ms Hills added: ‘As part of our submission to the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review, we said that a Design Quality Fund of £81m was needed to support cash-strapped local authorities through design training, specialist expertise and design-focused policy.

‘These pilot programmes are an encouraging start but it is only through significantly increased funding for local authority planning teams that the government’s ambitions for Design Codes in every council will be realised.’

Jane Dann explains how the proposed National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code changes will impact on future design codes.

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