New National Design Guide emphasises role of NPPF in design grounds refusals

Councils that have not produced their own local design guides will be allowed to defer to the government's new National Design Guide and the impending National Model Design Code when considering whether development proposals meet the National Planning Policy Framework's (NPPF's) design policy requirements, the newly-published guide has said.

Development: new design guide published
Development: new design guide published

The new National Design Guide, published yesterday, says that it forms part of the government’s collection of Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) and should be read alongside updated planning guidance on design

It advises that well-designed places have "compact forms of development" and make "efficient use of land" that "optimises density".

A statement issued by the Conservative Party earlier this week said the guide "will have genuine clout and be capable of being a material consideration in planning applications and appeals, meaning that local planning authorities should take it into account when taking decisions".

The statement said that ministers are to issue a written ministerial statement "setting out [the design guide’s] purpose and how it is expected to be used, while the National Planning Policy Framework will be updated to reflect this at the first opportunity".

The design guide says it will be backed up next year by a new "National Model Design Code", setting out "detailed standards for key elements of successful design".

The document says that, using the National Model Design Code, "local planning authorities will be expected to develop their own design codes or guides".

The guide stresses that paragraph 130 of the NPPF "states clearly that permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions, taking into account any local design standards or style guides".

It adds that, in the absence of local design guidance, local planning authorities "will be expected to defer to the illustrated National Design Guide and National Model Design Code" when considering planning applications.

The design guide adds that the National Model Design Code will be subject to consultation in "early 2020". This will also consider the findings of the government's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, it goes on to say, which is due to publish its final report in December 2019.

The design guide sets out ten characteristics of well-designed places. These are:

  • Context – the guide says that good design "enhances the surroundings";
  • Identity – good design is "attractive and distinctive";
  • Built form – good design delivers "a coherent pattern of development";
  • Movement – well-designed places should be "accessible and easy to move around";
  • Nature – good design should see nature "enhanced and optimised";
  • Public spaces – such places should be "safe, social and inclusive";
  • Uses – developments should be "mixed and integrated";
  • Homes and buildings – housing should be "functional, healthy and sustainable";
  • Resources – well-designed places and buildings are "efficient and resilient", and "conserve natural resources including land, water, energy and materials";
  • Lifespan – developments should be "made to last".

On "built form", the document says that well-designed places have "compact forms of development that are walkable, contributing positively to well-being and placemaking". It adds that "well-designed new development makes efficient use of land with an amount and mix of development and open space that optimises density."

On "nature", the document says that well-designed places "prioritise nature so that diverse ecosystems can flourish to ensure a healthy natural environment that supports and enhances biodiversity". It also says that open spaces should include "well-integrated drainage, ecology, shading, recreation and food production that achieve a biodiversity net gain as required by the 25-year Environment Plan".

The "uses" section says that well-designed neighbourhoods "need to include an integrated mix of tenures and housing types that reflect local housing need and market demand".

It says that such schemes "are designed to be inclusive and to meet the changing needs of people of different ages and abilities," adding that "development reinforces existing places by enhancing local transport, facilities and community services, and maximising their potential use".

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