Letter: Government's design guide hands councils 70 pages of reasons for refusal

Whilst you cannot argue against the need for good design and the new National Design Guide is a good handbook, the government has handed planning authorities 70 pages of reasons for refusal.

The wording of government spokespersons saying it will have "genuine clout" will encourage refusals where officers find no enhancement rather than no harm.

Sentences like "design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area" will be used to reject schemes by officers who fail to appreciate that most of the public do not want change and prefer the familiar. What is needed is more encouragement for good design and fewer sticks. This guidance will result in longer delays in validating and determining planning applications.

The government also needs to look again at its priorities. Some major housebuilders use the government policy of significantly boosting the supply of housing to persuade weak planning authorities to permit really banal design. Yet the same local authorities will use government emphasis on good design to take smaller local builders and architects to task about minor details, delaying decisions for months. Local developers' – not just house builders' – proposals come under closer scrutiny from some authorities than those of larger out-of-area developers and architects.

The guide contains objectives which are ignored in other government policy. For example it states developments should be "mixed and integrated", but I am seeing towns, and in particular town centres, becoming less integrated, with flats replacing places of employment, shops and other businesses, as a result of permitted development and other policies aimed at increasing the supply of housing.

Malcolm Brown, director (town planning), Sibbett Gregory

Please submit your letters by emailing planning@haymarket.com

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