17 key planning recommendations in the Building Beautiful Commission report

The government's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which aims to improve the design quality of new development, published its final report today. Here are 17 key planning recommendations in the document.

Design: Commission makes raft of recommendations to government
Design: Commission makes raft of recommendations to government

Among the 130 recommendations are a series of proposed changes to the planning system. Among the key planning recommendations are:

  1. A call for the planning system to allow a "fast track for beauty" with a "relatively straightforward" planning application stage for developments that meet local plan or supplementary planning document design standards.
  2. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be amended to include references to the importance of "placemaking", "the creation of beautiful places" and "good design and beautiful places".
  3. The government "should evolve a mechanism whereby meaningful local standards of design and placemaking can efficiently apply to permitted development rights." It says that measures are required "to prevent some of the worst excesses that have come to light in office to residential conversion".
  4. Tougher measures to ensure that standards of design quality agreed during the application process are not watered down after schemes receive consent, through "more efficient management of conditions" and enforcement.
  5. Involving communities more in local plans and planning applications, including using digital technology like virtual reality and 3D modelling to help locals shape their own areas.
  6. Councils should develop more masterplans to guide the design of developments. "Clearer masterplans and firmer guidance as to what is (and is not) possible would set greater clarity for land values and guide future development," the report says.
  7. Councils should develop "more detailed design policy interventions, such as provably popular form-based codes and pattern books, as a basis for considering planning applications." 
  8. The planning system should permit "intensification with consent". It recommends that the government "should investigate ways of facilitating gentle suburban intensification and mixed use, with the consent of local communities."
  9. The government should "strongly encouraging councils not to impose minimum back to back or front to front distance between habitable room requirements which make it impossible to build more finely grained and popular traditional settlements".
  10. The government should "promote planning excellence". The report says that the government "should extend and fund professional training for highway engineers and planning officers and inspectors in urban design". It should also support, "both financially and by way of subsequent career advancement, planning officers who wish to take mid-career postgraduate qualifications in urban design". 
  11. The government should "streamline planning and shift resources from development control to strategic planning partially through revolutionising the use of digital technology".
  12. The government "should consider issuing guidance on the maximum physical length and complexity of planning applications".
  13. Planning should "encourage the recycling of buildings". The report says: "Government and local authorities should consider an ‘adaptability test’ embedded in the process of granting planning permission.
  14. Councils should "radically and profoundly … re-invent the ambition, depth and breadth with which they engage with neighbourhoods, as they consult on their local plans." This should include moving public engagement "from analogue to digital", and using "tried and tested tools for engagement such as ‘Enquiry by Design’ as well as testing place and visual preferences more widely by using surveys."
  15. Councils should appoint a "chief place-maker" to "champion beautiful placemaking." The report says: "Championing good design and placemaking should come from the top in each council and should include an understanding of the whole place and what necessarily distinct silos (housing, highways and infrastructure) are trying to achieve."
  16. Moves to "banish ‘boxland’" - low rise, low density retail developments - should be "encouraged" by councils and "strongly encouraged in guidance by the government for reasons of sustainability and well-being". Such schemes should be redevelopment into "‘finely grained’ developments of homes, retail and commercial uses which can support, and benefit from, public transport," the report says.
  17. The government should "encourage" housing agency Homes England "to take a clearer master developer role and consider establishing a code zone (‘permission in form’) approach to large sites".

A more detailed look at the most significant planning recommendations can be found here.

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