Last edited 22 Jul 2021

Design code

On 6 August 2020, the government published ‘Planning for the Future’ a consultation on reforms to the planning system. The proposals were intended to streamline the process, cut red tape, harness technology and protect green space to deliver high-quality, sustainable communities. ‘Planning for the Future’ included proposals for local authorities to introduce local design codes giving communities control over what is built in their areas.

On 20 July 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government introduced the Building Beautiful Places plan, a programme incorporating a range of measures including an update of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the introduction of the National Model Design Code (NMDC) and the creation of the Office for Place.

The NPPF was amended to urge all councils to develop a local design code (an illustrated design guide that sets the standard for a local area) with input from local people. The changes to the NPPF set an expectation that good quality design should be approved and includes an environmental commitment to ensure that all streets are lined with trees and that biodiversity and access to nature will be improved. The word “beauty” will be specifically included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947. Greater emphasis will also be placed on instilling a sense of local pride within the community.

The process for creating a local design code has been outlined in the NMDC. It provides advice to local planning authorities on the process for producing codes, the design parameters and issues that need to be considered and tailored to their own context. It also includes methods to capture and reflect the views of the local community by the use of digital tools, social media, face-to-face workshops, roundtables and exhibitions.

To support the use of design codes the government created the Office for Place within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This will support communities to turn their visions into local standards that all new buildings will be required to meet. The Office for Place will be advised by a board of experts from the planning and development industry.

Nicholas Boys Smith, Chair of the Advisory Board for the Office for Place, said: " We must do better, more often for the benefit of communities, to contribute to the economic success of our towns and cities and to look after our planet... Our vision is to help families, neighbourhoods, councils, landowners, housebuilders and developers more easily create places in which our communities can prosper." Ref

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