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Councils receive money to set local design codes

Words: Laura Edgar
Design / iStock-1194380325

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has announced that 25 English councils will receive a share of £3 million to set their own local design codes.

Plans for local design codes were first set out in the planning white paper, Planning for the Future, published in August 2020. 

The government says local authorities and communities being able to shape design in their neighbourhoods forms part of the its plans to level up the country. The design codes created by these councils (see box) will be used as examples that communities across the country are able draw on to produce their own plans, with support from the Office for Place. 

The areas allocated funding as part of the Design Code Pathfinder Programme are:

  • Carlisle City Council - £120,000
  • Lake District National Park Authority - £120,000
  • Trafford Council - £160,000
  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council - £120,000
  • Shropshire Council - £120,000
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council - £120,000
  • Teignbridge District Council - £160,000
  • Medway Council - £120,000
  • Reigate and Banstead Borough Council - £120,000
  • Surrey County Council - £120,000
  • Brent Council - £120,000
  • London Borough of Barking and Dagenham - £120,000
  • Epping Forest District Council - £120,000
  • Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service - £120,000
  • Uttlesford District Council - £160,000
  • East Midlands Development Company - £120,000
  • Gedling Borough Council - £160,000
  • Mansfield District Council - £120,000
  • Bradford Council - £160,000
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council - £160,000
  • Darlington Borough Council - £120,000
  • Neighbourhood planning groups
  • Weymouth Town Council - £30,000
  • Finsbury Park and Stroud Green - £30,000
  • Bacup and Stacksteads Neighbourhood Forum - £30,000
  • South Woodford Neighbourhood Forum - £30,000

The Design Code Pathfinder Programme seeks to empower communities to have their say on development in their area, including of housing, other buildings, shops and workspaces. The government intends for the programme to “help restore people’s pride in the places they live”.

The codes should help local authorities and communities to deliver “more beautiful and sustainable”" places. They will be able to make various specifications, including material type and the layout of streets.

Housing minister Stuart Andrew said: “We want to give local people power over what their neighbourhoods look like and make sure all new developments enhance their surroundings and preserve local character and identity.

“Whether that’s choosing red brick for new buildings in our industrial heartland cities or choosing to set sustainability standards for new-build homes, our pathfinder programme will help turn visions of greener, more beautiful homes and places into standards which developers adhere to.”

One of the councils taking part in the programme is Bradford Council, which will use its design code to regenerate urban areas in the district, including some of the most deprived wards in the UK. Down in Kent, Medway Council plans to produce a design code for the regeneration of the area’s emerging city centre, Chatham, with new development to reflect local character and protect the natural environment.

Chair of the Transition Board for the Office for Place, Nicholas Boys Smith, commented: “The evidence is clear that good design is good for you and good for our neighbourhoods and civic life. Too many of the lives our fellow citizens lead are affected by poor places, no friends round the corner, less sense of community, less walking, less local pride.

“Left-behind areas have suffered particularly, blighted with fast roads through town centres, ugly ‘boxland development’ where there used to be a neighbourhood or ‘could be anywhere’ housing units when people want to live somewhere.

“It is time to change this and to move from a vicious circle of generic development to a virtuous circle of regenerative development. These 25 council and neighbourhood pathfinders will help light the way to support the creation and stewardship of popular, healthy beautiful and sustainable places.

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said the announcement of 25 councils and neighbourhood planning groups for the Design Code Pathfinder Programme is encouraging.

“Together with last year’s government announcement of the 14 council design code pilot schemes, there is a valuable body of evidence being built for the delivery of best-in-class design codes.

“The RTPI is particularly keen to see how the pathfinder schemes can adopt a multidisciplinary approach to delivery by including planners, local councillors, designers, ecologists, transport planners, civil engineers and energy professions in their preparation.

“I’m looking forward to using my role on the transition Board for DLUHC’s Office for Place to support these chosen communities to build green, thriving and healthy places."

The National Model Design Code (NMDC), which was published last year, will help guide the selected local councils and neighbourhood planning groups on important design features such as street character, building type and layout, and use of public space.

The pathfinder programmes comes after its was announced last May that 14 councils were taking part in a pilot that saw them apply the new National Model Design Code.

Image credit | iStock