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Government changes planning policy to encourage beautiful places

Words: Huw Morris
Bath / iStock: 1158219084
The government has amended national planning policy in England to enhance the role of high-quality design and beauty in decisions about development.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will now reflect the aims of a ‘Building Beautiful Places’ plan to help residents and planners “find it easier to embrace beautiful, practical design while rejecting the ugly, unsustainable or poor quality”.

Under the amendments, all local authorities should develop design codes after consulting their communities in line with recommendations by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

The Beautiful Places Plan also include the introduction of a National Model Design Code (NMDC), which shows how and when communities can be involved in developing a design code. This covers digital tools, social media, face-to-face workshops, roundtables and exhibitions. Guidance on new development covers tree-lined streets, sustainable drainage and design to support walking and cycling.

The NPPF has also been updated to place greater emphasis on beauty, placemaking, the environment, sustainable development and the importance of local design codes.

Under the plan, the Office for Place will aim to drive up design design standards and pilot the NMDC with more than 20 local authorities and communities. Its advisory board will be chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith and will advise on options for an independent body.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told a Policy Exchange webinar today (Tuesday, 20 July) that the changes to the NPPF set “an expectation that good-quality design should be approved, while poor quality should be rejected and includes an environmental commitment to ensure that all streets are lined with trees”. The word ‘beauty’ will be specifically included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947, he added, “echoing an era when a greater emphasis was placed on delivering attractive buildings for people that installed a sense of local pride”.

Jenrick told the webinar that people prefer housing built before the onset of the modern planning system and too often planners and architects live in homes built before the 1947 planning legislation. He also pledged to raise public participation in developing local plans, claiming only 1 per cent of people were engaged in the process.

“This is about putting communities – not developers – in the driving seat to ensure good-quality design is the norm, and the return to a sense of stewardship – to building greener, enduringly popular homes and places that stand the test of time in every sense.”

Read the reaction: National policy reforms greeted by mixed response

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