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NPPF to emphasise placemaking

Words: Laura Edgar
Residents / Shutterstock

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has proposed a number of changes to England’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) so that it places ‘greater emphasis’ on beauty and placemaking.

The changes, which are subject to a consultation, would also seek to ensure that all new streets will be lined with trees.

These proposals were published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government alongside a draft national design code, all in response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission's report Living with Beauty, which came out in February 2020.  

The draft national design code provides a checklist of design principles for new developments. Street character, building type and façade all feature, while new development should address wellbeing and environmental impact. Councils can use these as a foundation for their own local design codes, the ministry explained.

The department wants all councils to produce a local design code and guide.

Jenrick has also pledged to create an Office for Place within the next year to support local communities to turn their designs into the standard for all new buildings in their area. Nicholas Boys Smith, chair of the Design Body Steering Group, will chair the transition board of the interim Office for Place. “Our ultimate purpose will be to make it easier for neighbourhood communities to ask for what they find beautiful and to refuse what they find ugly.”

The interim Office for Place team will pilot the National Model Design Code with 20 communities, the government added, and expressions of interest are now open for the first 10 councils to sign up. Each will receive a share of an initial £500,000.

Additionally, a community housing fund has been proposed. This would support community-based organisations to bring forward local housebuilding projects for the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, with £4 million available to help Community Land Trusts (CLTs).

The government said the changes proposed mean the word “beauty” will be “specifically” included in planning rules for the first since the system was created in 1947.

Jenrick said: "We should aspire to pass on our heritage to our successors, not depleted but enhanced. In order to do that, we need to bring about a profound and lasting change in the buildings that we build, which is one of the reasons we are placing a greater emphasis on locally popular design, quality and access to nature, through our national planning policies and introducing the National Model Design Codes.

“These will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

“Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.”

Other proposals in the consultation include:

  • Amendment to paragraph 22: Councils that wish to plan for new settlements and major urban extensions will need to look over a longer time frame, of at least 30 years, to take into account the likely timescale for delivery.
  • Amendment to paragraph 64: Where major development involving the provision of housing is proposed, planning policies and decisions should expect at least 10 per cent of the total number of homes to be available for affordable home ownership.
  • Amendment to paragraph 69: Removes any suggestion that neighbourhood plans can only allocate small or medium sites.
  • Amendment to paragraph 96: Emphasises that access to a network of high-quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and physical activity is important for the health and wellbeing of communities, and can deliver wider benefits for nature and efforts to address climate change.
  • Amendment to paragraph 104(d): Made in line with the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s recommendations on encouraging walking and cycling.
  • Amendment to paragraph 123: Suggested so it emphasises the role that area-based character assessments, codes and masterplans can play in helping to ensure that land is used efficiently while also creating beautiful and sustainable places.
  • New paragraph 132: Suggested in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s recommendations to make clear that development that is not well designed should be refused, especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design.
  • New paragraph 159(c): Suggested amendment seeks to clarify that plans should manage any residual flood risk by using opportunities provided by new development and improvements in green and other infrastructure to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding (making as much use as possible of natural flood management techniques as part of an integrated approach to flood-risk management).
  • New paragraph 174: Amended in response to the Glover Review to clarify that the scale and extent of development within the settings of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty should be sensitively located and designed so as to avoid adverse impacts on the designated landscapes.

Reaction from built environment professions, including the RTPI, can be read here on The Planner.

The consultation can be found here on the UK Government website.

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