Government chooses 14 councils to test new national design code

The 14 councils will take part in a six-month testing programme to show how the National Model Design Code can be applied locally.
A blueprint for a house.

14 councils in England have been given £50,000 each in grant funding to test the government’s new National Model Design Code (NMDC).

The national design code, first announced earlier this year as part of the government’s proposed changes to the planning system, aims to ensure that all future new developments are “beautiful”, well-designed and fit in with local character.

The 14 councils will take part in a six-month testing programme to show how the NMDC can be effectively applied in their area and inform a local design code.

71 councils expressed interest in testing the NMDC, with the final 14 councils selected to ensure a decent geographical spread and a range of urban and rural development types.

The housing ministry Christopher Pincher MP said: “We should aspire to enhance the beauty of our local areas and pass our cultural heritage onto our successors, enriched not diminished.

“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 Code.

“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.”

The new NMDC provides a checklist of design standards for local planning authorities to consider for new developments, including street character, building type, and façade, as well as requirements to address wellbeing and environmental impact.

Councils will be invited to use the NMDC as a foundation for their own design codes that reflect the history and character of their local area. Councils will be supported by a new Office for Place which the government says will be created within the next year.

The 14 councils chosen to take part in the NMDC pilot are:

  • Colchester Borough Council, Tendring District Council and Essex County Council
  • Guildford Borough Council
  • Herefordshire Council
  • Leeds City Council
  • Mid Devon Council
  • Newcastle City Council
  • Dacorum Borough Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Sefton Council
  • Southwark Council
  • Hyndburn Borough Council
  • North West Leicestershire District Council
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
  • Buckinghamshire Council

The new NMDC forms part of the government’s response to last year’s report by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC), which proposed a new development and planning framework.

The government’s proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework include placing greater emphasis on beauty and place-making and ensuring that all new streets are lined with trees.

A consultation on the changes closed in late March, with the government set to respond to the consultation in due course.

Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service said: “It is really exciting to see the NMDC being tested by local councils across the country. The outcomes from this first set of pilots will help to build the capacity and collective learning that we need across the sector. I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve with their communities by using this new code.”

Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and transport at Newcastle City Council, said: “Newcastle City Council is delighted to have been chosen by MHCLG to take part in the pilot programme for proposed new design codes.

“They are all about ensuring that developments are designed to the highest quality which is fundamentally important for communities who live and work in them. The Ouseburn is recognised nationally for successful city centre regeneration in a historical setting, and we are determined to maintain those high standards.”

Nicholas Boys Smith, founding director of social enterprise Create Streets and co-chair for the BBBBC, said: “The pilots are a very important first step as councils start to grapple again with how they can define visions for development in their areas which are popularly-beautiful, profoundly locally based and will support lives which are happy, healthy and sustainable.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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