Government launches new measures to build more ‘beautiful’ places

The changes place greater emphasis on quality design and aim to give local communities a greater say in planning decisions.
A blueprint for a house.

The government has launched its trailed changes to the planning system including its new Office for Place, its National Model Design Code and a revised National Planning Policy Framework.

The changes, which were consulted on earlier this year, place greater emphasis on quality and design in the planning system, aiming to encourage more beautiful, practical and environmentally sustainable design.

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

They also look to put local communities at the heart of planning decisions, with all councils now expected to develop their own local design code.

The housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “Our revised National Planning Policy Framework will ensure that communities are more meaningfully engaged in how new development happens, that local authorities are given greater confidence in turning down schemes which do not meet locally set standards.

“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.”

The changes to the National Planning Policy Framework set an expectation on planners to approve good-quality design, enabling them to reject “ugly”, poor-quality or unsustainable developments.

The new National Model Design Code provides a checklist of design standards that new developments will be expected to meet, including tree-lined streets, sustainable drainage and design to support walking and cycling. This will form the basis of councils’ own standards for their local area.

Local people will be able to participate in a more digitised planning system with online map-based local plans. 14 councils are currently piloting the new code, while two new apps recently launched to help homeowners improve and extend their homes.

Councils will be supported by the new Office for Place, which will test and pilot the National Model Design Code with more than 20 local councils and communities.

The work of the Office for Place will be overseen by an advisory board made up of experts from the design, planning and development sector.

The advisory board will be chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith, co-author of the Living with Beauty report published in January 2020 whose recommendations informed many of the government’s proposals.

Boys Smith said: “I am delighted to be chairing the advisory board of the Office for Place. Britain has created and is creating some of the best developments in the world. But the quality achieved remains stubbornly inconsistent. 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. The Office for Place aims to encourage the British design and development industries to be the best ‘place-makers’ in the world aided by improving data on the discoverable links between place with happiness, health, popularity and sustainability.”

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