England’s chief planner has outlined the government’s proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and given local authorities the opportunity to apply for funding under a pilot programme to apply design coding in their areas.

Proposed changes to the NPPF would see the framework place “greater emphasis” on beauty and placemaking. 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. All are subject to consultation.

The draft national design code provides a checklist of design principles for new developments. Street character, building type and façade all feature, and new development should also address wellbeing and environmental impact. Councils can use these as a foundation for their own local design codes, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

In a letter to chief planning officers in England, Joanna Averley explains that she hosted an event with colleagues across the country to present and discuss the design code.

"As part of this programme, interested local authorities are invited to submit expressions of interest to take part in the first of two pilot programmes to apply design coding in their areas. We will be awarding £500,000 across 10 local authorities in this first wave and plan to launch a further wave of pilots in the coming months,” she states.

This opportunity is being offered for a limited period.

She also urges planners and colleagues across the wider building environment industry to take part in the consultation.

Averley’s letter also includes:

  • A note on communities secretary Robert Jenrick proposals for legal protections to protect England’s cultural and historic heritage – such as statues. Should people want to remove a historic statue, whether listed or not, listed building consent or planning permission would be required. Averley says the changes will be introduced in the spring.
  • Owing to an “overwhelmingly positive” response to a call for expressions of interest from local authorities that want to develop new and updated lost heritage lists, the government doubled the funding available to allow 22 areas to be supported instead of the 10 originally intended. The successful areas include Lancashire, Somerset, Tyne and Wear, and Gloucestershire.
  • Entries to the 2021 Housing Design Awards are now open. The deadline for entry is 26 February, More information can be found here.
  • MHCLG has worked with stakeholders in self and custom-build housing to put in place a number of measures to overcome barriers the sector has identified. A review of the effectiveness of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 is being conducted in the context of the government’s planning reforms. Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) will be updated to provide “greater clarity and certainty” for authorities to bring more land forward.
  • The government is conducting a survey, in partnership with the Association of Local Government Ecologists, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport, and Defra, to determine the current levels of expertise and capacity to establish what the baseline is and then seek to identify the additional skills and capabilities required to deliver biodiversity net gain through the planning system.

Averley’s full letter can be found on the UK Government website.

8 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner