Revised NPPF – Design

27 Jul 2021

Planning and Environment

National policy on design has been substantially strengthened in the revised Framework. Chapter 12 of the Framework. “Achieving well-designed places” has been significantly revised.

New para 134 states bluntly that “Development that is not well designed should be refused.

The overarching social objective of the planning system now has “beautiful” added to the previous requirement to provide “a well-designed, [beautiful] and safe built environment”. There is no definition of “beautiful” so presumably beauty remains in the eye of the beholder.

By the simultaneous launch of the long-awaited National Model Design Code and National Design Guide, what constitutes good design is taken under national control and given a major boost in the new NPPF.

Para 128 links the plan making process to the government’s own National Design Guide and National Model Design Code: “To provide maximum clarity about design expectations at an early stage, all local planning authorities should prepare design guides or codes consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code, and which reflect local character and design preferences. Design guides and codes provide a local framework for creating beautiful and distinctive places with a consistent and high quality standard of design.”

Emphasis is placed on community involvement. New 127 substitutes the role of “Neighbourhood planning groups”, for “neighbourhood plans”.

Paragraph 129 is entirely new. It ties the preparation of local design guides and codes to the National Design Guide (“the Guide”) and the National Model Design Code (“the Code”), as “part of a plan or supplementary planning documents”. The new Guide and Code have direct effect too; if there is no local guide or code, decisions are to be made in accordance with the Guide and Code.

Paragraph 131 introduces new policy encouraging planning policies and decisions to “ensure that new streets are tree-lined” and backs it up in Footnote 50: “unless there are clear, justifiable and compelling reasons why this would be inappropriate”, also encouraging new tree planting in parks and orchards and retention of trees in new development. It will be interesting to see how this fits with efficient use of land and all the other demands on new streets – electric chargers, car parking etc.

So what are the Guide and Code?

The Code devotes a whole page to setting out the “Purpose” of the new guidance. It makes it clear that the Code is “to provide detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design. It expands on the ten characteristics of good design set out in the National Design Guide, which reflects the government’s priorities and provides a common overarching framework for design.”

The ten characteristics of good design in the Guide are:

·       Context: Enhances surroundings

·       Identity: Attractive and distinctive

·       Built form: Coherent pattern of development

·       Movement: Accessible and easy to move around

·       Nature: Enhanced and optimised

·       Public spaces: Safe, social and inclusive

·       Uses: Mixed and integrated Homes and buildings: functional, healthy and sustainable

·       Resources: Efficient and resilient

·       Lifespan: made to last.

The revised guidance fits well with the direction of travel towards zone-based planning. The principle of development will presumably be established through the Local Plan, leaving design as the main outstanding issue to be determined at the individual application stage, by reference to design guides and codes which have been influenced by the local community.


Jonathan Clay