National Model Design Code

The Building Beautiful Places plan, a suite of measures, was announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on 20 July, including the launch of the new National Model Design Guide Part 2 Guidance Notes, which includes references to self build and custom build.

Importantly, the guide defines Custom Build Homes in section U.2.ii as:

“New homes built on serviced building plots where homes are designed or customised for the occupant and the purchaser has input into designs. Custom build can include different house types and tenures.”

The guidance also sets out the role of a good mix of homes as a marker for good design, which it states can include custom and self build homes. In addition, it emphasises the role that masterplanning, design codes and plot passports can have as tools for framing activity.

Strengthening the quality of development

The announcement included a range of elements, including:

  • National Model Design Code – this is the toolkit to support each English council and communities as they work to establish local design requirements. This new guidance covers all aspects of new development.
  • Updated planning framework published strengthening the role of design principles based on beauty, place-making, the environment, sustainable development. Local design codes will be expected to reflect these elements.
  • Office for Place – a new body, possibly government led, to drive design standards. It will have a pivotal role piloting and assessing the initial.
  • An Advisory Board of industry experts, chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith, to support these activities.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Today I have set out the Government’s vision for a planning system that make beautiful, sustainable and life-enhancing design a necessity, rather than a luxury.

“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.”

Custom Build Home’s Director of Planning and Strategic Engagement, Mario Wolf welcomed the news, commenting that the measures will give councils the confidence to secure custom build housing on larger sites, and give preference to schemes where such housing is proposed as part of the mix.

Mario Wolf, said: “The changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and new National Model Design Code mark an important step change in the consideration of design quality and the use of design codes in the planning and development process.
“The recognition that custom build housing is as an integral part of well-designed new housing schemes should not be under-estimated and we will be advising our clients that it forms an increasingly important material consideration when new projects are submitted for planning.”


Find out more about the National Model Design Code:

Part 1 – the Coding Process
Part 2 – Guidance Notes

The National Model Design Code was first announced in February 2021.

Custom Build Homes experience

The announcements were welcomed by Custom Build Homes (CBH), which commented that the new planning measures work well with its approach to demand led sites. CBH uses data from its database of over 100,000 people actively looking for a building opportunity to frame its activity, and all its sites come with a Design Code supported by individual plot passports.

This approach ensures the look and feel of CBH’s developments works in synergy with local preferences and design characteristics, ensuring they are welcome additions to the local housing supply pipeline.

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