National Model Design Code

Government is to publish a draft National Model Design Code, and supporting guidance, which will act as a guide for local authorities to publish their own local design codes.

The codes are to be focused around improving design quality across new development in England, includes references to custom and self build. The new codes being material consideration with regards to planning.

The National Design Code is part of a suite of responses announced in response to the findings of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, as set out in Living with Beauty.

The announcement will include:

  • Proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), with a consultation running a consultation until 27/3/2021,
  • A National Model Design Code,
  • The intention to create a new Office for Place,
  • Announcing £4million for community-led housing, and
  • Announcing successful funding for successful areas under the ‘local heritage listing’ campaign.

Beauty and placemaking

Together, the proposals, including changes to the NPPF, the National Model Design Code and the Office for Place, will help secure better outcomes for development in terms of beauty and placemaking as a strategic objective for planning.

The NPPF is also expected to set out an expectation that councils will produce design codes or guides, that emphasise good design, while rejecting poor quality proposals.

These will effectively include a checklist of design principles to consider for developments, embracing a range of features, such as street character, building type, façade, and the requirements that address wellbeing and environmental impact.

Defining beauty and place

The National Model Design Code will showcase ways in which the ten characteristics of well-designed places can be reflected in local design codes. These will be underpinned with genuine community involvement, including neighbourhood management groups, so that local residents have a voice in the design of new developments.

National Design Guide - 10 Points
National Design Guide – 10 Points

In addition to the wider announcements, government also stated that the new Help to Build will include £150m over four years to support self and custom builders.

NaCSBA welcomed the announcements, which continue to put emphasis on the need for local planning authorities to consider how custom and self build is included as a vital element in their wider housing and planning strategies.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said, “We should aspire to pass on our heritage to our successors, not depleted but enhanced.

“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 Codes.”

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute said: “The RTPI has long called for design to be an integral part of the planning process. A survey in 2020 revealed that 88% of our members wanted greater powers to reject poor design and lacked the capacity and resources to do so.”

Plot-based masterplans

Custom Build Homes stated that the guidance stresses the point that design codes can facilitate the growth of the custom and self build housing sector by encouraging it, both on infill sites and as part of larger schemes where plot-based masterplans can enable individuals to build their own homes.

It also helpfully distinguishes between self-build and custom build housing for the first time and refers to the use of ‘plot passports’, a term used to describe the design rules for building plots and which is now becoming widely used across the country as part of design codes.

Mario Wolf, Director of Planning and Strategic Engagement at Custom Build Homes, said: “We welcome these wide-ranging proposals and look forward to further engagement with the Government to secure their implementation.

“Custom build housing has a key role to play in creating well-designed communities and is an important part of housing mix to offer home owners greater choice over the design of their homes. With demand for this form of housing increasing, these policy proposals will enable more sites to come forward for high-quality, customisable housing on small and large sites.”

Expressions of interest are now open for the test councils, who will receive a share of an initial £500,000 – the perfect opportunity for local authorities working to bring on custom and self build locally to showcase their work.

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