New national planning design code set to be piloted in Buckinghamshire

County wins £50,000 of government money to develop a new local design guide for housing development
The National Model Design CodeThe National Model Design Code
The National Model Design Code

Buckinghamshire has been chosen as one of two areas in the south east to pilot a new national design code for planning

A new national design code aimed at ensuring areas are beautiful, well designed and locally led is being tested across 14 areas in England.

Each of the 14 councils has been given £50,000 of government money to develop a new local design guide for housing development.

Local design codes will set out design principles for new development in local areas, and will be expected to ensure future developments are beautiful and fit in with local character – such as by using honey-coloured stone in the Cotswolds or red brick in the Midlands.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government says the idea is for the selected areas to test how to give communities a real say in the layout, design and appearance of buildings in their area – helping the country 'Build Back Better' after Covid.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher announced the new national design code on Friday (May 21). It gives local planning authorities a toolkit of design principles to consider for new developments, such as street character, building type and façade as well as environmental, heritage and wellbeing factors

The shortlisted councils will take part in a six-month testing programme to apply the National Model Design Code (NMDC) in their area.

It is intended to provide councils with the guidance and parameters to shape new developments in a way that reflects what their communities really want.

The measures mean the word “beauty” will be prioritised in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947. The government recently consulted on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to take this forward, alongside the draft NMDC.

Following a consultation period, more than 70 Expression of Interest submissions were received to test the NMDC, with representation from every region of England.

The final 14 applicants were then shortlisted to ensure a geographical spread and a range of development types. Each pilot receives a £50,000 grant to carry out the project.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher said: "We should aspire to enhance the beauty of our local areas and pass our cultural heritage onto our successors, enriched not diminished.

"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 Code.

"These will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

"Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods."

Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service said: "It is really exciting to see the National Model Design Code being tested by local councils across the country. The outcomes from this first set of pilots will help to build the capacity and collective learning that we need across the sector. I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve with their communities by using this new code.

"The testing programme is a step towards this aim and the findings will help inform potential further developments to the NMDC and the use of design coding in the planning system."

Nicholas Boys Smith, founding director of social enterprise Create Streets and co-chair of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, said: "The pilots are a very important first step as councils start to grapple again with how they can define visions for development in their areas which are popularly beautiful, profoundly locally based and will support lives which are happy, healthy and sustainable."

Buckinghamshire Council is one of two successful applicants representing the South East, along with Guildford Borough Council.

The NMDC is part of a wider strategy as outlined in the 190-page Living with Beauty report published in January 2020 which proposed a new development and planning framework, with 3 principle goals – to ask for beauty, refuse ugliness and promote stewardship.

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