Statement made by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

The Government has set out to put beauty and design, for the first time, at the heart of the local planning system. To that end, we are changing the system so that local people are empowered to set standards for beauty and design in their area through local design codes. These codes will reflect their area’s unique aesthetics, culture and heritage, with tree lined streets accompanying new developments.

The Government is publishing today the revised National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework), the new National Model Design Code and the Government’s response to the consultation on both. The consultation on the draft Framework and National Model Design Code ran from 30 January to 27 March and the Government is grateful to all who responded. In light of comments received, the Government has made important changes to this Framework and National Model Design Code.

The new Framework is fundamental to ensuring local authorities and communities can shape and deliver beautiful places to live and work, with a greater emphasis on quality, design and the environment than ever before.

The changes we have made take forward the recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission that national policy should place a stronger focus on the creation of beautiful buildings and beautiful places. The Framework will ensure that communities are more meaningfully engaged in how new development happens, that local authorities are given greater confidence in turning down schemes which do not meet locally set standards, and greater certainty to those schemes that do. This is part of the Government’s programme of improving the planning system to put high quality, environmentally friendly design front and centre of new development.

Our policy changes will ensure the system helps to create buildings that fit in with places, while maintaining the Framework’s existing strong focus on delivering the homes and other development which communities need. The changes:

  • Make beauty and place-making a strategic theme in the Framework
  • Set out the expectation that local authorities produce their own design codes and guides setting out design principles which new development in their areas should reflect
  • Ask for new streets to be tree-lined
  • Improve biodiversity and access to nature through design
  • Put an emphasis on approving good design as well as refusing poor quality schemes

We have also made a number of environment-related changes, including on flood risk and climate change. These changes are an initial response to the emergent findings of our joint review with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of policy for building in areas of flood risk. For instance, highlighting the opportunities from improvements in green infrastructure and natural flood management techniques. We are also amending guidance on flood risk to emphasise that checks done by local authorities should steer new development to areas with the lowest risk of flooding from any source.

Our changes also include:

  • emphasis of the importance of retaining and explaining the historic and social context of historic statues, plaques, memorials or monuments rather than removing them
  • an update on the use of Article 4 Directions
  • an expectation that local planning authorities take a proactive approach to engaging with key delivery bodies and other stakeholders at the pre-application stage of local plan making

Alongside the National Planning Policy Framework, the Government is also publishing the National Model Design Code. This provides detailed guidance on the production of local 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 National Model Design Code forms part of the Government’s planning practice guidance. Creating more beautiful places requires a greener approach that supports progress towards our 25-year environment plan goals. The National Model Design Code sets a baseline standard of quality and practice which local planning authorities are expected to take into account, including the approach to landscape, green infrastructure, biodiversity and tree lined streets.

The National Model Design Code should be used as a toolkit to guide local planning authorities on the design parameters and issues that need to be considered when producing design codes and guides. It also sets out methods to capture and reflect the views of the local community from the outset, and at each stage in the process. Design codes are important because they provide a framework for creating healthy, environmentally responsive and sustainable places, with a consistent and high-quality standard of design. This will provide greater certainty for communities about the design of development and bring conversations about design to the start of the planning process, rather than the end.

Our changes will ensure that new homes in England are built to a dramatically higher standard, embedding the work Sir Roger Scruton, Nicholas Boys Smith and everyone involved in the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission began. And we are now establishing the Office for Place within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), advised by a board led by Nicholas Boys Smith, who will look to help local authorities across England create user-friendly but effective design codes for their communities. 14 councils across England are now testing this new approach and we will undertake further pilots over the course of the year.

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