New National Design Guide Launched

MHCLG (Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government) have recently published the National Design Guide: Planning practice guidance for beautiful, enduring and successful places. The guidance introduces a national standard for local authorities to adhere to, with the option of designing their own applicable guides reflecting local needs.

The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that creating high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve. The National Design Guide illustrates how well-designed places that are beautiful, enduring and successful can be achieved in practice. It forms part of the Government’s collection of planning practice guidance and should be read alongside the separate planning practice guidance on design process and tools.

The document continues the key themes and support for good design, in particular NPPF paragraph 130, which states permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way in which it functions.

The design guide provides more substance to the definition of ‘good design’ and sets out ten themes (characteristics) of designing successful places and details of the ‘National Design Model’ which will be published in 2020 following the results of Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report in December 2019.

The ten themes are:

Context – enhances the surroundings;

Identity – attractive and distinctive;

Built form – a 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.

This document will now form part of the material considerations in the determination of appeals and planning applications going forward. The guide has been, on the whole, well received by professionals, and includes good examples and guidance and not a prescriptive list of dos and don’ts. It brings to the forefront of decision making the importance of good design, which is often a skill that many planners and decision makers are not specifically trained in.