Agenda item


Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) regarding Government consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as well as on proposals for a National Model Design Code and a Guidance Note for Design Codes.


Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the National Planning Policy Framework – Design Code consultation.  The report noted that the Government is consulting on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as on proposals for a National Model Design Code and Guidance Note for Design Codes.  The deadline for responding to the consultation is 27 March 2021.


The report noted that the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission was established in 2019 and it was responsible for developing practical measures to help ensure new housing developments meet the needs and expectation of communities, making them more likely to be welcomed rather than resisted.


The main changes to the NPPF include greater reference to issues such as sustainable patterns of development, beautiful places, design quality, masterplans, design codes, tree-lined streets, climate change, pedestrian and cycle routes, secure cycle parking and area-based character assessments – main four changes: a) all local planning authorities to prepare design guides or codes b) codes to be prepared for area wide or sit specific scale and to carry weight in decision making, c) contribute to the character and quality of urban environments, and d) developments that are not well designed should be refused.


The preparation of a design code as a supplementary planning document will require a draft version to be prepared by Officers, agreed by CPPP and Cabinet, public consultation, analysis of responses, updates to the code and a final version to be agreed by CPPP and Cabinet.

Members welcomed the proposals and made the following points:


·         Clarification was sought on how far from our design code does a planning application needs to be before it falls out of line of the planning system, as in the past Members have seen developments come up at Development Management Committee (DMC), which have been noted as being ugly but Councillors have not dismissed the application due to it being overturned at an appeal. The Panel was advised that when a design code is being prepared for an area the authority should engage the community and it needs to be agreed with the local community.  Members would need to suggest type of design that would be favored by the community.  It can be a continuation of what is already there or a new design, taking into account the countryside together with what may be needed in the future in terms of the climate change agenda.  It was mentioned in the consultation that if it does not meet the standard of the design code the development can be refused.  It will be for Officers and DMC to determine how far from the design code is unacceptable, it is likely that it will be tested through examples overtime. 

·         It was noted that the Planning Inspectorate would be judging those applications against the agreed design codes if applications are appealed.

·         There will be times in the future whereby members will be considering applications at DMC purely on design matters. Design will be an enhanced component in decision making in the future.

·         Discussion ensued on the number of design codes that may be required, as there are number of different areas with their own characteristics and designs.  It was put forward that the Council could have one design code with a number of chapters relating to different areas for example, Hatfield, Garden City and villages. 

·         Or the Council will have to engage with the community to prepare multiple design codes for existing areas and with developers on board for larger projects.

·         One of implications that was highlighted was resource, as there will be additional Officer time required to prepare design codes and concern was expressed in terms of additional workload being included within the current workload of Planning Officers. As Officers will be engaging extensively with the community, parish councils, developers and Ward Councillors to process the information and come to an agreement. 

·         We should encourage areas to retain their character. It was raised that there may be some difficulties in putting the principles into practice. Suggestions were made in respect of creating different design codes for blocks of flats and houses. 

·         It was suggested that the Estate Management Scheme could be converted into a design guide/code.

·         Consideration was given to time required and the outcome of the consultation. Concern was expressed in terms of design codes taking time to be implemented and within that timeframe there could be an influx of planning applications from developers being processed perceptively that they would not meet the new standards. It was felt that time and resource was important and sensible to highlight these issues.

·         A Member suggested that as we have in place Landscape Character Areas and that it would be an interesting exercise to define urban character areas, as a starting point.

·         It was felt that the practicalities of implementing the recommendations of the design code and the wide-ranging community engagement and consultation proposals all have significant resourcing implications for local authorities. 

·         Head of Planning advised that in order to help alleviate the resource issue the Council would request new burden funding from the Government.  It was noted that such funding if is often introduced where resource is needed to implement change.




1.    That Members comment on proposed changes to the NPPF regarding design codes and Article 4 Directions.


2.    That the Head of Planning be authorised to respond to the consultation, in agreement with the Corporate Director and Executive Member for Planning.


Supporting documents: