New group to advise government on local area design codes

The government has established a new steering group with the task of “driving up design standards” and supporting local communities to produce design codes that better reflect their local area.

Published last month, the planning white paper promised to give more control to communities over what is built in their areas at the local plan (land allocation stage), by way of design codes introduced by the local authority.

The new steering group will be chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith, who worked on last year’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.

New homes “the conservation areas of the future”

In the government’s announcement of his appointment, Boys Smith said: “New places should be the conservation areas of the future: popular, beautiful, sustainable and supporting of public health and wellbeing.”

Following the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, the government back in October 2019 published a National Design Guide with the aim of creating a blueprint for local authorities to achieve “quality and great design”.

Good design was considered through 10 characteristics, including context, identity, public spaces, use, resources and lifespan. We wrote more about the design guide here.

One of the steering group’s key outputs is likely to be an extension of this guide, a National Model Design Code, setting out what local authorities need to take into account when determining planning applications.

Under the planning white paper’s approach, therefore, an application to build new homes in a zone already allocated for homes in a new local plan will also need to adhere to the local design code, once set.

New move to protect historically important buildings

At the same time, the government has appointed a Listing Heritage Advisor to help conserve some of England’s historic buildings. Charles O’Brien, commissioner at Historic England, will work with councils to increase the number of buildings and structures of significant historical and cultural value that are locally listed, helping to protect them through the planning system.

The planning system recognises 3 types of heritage asset – those which are of international importance, those which are of national importance and those which are important locally.

O’Brien will work with Historic England to identify the 10 counties that are home to many historic buildings not yet protected and would most benefit from the additional listings.

Residents will be encouraged to nominate heritage assets in their area, helping to protect buildings by ensuring their significance is considered in any planning applications that affect the building and its setting.


Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.

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