National planning policy guidance - design (2014)

Useful references for planning application assessment


Contents (what the whole guidance covers)

* The importance of good design
* What planning objectives can good design help achieve?
* What is a well designed place?
* How should buildings and the spaces between them be considered?
* Which planning processes and tools can we use to help achieve good design?
* Are there design issues that relate to specific types of development?


The importance of good design

Why does good design matter?

Good quality design is an integral part of sustainable development. The National Planning Policy Framework recognises that design quality matters and that planning should drive up standards across all forms of development. As a core planning principle, plan-makers and decision takers should always seek to secure high quality design.

Achieving good design is about creating places, buildings, or spaces that work well for everyone, look good, last well, and will adapt to the needs of future generations.

Good design responds in a practical and creative way to both the function and identity of a place. It puts land, water, drainage, energy, community, economic, infrastructure and other such resources to the best possible use – over the long as well as the short term.

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How can good design guide planning and development proposals?

Development proposals should reflect the requirement for good design set out in national and local policy…

…Local planning authorities are required to take design into consideration and should refuse permission for development of poor design...

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Who has the skills to judge good design?

By establishing sound, clear and easy to follow design policies and processes for use by both developers and local communities, local planning authorities can make design a more transparent and accessible part of the planning process.

To achieve good design the use of expert advice from appropriately skilled in house staff or consultants may sometimes be required. But design should not be the preserve of specialists, it is also important to seek the views of local communities.

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What planning objectives can good design help achieve?

Design impacts on how people interact with places. Although design is only part of the planning process it can affect a range of economic, social and environmental objectives beyond the requirement for good design in its own right. Planning policies and decisions should seek to ensure the physical environment supports these objectives. The following issues should be considered:

* local character (including landscape setting)
* safe, connected and efficient streets
* a network of greenspaces (including parks) and public places
* crime prevention
* security measures
* access and inclusion
* efficient use of natural resources
* cohesive and vibrant neighbourhoods

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What is a well designed place?

Well designed places are successful and valued. They exhibit qualities that benefit users and the wider area. Well designed new or changing places should:

* be functional
* support mixed use and tenures
* include successful public places
* be adaptable and resilient
* have a distinctive character
* be attractive, and
* encourage ease of movement

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A well designed place is functional

A building or place should be fit for purpose, designed and delivered in a way that delivers the intended function and achieves value for money in terms of lifetime costs. It should be intuitive, comfortable, safe and equally easy for all to use. It should relate well to its environmental circumstances so that occurrences such as flooding, temperature extremes and air pollution do not prevent it from being used.

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How should buildings and the spaces between them be considered?

Plans, policies and decisions can effectively manage physical form at a variety of scales. This is how planning can help achieve good design and connected objectives. Where appropriate the following should be considered:

* layout – the way in which buildings and spaces relate to each other
* form – the shape of buildings
* scale – the size of buildings
* detailing – the important smaller elements of building and spaces
* materials – what a building is made from

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Which planning processes and tools can we use to help achieve good design?

In development plans:

The promotion of good design should be sought at all stages in the planning process. At the development plan stage this will be carried out through:

* careful plan and policy formulation
* the use of proper consultative and participatory techniques
* where appropriate the preparation of masterplans, briefs and site specific policies

In planning applications:

In the evolution of planning applications and proposals there are established ways in which good design can be achieved. These include:

* pre-application discussions
* design and access statements
* design review
* design codes
* decisions on applications
* the use and implementation of planning conditions and agreements

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Using pre application discussion

Pre application discussions are an opportunity to discuss the design policies, requirements and parameters that will be applied to a site…

…The local authority may draw their comments from in house appropriately skilled and experienced staff, external consultants or design review panels. The local planning authority should consider offering design review when appropriate, as part of their pre-application service.

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Using design and access statements

A Design and Access Statement is a concise report accompanying certain applications for planning permission and applications for listed building consent. They provide a framework for applications to explain how the proposed development is a suitable response to the site and its setting and demonstrate that it can be adequately accessed by prospective users...

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Using Design review

Design Review is a tried and tested method of promoting good design and is an effective way to improve quality. Local planning authorities should have local design review arrangements in place to provide assessment of proposals and to support high standards of design. Local authorities should, when appropriate, refer major projects for a national design review. Design review is most effective if done at the early stages of an application, and in many cases local authorities charge for this as part of a pre-application service.

Local authorities can source design reviews in a variety of ways. They could, for example, choose to appoint their own design review panel or share resources with other local authorities or outsource to external organisations.

Developers can apply for planning permission without going through a design review panel. However schemes that have been through the design review process, and have developed positively in response to the recommendations from the design review panel, are less likely to be refused planning permission on the grounds of poor design.
The purpose of design review is to improve the design quality of new development. In assessing applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the recommendations from the design review panel.

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Using design codes

A design code is a type of detailed design guidance that is particularly useful for complex scenarios involving multiple parties in long-term development. A code can be a way of simplifying the processes associated with new development to give more certainty to all those involved and help to make high quality places. Code preparation can allow organisations and local communities to work together more effectively, helping to build consensus about what kind of place everyone wants to create...

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Using decisions on applications

Decisions on planning applications should clearly support the design objectives in the Development Plan. If a local authority decides that an application should be refused on design grounds there should be a clear explanation of the decision.

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Using planning agreements and conditions

The design process often continues after the granting of permission. If the local authority feels that detailed design issues are central to the acceptability of a scheme, they may wish to use conditions to require these to be approved at a later date...

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