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National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals

As the government publishes a further consultation on the NPPF and National Model Design Code, DHA's Mark Bewsey summarises the proposed changes

Those interested in development may be forgiven for a degree of confusion and consultation fatigue as the Government has launched another further consultation on a new National Model Design Code and a further revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is separate to the various consultations launched last year on changes to the current planning system, permitted development rights, and the Planning for the Future White Paper.

Following recommendations set out in a report issued last year by the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, the draft National Model Design Code is intended to set a framework against which local authorities are to prepare their own unique design codes, consistent with the principles of the national model, providing local requirements for creating beautiful and distinctive places with a consistent and high quality standard of design. The design guides and codes can be prepared at an area-wide and site-specific scale and should be produced either as part of a Local Plan or as a supplementary planning document. They should be influenced by local communities to reflect local aspirations for the development of their area.

Alongside and linked to this is a consultation on further revisions to the NPPF. This does not cover any of the wholesale changes set out within the White Paper but is intended to switch focus to design and climate change. The new draft follows the same format as the existing document and there are no changes to chapters. Helpfully the proposed revisions are shown as tracked changes which makes it easier to compare and consider the likely impact.

There is a proposed change to the presumption in favour of sustainable development through a revised paragraph 11a, with plans required to promote a sustainable pattern of development, and with a new emphasis on mitigating climate change and making effective use of urban land.

Of particular interest is a requirement for new streets to be tree-lined, unless there are clear, justifiable and compelling reasons why this would be inappropriate. Those involved with the development planning process will know that this will require more than a change to national planning policy to be effective and that perhaps the practicality of this requirement has not been thought through with regard to road adoptions, services and building regulations requirements.

Other subtle changes include a revision to paragraph 79e (now para 80e -the ‘Grand Designs’ policy) with a removal of the words ‘or innovative’ meaning that each of these proposals of exceptional design quality must be ‘outstanding’. The linked paragraph 131 (now para 133) attributes ‘significant’ rather than ‘great’ weight to outstanding or innovative design. Additionally, significant weight would also be given to development which reflects local design policies and Government guidance on design.

The draft revised NPPF also picks up on emerging findings of a joint review with DEFRA on planning policy for flood risk. New paragraphs are added to clarify that the policy applies to all sources of flood risk and new paragraph 159c states that plans should manage residual flood risk by using opportunities provided by new development to reduce the cause and impacts of flooding.

The draft consultation documents can be found here.

Comments are invited by 27th March. If you would like further information please contact Mark Bewsey who would be pleased to assist.

For more information call 01622 776226 or email:

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