Another busy week for the planning sector

5 February 2021

Consultations for both the National Model Design Code and revisions to the NPPF closes at 11:45pm on 27 March 2021. If you or your organisation is interested in responding, please get in touch with Planning Potential today.

Daniel Harley Assistant Planner London

Just before the end of last week and over the weekend we saw some big movements in planning policy, with revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and a new National Model Design Code now out for consultation. If that was not enough, these announcements were hot on the tail of confirmation that the London Plan had finally been signed off by Robert Jenrick.  

London Plan Sign Off

Following long disputes with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and over four years since work started on the document, the London Plan has finally received Government sign off.

The draft version of the Plan faced heavy criticism from Jenrick when submitted in late 2019, citing “inconsistencies with national policy and missed opportunities to increase housing delivery”.

Following the Government’s decision to sign-off on the Plan, Sadiq Khan’s Mayoral office has claimed the sign-off will finally provide “much-needed certainty to businesses, the public sector and Londoners” and will restore confidence hurt by the delays. It will no doubt also be seen as a positive step to be spun in Khan’s favour as we gear up to the Mayoral election (still expected) in May. In fact, the Secretary of State’s jibes at the Labour Mayor needing to ensure his next plan is more ambitious, reveals that senior Conservatives are working on the assumption that Labour’s most senior politician in elected office is on course for a win in May.

Although Khan has been forced to climb down on a few policies from the draft version of the Plan, the signed off version does implement a number of political commitments made by Khan when elected as Mayor in 2016. These include:

  • making London a zero-carbon city by 2030
  • a long-term target for 50 per cent affordable homes in new developments
  • supporting modal shift for 80 per cent of trips to be walking, cycling or public transport by 2041
  • protecting London’s green belt
  • updating space and quality standards for new build homes 

NPPF and National Model Design Code Consultation

The proposed changes to national planning policy in part constitute the Government's response to the final report of Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission - ‘Living with Beauty’ -  which aims to make the planning system work in support of better design and style, not against it.

The proposed National Model Design Code provides new guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies, intended to be used as a toolkit to guide local planning authorities on ensuring the best possible design for the local context. The Code gives increasing emphasis to reflecting the views of the local community throughout the process, with a focus on embracing local culture and history.  It is intended that the improved overarching framework can provide greater certainty for communities about the design of development and bring considerations about design to the start of the planning process.

This is not intended to be a statement of national policy. Instead, it is intended to form part of the government’s planning practice guidance. However, many of the proposed revisions to the NPPF also reflect the Government’s recent intention to produce an overarching framework for design, so again emphasising quality of design as a concept:

  • introducing a new paragraph 133 requiring that development be well-designed, saying that “development that is not well designed should be refused” and “conversely, significant weight should be given to development which reflects local design policies and government guidance”.
  • introducing a new paragraph 130 requiring new trees in development, saying that “planning policies and decisions should ensure that new streets are tree-lined, that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments”.

Proposed revisions also concern issues of climate change, permitted development rights, affordable housing, removal of statues, neighbourhood planning, transport infrastructure for new settlements and isolated country homes.

Consultations for both the National Model Design Code and revisions to the NPPF closes at 11:45pm on 27 March 2021. If you or your organisation is interested in responding, please get in touch with Planning Potential today.