Nottingham Design Quality Framework

Policy, Strategy + Design Guidance

The Nottingham Design Quality Framework is the first ever local application of the principles of the National Design Guide criteria




This Design Quality Framework (DQF) aims to address design quality issues by giving applicants and designers information and certainty at an early stage of the planning process to help them create exemplar places where the citizens want to live. It is a virtual, interactive, flexible series of design guides that: 1) speeds up and simplifies the planning process by offering upfront information about submission criteria and processes involved; 2) makes the planning process more democratic by introducing innovative tools like Co-PLACE; 3) helps deliver the City’s Carbon Neutral 2028 ambition by addressing design/process barriers to delivering sustainability and resilience.



Both the design criteria and the upgraded planning service proposed by the DQF aim to achieve higher quality, inclusive, resilient design in the long term by democratising planning and moving the local authority towards a placemaking ethos of collaborative work. Initial results, for example applying the DQF to site-specific coding, show the huge success of the framework as a planning and design tool.

The DQF is inclusive because, rather than being consulted on, design guides were developed alongside –and sometimes by - communities, industries and placemaking agencies. A complex outreach programme targeted children, young people and traditionally under-engaged minorities, and brought everyone together at the neutral environment of an Urban Room to shape the contents of the DQF. This way of drafting local guidance also had the added benefits of: a) raising awareness about the technical and legal constraints of development amongst the different agencies; b) acting as a melting pot where parties, age groups and sectors come together to create a shared place vision; c) triggering a series of projects and working groups that volunteered efforts and skills to meet the Carbon Neutral 2028 aspirations.

A trial period of 18 months has been completed. The DQF has proven to be an invaluable tool to speed up planning and ease the process of achieving higher quality and stronger sustainability credentials. The trial period also highlighted areas of improvement and skill gaps within the local authority and in industry, which are now being addressed through the framework itself.

The DQF focuses on finding tools and strategies (both in terms of process and design criteria) that would remove barriers and meet not only statutory duties but also the targets of multiple parties and the recommendations of local policy and broader guidance such as Building for a Healthy Life and Manual for Streets.



The DQF enabled the development of what is possible the first ever British planning guide completely produced by a community group. It has inspired local authorities across the country and is globally known. Nottingham City Council are currently supporting other 16 UK local authorities looking at the DQF as a model to follow.

The DQF engagement ethos combined Community Organising principles with placemaking tools to achieve more inclusive, participatory place/policy making. Social Value and Engagement publications have made reference to the Co-PLACE engagement strategy developed for the DQF, which gave way to an innovative ‘learning and action’ programme called Co-PLACE.

Project Team

Nottingham City Council
Community Organisers Nottingham
Nottingham Good Food Partnership

Key Facts

Timescale: 18 months to produce the first 7 guides
Approximate cost: less than £100,000 plus huge commitment from local authority staff, local community representatives, and local development industry

Judges' Comments

"A major initiative to create a system that creates a positive force for quality design through collaboration by local people, business, design and development communities and the local authority, supported by a suite of guidance documents."