The Planning White Paper: Design Codes + Guidance

Friday 9 October 2020 - 12:30 to 13:45

The success of the Planning White Paper will depend on the success of local Design Codes and Design Guidance, which will provide a fast track to development.

This free multi-disciplinary event will test the idea of design codes and what is required of them if they are to achieve the improvements in the quality of development that are promised: not only quality in appearance, but quality in function as well.


Leo Hammond  Urban Design Group / Lambert Smith Hampton


  • Matthew Carmona  University College London
  • Katja Stille  Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design
  • Rob Cowan  Urban Design Skills
  • Alexis Butterfield   Pollard Thomas Edwards
  • Trovine Monteiro  Greater Cambridge Shared Planning


Some key questions:

  • What is required in a design code for it to be successful?
  • What resources and skills are required to produce these design codes?
  • How can diversity and variety be encouraged without loss of local distinctiveness?
  • Are there sufficient numbers of skilled people to create the codes in the time required?
  • Public involvement is easy to say, how easy is it to achieve?
  • Is there a risk of what NASA called “common mode failure” where reliance on a single critical component leads to disaster should it go wrong?



Extract from the White Paper

Local Design Guidance and Codes

As national guidance, we will expect the National Design Guide, National Model Design Code and the revised Manual for Streets to have a direct bearing on the design of new communities…

… But to ensure that schemes reflect the diverse character of our country, as well as what is provably popular locally, it is important that local guides and codes are prepared wherever possible.

These play the vital role of translating the basic characteristics of good places into what works locally, and can already be brought forward in a number of ways:

  • by local planning authorities to supplement and add a visual dimension to their Local Plans;
  • through the work of neighbourhood planning groups; or
  • by applicants in bringing forward proposals for significant new areas of development.

We propose that these different routes for bringing forward design guides and codes should remain, although in all cases it will be essential that they are prepared with effective inputs from the local community, considering empirical evidence of what is popular and characteristic in the local area. To underpin the importance of this, we intend to make clear that designs and codes should only be given weight in the planning process if they can demonstrate that this input has been secured. And, where this is the case, we will also make clear that decisions on design should be made in line with these documents. Where locally-produced guides and codes are not in place, we also propose to make clear in policy that the National Design Guide, National Model Design Code and Manual for Streets should guide decisions on the form of development.

Local planning authorities and neighbourhoods (through Neighbourhood Plans) would play a crucial role in producing required design guides and codes to provide certainty and reflect local character and preferences about the form and appearance of development. This is important for making plans more visual and engaging. These could be produced for a whole local authority area, or for a smaller area or site (as annotated in the Local Plan), or a combination of both. Design guides and codes would ideally be produced on a ‘twin track’ with the Local Plan, either for inclusion within the plan or prepared as supplementary planning documents.

This is the third in a four part series of events on the Planning White Paper - to see previous and forthcoming events visit the UDG events page.

Recordings can be viewed on our White Paper playlist on youtube.