Funding to boost better housing design

Dacorum Council given funding boost to develop a new local design guide for housing development

A new national design code meaning that areas are well-designed and locally-led is being tested by Dacorum Borough Council.  As one of 14 councils selected across England, Dacorum Borough Council will be given £50,000 to develop new design principles for new housing development.

Dacorum Borough Council will join the pilot to test how to give communities a real say in the layout, design and appearance of buildings in their area, as part of the government’s pledge to Build Back Better.

Codes will set out design principles for new development in local areas and the local design codes will be expected to enhance the character of the local area – for example by using honey-coloured stone in the Cotswolds or red brick in the Midlands.

The code will also help make sure that future developments are considered to be beautiful and fit in with local character. It gives local planning authorities a toolkit of design principles to consider for new developments, such as street character, building type and façade as well as environmental, heritage and wellbeing factors.

The shortlisted councils will take part in a 6-month testing programme to apply the National Model Design Code (NMDC) in their area by making sure current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.

It is intended to provide councils with the guidance and parameters to shape new developments in a way which reflects what their communities truly want. The measures mean the word “beauty” will be prioritised in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947 – going back to a previous time when there was a greater emphasis on whether a building was considered attractive to local people.

The government recently consulted on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to take this forward, alongside the draft NMDC.  Following a consultation period, more than 70 Expression of Interest submissions were received to test the NMDC, with representation from every region of England.

The final 14 applicants were then shortlisted to ensure a geographical spread and a range of development types, including an urban conservation area with industrial heritage, town centres, new neighbourhoods, rural settlements and urban regeneration sites. Each pilot receives a £50,000 grant to carry out the project.

Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP recently said: “We should aspire to enhance the beauty of our local areas and pass our cultural heritage onto our successors, enriched not diminished.

“In order to do that, we need to bring about a profound and lasting change in the buildings that we build, which is one of the reasons we are placing a greater emphasis on locally popular design, quality and access to nature, through our national planning policies and introducing the National Model Design Code.

“These will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

“Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.”

Anna Rose, Head of the Planning Advisory Service said: “It is really exciting to see the National Model Design Code being tested by local councils across the country.

“The outcomes from this first set of pilots will help to build the capacity and collective learning that we need across the sector.

“I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve with their communities by using this new code.”

Dacorum Borough Council is working in partnership with St Albans City and District Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and The Crown Estate to deliver the Hemel Garden Communities development, which will include new high-quality homes, of which 40 per cent will be affordable.

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