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Revised National Planning Policy Framework: A drive towards well designed and sustainable development

22 July 2021

Revisions to National Planning Policy in England & Wales (the Framework) came into force on Tuesday 20 July 2021 with a greater emphasis on creating safe, beautiful and sustainable developments of high quality design. 

Revised versions of England's National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework) and the National Model Design Coding Process / Guidance Notes ('NMDC') were published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Tuesday 20 July. The publications follow consultation on the provisions which took place earlier this year:

  • There is a clear emphasis in the Framework on improving the design quality of new developments. Local authorities will now be required to produce local design codes or guides with the intention of creating well-designed, beautiful and safe places. Significant weight should now be given to development which reflects local and government design guidance and policy and development not well designed should be refused. 
  • There will be a presumption in favour of sustainable development for planners with a requirement that "all plans should promote a sustainable pattern of development that seeks to: meet the development needs of their area; align growth and infrastructure; improve the environment; mitigate climate change (including by making effective use of land in urban areas) and adapt to its effects". There will be an emphasis on the use of trees in new developments (both tree-lined and in wider green spaces) with a long-term maintenance requirement also introduced. 
  • There is greater limitation on the use by local authorities of Article 4 directions to restrict permitted development rights and such directions should only now be used in situations where they are necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts of development. Such directions must be based on robust evidence and apply to the smallest geographical area possible. Planning conditions should also not be used to restrict national permitted development rights without clear justification. 
  • In order to reduce the impact of crime and disorder and increase the quality of life in communities, local authorities are encouraged to promote the active and continual use of public areas through, for example, the development of attractive and well-designed pedestrian and cycle routes. 
  • Local planning authorities are required to work proactively and positively with promoters, delivery partners and statutory bodies to ensure faster delivery of public service infrastructure such as education colleges, hospitals and prisons. 
  • It is emphasised that consideration should be given to the importance of retaining statues and monuments and, where appropriate, an explanation of the historic and social context of such pieces should be given rather than removal. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said that the revisions were: "about putting communities – not developers – in the driving seat to ensure good quality design is the norm, and the return to a sense of stewardship – to building greener, enduringly popular homes and places that stand the test of time in every sense". 

In addition to the above revisions, a newly created Office for Place, advised by a board of planning and development experts, has been created by the Government in order to drive up design quality standards and assist in the roll out of the National Model Design Code. 

For more information on the topic, please contact Andrew Batterton or a member of our Planning team. 

Authors: Andrew Batterton and Oliver Murray 

Further Reading