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Help or hindrance: What do local design codes mean for the development community?

A steering group has been appointed by the government to advise local authorities on using the design guidance and locally developed design codes. Proposals for locally developed design codes that reflect local preferences about the form and appearance of development were included in the government's planning for the future Whitepaper published in August this year and look set to play an increasing role in the plan making process.

Local design codes would provide an opportunity for local communities to have a greater say in the form and appearance of development in their area through consultation and, once adopted, should incentivize the development sector to build better places by providing an avenue to fast track the planning process for planning applications that conform with the design codes. Sounds like a win-win situation.

But what do local design codes mean for housebuilders and developers? Building what people want versus building what people can pay for are often two different things and the steering group will need to balance this tension when considering what capacity housebuilders and developers have to implement design coding.

Another question that the steering group will need to grapple with is how to ensure that local design codes allow enough flexibility to support forward thinking design and enable housebuilders and developers to adapt to what sells. This is no easy task as design codes, by nature, intend to provide certainty and cohesion which by default tends to remove flexibility.

A steering group has been convened to explore the options for establishing a new expert design body which can help authorities make effective use of design guidance and codes, and monitoring their application.

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