Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announces national guide to place more emphasis on beauty

Councils will be expected to develop design codes to ensure the delivery of “beautiful” and “green” homes under planning changes confirmed today.

Robert Jenrick, speaking at an event organised by Create Streets and the Policy Exchange in London this afternoon, announced a raft of changes in response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission’s Living with Beauty report.

Robert Jenrick addresses Building Better Building Beautiful Commission report launch

Robert Jenrick wants local people to have an input into what sort of homes are built in their area

Under the plans, councils will be expected to develop an illustrated design guide that sets the standard for a local area, with input from local people.

A National Model Design Code is to be published today to help councils achieve this, providing guidance on “all aspects of new development”.

A new Office for Place will also be created to test and pilot the model code with more than 20 local authorities.

The National Planning Policy Framework will also be updated to place more emphasis on beauty, place-making, the environment and sustainable development.

The updated framework will ‘set an expectation’ that good quality design should be approved and includes a commitment to ensure all streets are lined with trees. According to the government, this will be the first time since 1947 the word “beauty” has been specifically including in planning rules.

An advisory board made up of industry experts will also be set up, chaired by Create Streets founder Nicholas Boys Smith (see box below).

Jenrick said: “This is 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.”

Boys Smith, chair of the advisory board for the Office for Place, added: “Britain has created and is creating some of the best developments in the world. But the quality achieved remains stubbornly inconsistent. We must do better, more often for the benefit of communities, to contribute to the economic success of our towns and cities and to look after our planet.”

Paul Miner, head of land use and planning at countryside charity the CPRE said the prioritisation of design codes and creation of the Office for Place was a “hugely welcome” step.

But he warned the government’s broader planning reforms, set out in last year’s planning white paper, would make good design “impossible”.

He said: “The government’s disastrous planning proposals, that look set to halve democratic input in planning, will completely undermine any progress on design and design codes. Good design is impossible without local democracy and accountability in the planning system.

“If ministers are serious about creating the beautiful places of the future, they should start by totally rethinking their planning proposals and ensure people and nature are put back at the heart of planning.”

The announcements at-a-glance:  

  • The National Model Design Code - a toolkit to enable every council and community to create their own local design requirement. Guidance is provided across all aspects of new development including tree-lined streets, sustainable drainage and design to support walking and cycling.
  • Updated planning framework to be published which will place greater emphasis on beauty, place-making, the environment, sustainable development and underlines the importance of local design codes. 
  • The Office for Place which will drive up design standards, testing and piloting the National Model Design Code with more than 20 local councils and communities.
  • The Advisory Board, made up of industry experts and chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith, which will advise on the work of the Office for Place and options for a potential independent body.

Source: MHCLG

See also:

Will the government be brave on beauty?

The beauty commission’s advice is sound on sustainable placemaking

The Building Beautiful Commission’s report is too narrow

The Office of Place advisory board

Chair: Nicholas Boys Smith (founder Create Streets)

Deputy Chair - Vidhya Alakeson (CEO, Power to Change Fund)

Robert Adam (ADAM Architecture)

Andrew Cameron (Andrew Cameron & Associates - formerly WPP & Alan Baxter)

Rt Hon Ben Gummer (Partner in the master development business, Gummer Leathes and Blavatnik School of Government & McKinsey & Co)

Sir John Hayes MP

Victoria Hills (CEO, RTPI)

Esther Kurland  (Director, Urban Design London)

Paul Monaghan (AHMM)

Ben Page (CEO, Ipsos MORI)

Adrian Penfold (chair, Design South East)

Anna Rose (director, Planning Advisory Service)

Stephen Stone (chair, Orbit Homes, Keepmoat Homes and former executive chair, Crest Nicholson)