Neighbourhood Forum


Design Codes


Design Code

This Design Code is being developed from the National Design Guide, the National Model Design Code, and the associated Guidance Notes for Design Codes.

Important Bit:

The National Planning Policy Framework is a "Material Consideration" in any planning application decision (and, coming from central government, is often used to "swing the balance" in favour of government policy). Paragraph 15 of the National Design Guide states that: As well as helping to inform development proposals and their assessment by local planning authorities, this design guide supports paragraph 130 of the National Planning Policy Framework which states that permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

If local communities can organise themselves around this opportunity, we can (at last) have more than just a token effect on local planning decisions.


Developing a Design Code involves three main processes: Analysis, Vision, and Code Policies. Here's a pretty picture from the National Design Guide:

It illustrates that there are ten aspects (characteristics) of the way that the government want us to look at design. It further shows three driving forces behind the whole process: Climate, Character, and Community. This is (part of) a new 21st century approach to planning. Time will tell how these three critical forces are supported and honoured.

The first of the three main processes is Analysis. In this phase we need to: The first step is to decide on the scope of the code, in particular which parts of the local area it needs to cover, and which policy areas it addresses. This is called 'coverage'.

The second step is to create 'content'. All design codes should include as a minimum:
- Movement strategy where appropriate
- Access and street hierarchy where appropriate
- Landscape and open space strategy
- Land use and mix
- Density
- Heights
- Number of homes
- Identity and character of buildings and public spaces.

When considered under the ten characteristics of the National Design Guide, we get something that looks like:

Context Character Types, Site Context, Site Assessment, Historic Asessment, Heritage Assets
Movement Street Network, Public Transport, Street Hierarchy, Walking & Cycling, Junctions & Crossings, Inclusive Streets, Car Parking, Cycle Parking, Services & Utilities
Nature Network of Spaces, OS Provision, Design, Working with Water, Sustainable Drainage Systems, Flood Risk, Net Gain, Biodiversity, Street Trees
Built Form Density, Party Wall, Types and Forms, Blocks, Building Line, Height
Identity Local Character, Legibility, Master Planning, Design of Buildings
Public Space Primary, Local & Secondary, Tertiary, Meeting Places, Multi-functional, Home Zones, Secured by Design, Counter Terrorism
Uses Efficient Land Use, Mix, Active Frontage, Housing for All, Type, Schools, Community Facilities, Local Services
Homes and Buildings Space Standards, Accessibility, Light, Aspect & Privacy, Security, Gardens & Balconies
Resources Energy Hierarchy, Energy Efficiency, Neighbourhood Energy, Embodied Energy, Construction, MMC, Water
Life Span Management Plan, Participation, Community

The Baseline

Design codes need to be based on an analysis of the area covered. The purpose of the analysis is to understand the area and inform a vision that will, in turn, form the basis for the code. The analysis could include:
- Topographical, ecology, river and waterways, flood risk
- Open space and green infrastructure
- Local character
- Heritage assets, including conservation areas
- Land use, economic uses
- Built form, density, massing
- Community infrastructure and schools
- Public transport accessibility
- Road/street hierarchy

Design Vision

Design codes need to be based on a vision for how a place will develop in the future, as set out in the local plan. This vision needs to be developed with the local community and is likely to be an important part of the community engagement process.

These visions need to be aspirational and set the context for the subsequent development of the code covering:
An appreciation of the existing area or site, its natural, topographical, historical and heritage features.
Its character and appearance.
The mix of uses and facilities.
The amount and character of green space.
The way in which it deals with traffic, parking, walking and cycling.
Sustainability including energy efficiency.

Coding Plan

The analysis will feed into a plan that shows the areas of the authority to which the code will apply along with the distribution of the area types. The plan also shows major development sites based on local plan allocations that will be subject to the masterplanning exercise...

Master Planning

If a design code is being prepared for larger sites, it may be necessary to produce a masterplan as part of the design coding exercise. This masterplan will establish a new street network, decide which area types apply, along with various other parameters.

The aim of the masterplan is to provide a framework for the application of the design code to the site. This is likely to include:
- The landscape strategy, taking account of existing natural features and new structural elements.
- The amount and position of open space provision.
- The number of homes and other uses (from the local plan allocation).
- The points of access and connection to the wider street network.
- The broad position of the primary and secondary streets but not local streets.
- The position of the local centre if relevant.
- The area types that will apply to different parts of the site (which will in turn reference rules on density, height, street building line, and so on).


Policies should be considered when creating design codes or guides. Issues may need to be addressed for each area type. If the code is not using an area type approach, these issues will need to be considered for the whole code area.

The issues covered include:
- Movement: The guidance relating to the network of streets, active travel, and public transport relates to all area types. The key variables being the street types and parking arrangements.
- Nature: Most of the guidance on nature also applies to all area types, the potentially being open space standards, sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and urban greening.
- Built Form: This is the main issue that varies by area type including density, grain, building line and height.
- Identity: The design of buildings will vary by area type and may vary to a lesser degree within area types.
- Public Space: The character of each type of street will vary by area type.
- Use: The opportunities for intensifcation, mix of uses and housing types mix of uses, and active frontage will all vary by area type.
- Homes and Buildings: Guidance of privacy distances and garden/balcony sizes may vary by area type.

All of this must be referenced back to policies within the local plan.

Last Updated: Thursday 30 September 2021