Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, has launched a new national design guide ‘with clout’ in a bid to wipe out ‘ugly or thoughtless’ development
The guidance, unveiled at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday (30 September) but not yet published, will replace ’unenforceable design ideas’ with a new ‘national standard’ for local authorities.
The design guide would be a material consideration in planning applications and appeals, according to Jenrick, with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to be updated to reflect this ‘at the first opportunity’.
Local residents will also be able to work with planning authorities to design their own local guides reflecting the needs of their own area – part of the government’s ’broader commitment to localism’.
Although exact details remain unclear, it is understood a Written Ministerial Statement will be released setting out the guide’s purpose and how it is expected to be used.
Speaking at the conference, Jenrick said: ’I’m announcing the first national design guide and asking every community to produce their own, empowering people to make sure development works for them, in keeping with local heritage and vernacular and with each new street lined with trees.’
It follows the publication of the Building Better Building Beautiful commission’s report earlier this year, which called on councils to ‘say no to ugliness’.
Other housing policies unveiled by Jenrick include a ‘common sense’ proposal to give housing associations tenants the right to buy through shared ownership.
The housing secretary also announced plans to allow homeowners to build two-storey extensions in a further rollout of permitted development rights (PDR), first unveiled last year.
The new rights will first be given to blocks of flats and then extended to all detached homes.
According to reports, controversial proposals to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and rebuilt as residential without planning permission have also been confirmed.
These plans were first unveiled last year and confirmed by former chancellor Phillip Hammond in the Autumn 2018 budget.
There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of today’s planning announcements
Responding to the announcement, RIBA president Alan Jones said: ’There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of today’s planning announcements by the government. Publishing new design guidance alongside plans to extend permitted development rules, which allow projects to sidestep vital quality and environmental standards, just doesn’t make sense.
’While the new guidance could play a crucial role in improving the quality of new developments across the country, it must have teeth and cannot be undermined by a weakening of the planning system in other areas.’
In a statement, Jenrick said: ’This new design guide will have real clout. There will be a national standard for local authorities to adhere to, but we recognise that what good likes like differs across England. So, for the first-time local authorities will be expected to design their own locally applicable guides in keeping with the national standard, which must deliver the quality of homes that we expect.
’I want to put people at the heart of the housing process and provide a strong blueprint for building homes that families are proud to live in, recognising beauty and design in the most locally appropriate way.’