September 2021 . Advice

Beauty is in the Eye of the Planning Officer

National Planning Policy Framework 2021

September 2021 . Advice

Beauty is in the Eye of the Planning Officer

National Planning Policy Framework 2021

New guidance puts the spotlight on high quality design to create beautiful and safe places in which to live, writes Zara Moon of ZMA.

July saw the release of the new and updated National Planning Policy Framework document (the NPPF 2021). This document sets out the Government’s planning policies for England based on economic, environmental and social objectives. The National Planning Policy Framework is the framework for all local authorities to assess if planning applications meet planning policy and is used by professionals to justify proposals by referring to key relevant policies.

In 2020 the Government proposed to reform the planning system to deliver more high-quality, well-designed homes and beautiful, greener communities to live in. The new NPPF forms part of the plan to revitalise and radically change the planning system in England.

The main changes to the 2019 version of the NPPF is policy guidance designed to improve the standard of design of new developments to reflect the Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commision. The focus is on high quality design, with ‘the fostering of well-designed, beautiful and safe places’.

Never before has the term ‘beautiful’ been included within planning policy as a test to decide if a scheme is well-designed. Significant weight will now be placed on these policies when determining applications. This will be of benefit to local residents, Parish Councils etc. who wish to resist poorly designed schemes in their area.

When making planning decisions, a more significant weight will now be given to outstanding or innovative design, designs which promote high levels of sustainability or schemes which raise the design standard in an area in general.

This also could mean that schemes which do not meet certain elements of planning policy, but that score highly in outstanding or innovative design, and would be a beautiful addition to the area could achieve approval which within the previous NPPF, the quality of design would not have carried as much weight.

The updated policies may be more problematic for large scale developers, who now need to include more trees, landscaping and green spaces and in general raise the quality of high-density schemes. However, this will be a positive and welcome improvement for local residents and in particular the end-users of schemes, who will have a higher quality of life.

At ZMA we have always pushed the boundaries of design for our sensitive sites when the high-quality design becomes the key factor to achieve approval. We believe that quality, innovation and sustainable design can tip planning balance in favour of development even when a site typically would not be supportable with a low-quality scheme.

One of our key objectives as an architecture practice is to set a precedent for designing properties in rural areas. All of our schemes are design and context-led and we always aim to set a benchmark for the quality requirements of rural schemes.

If you would like to create an innovative, outstanding, sustainable design please contact us for a free consultation to discuss your project.