Design Council Cabe welcomes the NPPF as part of the reform of the planning system to create a simplified, more inclusive process.
Good planning is fundamental to the production and maintenance of well-designed, good quality places that create both the physical and social conditions for sustainable economic growth.
Research shows that 87% of people agree that better quality buildings and public spaces can improve quality of life (Ipsos Mori, 2009). Design Council Cabe believes that places that are well-planned, designed, development and maintained provide a better quality of life for everyone – including delivering sustainable development for future generations.
A good planning process enables decisions to be made that balance diverse and competing needs that are inherent in any development. A good design process is about working through these problems and finding shared solutions.
Design Council Cabe is pleased by the significant recognition in the draft NPPF of the role of design in achieving sustainable development. There are, however, areas in which the draft NPPF could be strengthened in order to meet the Government’s objectives of raising standards of design and achieving sustainable development:
1. Sustainable development
The definition of sustainable development could be strengthened by the Framework specifically stating that a good design process is an essential part of any methodology to mediate and resolve concerns around economic, social and environmental issues. This would improve the quality of schemes taken forward under the presumption in favour of sustainable development, providing confidence to both local authorities and communities that developments are fit for their local context.
It is also essential for the NPPF to recognise all the components that make up a sustainable place, including the role of green infrastructure i.e. networks of green spaces. The draft NPPF does not currently require green infrastructure to be assessed or managed in the Local Plan and/or through the duty to co-operate, and Design Council Cabe recommends that this is rectified.
2. Creating a long-term vision for places
Clear, coherent and comprehensive Local Plans should set the agenda for an area, express aspirations, be proactive and be positive about the future of a place, clearly stating how this will be achieved.
Design Council Cabe welcomes the commitment to a genuine ‘plan-led’ approach and the acknowledgement that ‘Local Plans should address the implications of economic, social and environmental change.’ However, it does not ask local authorities to set out the creation of a positive, long-term vision for a place as a strategic priority in their Local Plans. This needs to be addressed, in order to improve the overall effectiveness of Local Plans and create a shared vision for developers, local businesses and communities to improve certainty.
In addition, support will be required for local authorities, particularly during the transition process. Communities will also require advice and guidance on how best to take advantage of their increased role in plan making and decision taking. There is a broad ecosystem of organisations able to provide this support, and Design Council Cabe is committed to working with partners to find an accessible and inclusive way of inspiring and connecting people.
3. Local checks and balances
Design Council Cabe welcomes the emphasis on creating a planning system that is more accessible for all users. This is crucial to ensure the success of the new planning system which is currently seen as complex to navigate for individuals, communities and burdensome for developers.
Creating appropriate, local checks and balances must be a vital component of the system. The inclusion of Design Review methodology in the draft NPPF is welcome as this is a tried and tested mechanism by which local planning authorities and developers are able to assess the quality, impact and sustainability of projects. The quality of advice given by panels will be of critical importance; the Design Council CABE recommends that the NPPF requires Design Review arrangements be both independent and impartial and follow the industry-led best practice guidance as detailed in ‘Principles and Practice’. 
In addition, while we support the definition of sustainable development and agree that the NPPF (when working in concert with the Local Plan) will provide speed and certainty, there remains a concern for the transition period when local authorities will not have their plans in place. We recommend therefore that local authorities are given the appropriate resources and have access to independent expert support in order to develop or update their Local Plan.
Paul Finch, Chair of Design Council Cabe board, said:
“The NPPF should ensure that economic, social and environmental considerations are balanced to achieve true sustainable development. We believe a good design process is an essential part of any methodology to achieve this, and hope that the Government will include this in the definition of sustainable development as part of its commitment to a high quality built environment.”
Should you require further information or briefing on how best to get good quality design through the planning system, please contact Kate Jones on email@example.com or on 020 7420 5274.
Notes for editors
1. Design Council Cabe is part of the Design Council and is the UK’s national strategic body a Government advisor for design in the built environment
 Principles and Practice (CABE, Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Landscape Institute, 2008)