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Placing design at the heart of the NPPF

Placing design at the heart of the NPPF

11 May 2018

On 5 March 2018, the Prime Minister announced a major overhaul to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The aim of these changes is to help planners, developers and councils build more homes, more quickly with the aim of delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

In our response to the draft revised NPPF, which closed on Friday 11 May, we set out our core belief that to create radical, lasting reform the NPPF needs design at its heart. This will unleash the full potential of design to deliver the homes that we want, we need, at the pace required and which develop the neighbourhoods where we want to live. 

In the current revised NPPF design is confined to a specific chapter. We welcome some of the positive measures it sets out we are concerned that unless design cuts across the NPPF we risk making it a tick box exercise or a test for planners, and something that is seen as a constraint by developers.

We believe that this limits design’s potential. If we are to create the places that this country desperately needs, we have to take a wider look at design. We have to move beyond design being about how things look and a hurdle to get over, it needs to be the central thread of a process which builds inclusive, safer and healthier places. To achieve this, we need a design-led approach to the NPPF.

We believe that a design-led approach to the NPPF will:

  • Enable more homes to be built by putting people at the heart of the process making it easier to overcome potential obstacles
  • Achieve sustainable development by promoting innovation and quality
  • Promote engagement rather than consultation, visualising the future and enabling collaboration between different organisations and disciplines
  • Move beyond just appearance and layout to viewing the whole place -  achieving better, more inclusive, outcomes for the economy as well as people’s health and wellbeing

To create radical lasting reform of the planning system we are calling for:

  • a fresh approach to the definition of sustainable development establishing design as a way of integrating economic, social and environmental objectives
  • the inclusion of a set of overarching design principles in the revised NPPF
  • making design an integral feature at all levels of the planning framework
  • a new chapter on engagement, encouraging planning authorities and developers to recognise it as the key to successful plans and developments
  • the NPPF to use design to consider the whole place not just its appearance

In her speech early in March Theresa May said, “the picture we see today is the result of many failures by many people over many years”. The NPPF seeks to address this by setting out clear ambition on scale, sustainability and environmental impact. However, let’s not miss the opportunity design can bring to deliver much more. With design at the centre of a new planning framework we can create the places that people want to live and work at the scale the country needs.

Read our full response to the NPPF proposal.

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