Planning for Building Better
Date of Article
Feb 03 2021
Planning & Development

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@ Colin Brown
Colin Brown
Partner - Head of Planning and Development Division
01223 326826 email me about Colin

Colin is a Partner and was appointed Head of Planning & Development Division in November 2020, he is based out of our Cambridge office.  He has over 25 years’ experience of planning consultancy and has a broad sphere of work.  He acts for a wide range of private, institutional and developer clients and has worked on significant planning applications and appeals.

He regularly instructs Counsel, and has appeared at a number of Local Plan examinations and in Section 78 and other appeals where he has often given evidence.  He carries out much land promotion work and has a strong track record of delivering planning consents taking projects through their entire process from site identification to construction on site.  

Away from work, Colin is Chairman of the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry and of the Cambridge branch of networking group, Interact.  He is also Chairman of the Dining Rights Committee at the Hawks’ Club, a sporting club in the City for Cambridge University sportsmen. He is a regular, if poor golfer, a keen cyclist and a committed, but somewhat less dangerous skier than he once was.

I can provide advice on:

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s recently published (30 January) press release - “All new developments must meet local standards of beauty, quality and design under new rules” – proposes changes to support recommendations set out in the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report. Consultation is now running until 27 March 2021 on:

National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals

National Planning Policy Framework Draft text for consultation

Draft national design code

Guidance notes on design codes

Colin Brown, Head of Planning & Development, Carter Jonas, sets out the key proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF):

  • Paragraph 7 – The definition of Sustainable Development is expanded to reference the United Nation’s 17 global goals for sustainable development, to be achieved by 2030. Paragraph 11 (a) on the presumption of sustainable development is redefined to the following for plan making:

“all plans should promote a sustainable pattern of development that seeks to: meet the development needs of their area; align growth and infrastructure; improve the environment; mitigate climate change (including by making effective use of land in urban areas) and adapt to its effects”

  • Strategic policies for large scale developments (such as new settlements) have been provided a timeframe and should be “set within a vision that looks further ahead (at least 30 years).”

  • Article 4 directions - Additional guidance in relation to Article 4 directions (paragraph 53) is provided. This has likely been prompted by the proposed Class E to C3 permitted development rights:

“The use of Article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should: 

  • where they relate to change of use to residential, be limited to situations where this is essential to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts; 
  • [or as an alternative to the above – where they relate to change of use to residential, be limited to situations where this is necessary in order to protect an interest of national significance]; 
  • where they do not relate to change of use to residential, be limited to situations where this is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities); 
  • in all cases apply to the smallest geographical area possible.”
  • Paragraph 65 - affordable home ownership – This has been amended to clarify that, where major development involving the provision of housing is proposed, planning policies and decisions should expect at least 10% of the total number of homes to be available for affordable home ownership. This will have implications for on-site delivery and mix of affordable homes. 

  • The inclusion of ‘beauty’ and ‘beautiful’ places are perhaps the most influential proposed alterations within the NPPF as per the aspirations of the Planning White Paper. Paragraph 109 is amended to refer to the ‘National Design Code’ and ‘National Model Design Code’, but chapter 12 on design provides the real change. There is a drive for new developments to meet local design guidance and for local planning authorities to produce their own design guides or codes consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code. 
Notably, new proposed paragraph 133 sets out: “Development that is not well designed should be refused, especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design, taking into account any local design guidance and supplementary planning documents which use visual tools such as design guides and codes. Conversely, significant weight should be given to:

a) development which reflects local design policies and government guidance on design, taking into account any local design guidance and supplementary planning documents which use visual tools such as design guides and codes; and/or 

b) outstanding or innovative designs which promote high levels of sustainability, or help raise the standard of design more generally in an area, so long as they fit in with the overall form and layout of their surroundings.” 


Whilst the inclusion of clear design guidance for many under-resourced local planning authorities will be welcomed, draft paragraph 133 will add an additional level of complexity for sites developed by volume housebuilders or modular housebuilders for example. In cases where there are high levels of design standardisation to ensure cost efficiencies and brand consistency across products, these changes proposed will require additional flexibility on local design typologies and layouts on the part of the developer.

  • Paragraph 130 - The importance of trees to the urban environment is reinforced with this new paragraph which sets out that policies and decisions should promote the inclusion of tress within developments where possible and that “appropriate measures are in place to secure the long-term maintenance of newly-planted trees”.

  • No fundamental changes to the Green Belt Chapter are proposed.

  • Paragraph 197 – The inclusion of this new paragraph considers the removal or alteration of a historic statue, plaque or memorial.

  • Annex 1 - (new para 220) clarifies that new Housing Delivery Test figures supersede previous figures the day after they are published and until new results are published, the previously published result should be used.

  • Annex 3 - sets out the flood risk vulnerability classification criteria, which was previously accessed via Planning Practice Guidance.
These proposals emphasise the importance of local context being applied to the consultation process on new developments. Additionally, they further endorse a brownfield first approach to sustainable development. 
However, without the NPPF providing further clarification as to the definition of ‘beauty’, which itself is a subjective concept, we anticipate that this element will provide fertile ground for challenges at all stages of the planning process.  
To discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Carter Jonas’s Planning & Development team.