This government has been clear that we must build the homes that this country needs. However, this objective must not come at the expense of quality. The places we create must be ones that communities can be proud of, both now and in the future. Places that look beautiful, work well and provide environments in which people and communities can thrive.
Too many homes currently being built do not meet this test. They are not well-proportioned, fail to reflect the character of their local area and form part of neighbourhoods which are equally poorly designed, both in terms of their street layouts and their lack of landscaping and street trees.
I am committed to addressing this problem and driving up the quality of new homes. It was for this reason, that this government set up the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission to champion beautiful buildings. The Commission has been tasked with making recommendations to the government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new build homes and neighbourhoods. We have also hosted two national design quality conferences, bringing together industry leaders and Ministers to discuss how they can work together to ensure new developments across the country are well designed.
Today I can announce that we are going further and publishing new guidance, including the National Design Guide. This illustrated guide sets out the ten characteristics of beautiful and well-designed places. This provides a clear picture for home builders of what is required of them to build homes of sufficient quality.
The National Design Guide is also capable of being a material consideration in planning applications and appeals, meaning that, where relevant, local planning authorities should take it into account when taking decisions. This should help give local authorities the confidence to refuse developments that are poorly designed.
The illustrated National Design Guide emphasises the importance of responding positively to context, creating locally distinctive character, building strong communities, responding to future issues such as climate change and ensuring places sustain their quality. Alongside it, we have published new guidance on the processes and tools that can be used to achieve good design, and how to engage communities to ensure that developments reflect local views.
To provide further clarity on the principles of good design, we will produce a National Model Design Code in the new year which will set out recommended parameters for key elements of successful design. This will follow the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s final report due to be published in December and consider their recommendations.
The government understands that quality design does not look the same across different areas of the country, for instance, that by definition local vernacular differs. The National Model Design Code will therefore set a baseline standard of quality and practice across England. Local planning authorities will then be expected to take this into account when developing their own local design codes and guides and when determining planning applications.
The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that authorities are expected to use design codes and guides to provide as much certainty as possible about what is likely to be acceptable in each area.
These design codes and guides should be developed as early as possible in the process, alongside the preparation of local policies, including neighbourhood plans, so that they are able to have the greatest impact on design. In the absence of local design guidance, local planning authorities will be expected to defer to the illustrated National Design Guide and National Model Design Code.
We will consult on the content of the National Model Design Code, including the factors to be considered when determining whether facades of buildings are of sufficiently high quality, how landscaping should be approached (including the importance of streets being tree-lined wherever possible), that new developments should utilise a pattern of clear front and backs, and that developments should clearly take account of local vernacular, architecture and materials.
All local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the design of homes and places in their area is of a sufficiently high quality. This includes combined authorities and the need for elected Mayors to consider design quality and beauty in relation to growth and placemaking. Looking to the future, I intend to consider what more can be done to ensure that quality and beauty are fully embraced in the vision and requirements that apply in each area.
The publication of this design guidance is an important milestone in securing a step-change in the quality of design. By working together with a shared understanding of the homes we want to build and live in, we can create beautiful places where communities can thrive, with homes they can be proud of.
The National Design Guide can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-design-guide
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: