This month we focus on Pillar Two of the government’s planning White Paper, which looks at creating communities and sustainable homes…
However, there’s a lot more to cover, so this month we look at how the White Paper sets out plans for creating not only ‘beautiful’ developments but also sustainable ones that protect and enhance the existing environment.
The aim is for communities to be involved in the planning process, creating developments that don’t just focus on making buildings beautiful, but also consider incorporating gardens, parks and green spaces and facilities that will create real communities, not just housing estates – making a positive contribution rather than one that just does not cause any harm to the existing area.
Research by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission has highlighted where planning has been going wrong in this respect, and the organisation has laid out a broad range of ways in which the issue can be addressed. A full government response to the Commission’s report should be produced this autumn. We’ll keep you posted.
Keeping it local
The White Paper says that the expectations of the planning process must be for proposed developments to ‘reflect local character and community preferences, and the types of buildings and places that have stood the test of time’, while also taking into account modern lifestyles, using modern methods of construction to produce places that will last and prove sustainable.
The starting point for this is the National Design Guide, which was published in October 2019, and which details 10 characteristics found in places that are deemed ‘successful’ and the factors needed to deliver these. More specific detail will be included in the National Model Design Code (also set to be published this autumn) which will look at factors such as the arrangement and proportions of streets and urban blocks, the placing of public spaces, parking arrangements, street trees, and provision for cyclists and pedestrians.
The White Paper also states that it is vital that there are local guides and codes, as well as the national ones, devised to adhere to the most appealing characteristics that make up the local area. These will be drawn up by local planning authorities, neighbourhood planning groups or applicants bringing proposals for major developments. Again, the government makes it clear that the local community should have input in this. A body will be instigated to support the delivery of local design codes, along with one that will help authorities make best use of design guidance and codes.
Planning process improvements
Plans to improve resources for planning departments and streamline the plan-making process will be brought forward to help facilitate these proposals.
The White Paper also states that Homes England’s strategic objectives will need to focus more on delivering beautiful places, lending more weight to design and design quality.
An interesting proposition, designed to ensure that developers take into consideration the idea of beautiful places, is that a ‘fast-track for beauty’ will be implemented, allowing proposals that conform to the principles of good design (both nationally and locally) to take a faster track through the planning process. It is hoped this will be an appealing incentive for developers to adhere to the principles. This will also see the revival of ‘pattern books’ showing standard building types, options and associated rules, which will allow the pre-approval of popular and replicable designs through permitted development.
Within the beautiful places’ guidelines will be proposals for environmental recovery and long-term sustainability. For example, the Environment Bill will legislate for mandatory net gains for biodiversity as a condition of most new development. And its Local Nature Recovery Strategies will see enhancements made by development schemes and contributions. You can also expect to see the return of tree-lined streets, and plans maximising the opportunities for cycling, walking and public transport.
It’s not all about new buildings though. The white paper also lays out plans to protect historical and significant buildings as the planning process already does, but with the newly introduced opportunity to allow for them to be sympathetically altered to become energy efficient. New homes built from 2025 onwards, meanwhile, will be expected to emit 75-80% less CO2 than existing homes and have the ability to become zero carbon homes in the future, without the need for expensive retrofitting.
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