PC2 -21 NALC’s response to the MHCLG Model Design Code consultation



The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have recently launched a consultation seeking views on proposals to create a new Office for Place which would involve each local planning authority drawing up its own design code in consultation with local people that developers would have to adhere to.  This would involve some changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  There is currently an eight-week consultation on the proposals which will close in late March.  The main consultation document can be downloaded here .

Key dates: NALC would like responses to inform their submission before 12th March. Contact details are at the bottom of this page. MHCLG would like responses for the consultation by 27th March.


The consultation itself follows directly from the Planning White Paper suite of consultations last summer.  NALC responded to the Planning White Paper: Planning For The Future, Changes To The Current Planning System and Land Data consultations last Autumn (you will need to log into the members’ area of the NALC website here to access these three responses).

The rationale, proposals and specific questions for this consultation, as well as the draft text updates to the NPPF and the annexed draft National Model Design Code (which is referenced in the main consultation questions) can be downloaded from here.

In this consultation, the government is acting to implement some of the main recommendations from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Report . 

For the expressions of interest to test out a new code – it would be advisable for county associations to contact the local planning authorities (LPA) in their area, to ascertain whether they are considering making a bid for pilot status and, if so, to emphasise to the LPA that the bid will be considerably strengthened if there is local council backing and involvement throughout.

 NALC’s current policy positions

 The following paragraphs outline NALC’s current policy positions, account of which will steer the response which we are likely to make to this consultation.

NALC agrees with the government that the planning system could be improved and should have more emphasis on building design, (we endorsed the recommendations in the report ‘Living with beauty’ published by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission – as we said in our overarching statement in response to the Planning White Paper and Changes to the Current Planning System consultation last year.

The NALC Policy Committee on 6 October 2020 adopted a suite of planning positions including the following one directly relevant to this consultation: “NALC will support changes to the planning system which it perceives will strengthen the system and the voice of democracy and lead to better quality, appropriately sited developments.  It will not support planning changes which it perceives will work in the opposite direction.”

Other NALC Views:

  • We welcome the proposed change in the NPPF to the definition of ‘sustainable development’ and also the section covering the presumption in favour of sustainable development (paras. 7 and 11), the strengthened wording for turning down poor development (para. 133) and the integration of design codes (para. 109).  The other aspect which can be supported are the proposals in respect of development in protected landscapes (para. 175).
  • We are concerned about the restrictions that are proposed for the use of Article 4 Directions (para. 53).
  • In Chapter 12 we would advocate that the default for the expression of local character and design preferences should be through a neighbourhood plan (though we do not advocate that every community area should be required to go through the neighbourhood plan exercise).  We are suggesting that if a neighbourhood plan has a policy on design or develops a design code – that this is the standard against which design will be measured in their area.
  • Whilst NALC agrees that local-specific policies on beauty will be needed, the concept of Supplementary Planning Documents might provide a simpler solution, which could embrace individual village design statements and their urban equivalents.  We think there is no reason why where Village Design Statements were adopted – they could not be updated and incorporated into the local design codes.

Consultation Questions

The main consultation questions NALC will be responding to in this consultation are as below and NALC seeks the views of county associations and member councils in response to these questions to help inform its own submission to MHCLG:

Chapter 2: Achieving sustainable development

Q1. Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 2?

Chapter 3: Plan-making

Q2: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 3?

Chapter 4: Decision making

Q3: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 4? Which option relating to change of use to residential do you prefer and why?

Chapter 5: Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes

Q4: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 5?

Chapter 8: Promoting healthy and safe communities

Q5: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 8?

Chapter 9: Promoting sustainable transport

Q6: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 9?

Chapter 11: Making effective use of land

Q7: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 11?

Chapter 12: Achieving well-designed places

Q8: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 12?

Chapter 13: Protecting the Green Belt

Q9: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 13?

Chapter 14: Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change

Q10: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 14?

Chapter 15: Conserving and enhancing the natural environment

Q11: Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 15?

Chapter 16: Conserving and enhancing the historic environment

Q12. Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 16?

Chapter 17: Facilitating the sustainable use of minerals

Q13. Do you agree with the changes proposed in Chapter 17?

National Model Design Code

Q15. We would be grateful for your views on the National Model Design Code, in terms of:

a) the content of the guidance

b) the application and use of the guidance

c) the approach to community engagement.

Public Sector Equality Duty

Q16. We would be grateful for your comments on any potential impacts under the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Your evidence

Please email your responses to this consultation to chris.borg@nalc.gov.uk by 17.00 on Friday 12 March 2021. County associations are asked to forward this briefing onto all member councils in their area.

© NALC 2021

Posted Friday, 1st July 2022