Communities empowered to shape design of neighbourhoods

Communities across the country will lead the way in shaping the design of their neighbourhoods under a trailblazing new design programme, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced today (11 March 2022).

As part of the government’s plans to level up for communities across the country, 25 areas in England from Bournemouth to Carlisle, have been awarded a share of £3 million to help them set their own standards for design locally.

The Design Code Pathfinder Programme will empower communities to have their say on the development of new homes, buildings and amenities, such as shops and workspace, in their area and help restore people’s pride in the places they live.

The codes are a collection of design-principles to help local areas deliver more beautiful and sustainable places and communities – such as specifying local building materials or deciding the layout of streets.

Housing Minister Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP said:

We want to give local people power over what their neighbourhoods look like and make sure all new developments enhance their surroundings and preserve local character and identity.

Whether that’s choosing red brick for new buildings in our industrial heartland cities or choosing to set sustainability standards for newbuild homes, our Pathfinder Programme will help turn visions of greener, more beautiful homes and places into standards which developers adhere to.

The design codes will be used as examples that communities across the country can draw on to produce their own, with support from the Office for Place.

Many of the projects will focus on regeneration and deliver thriving town centres and green infrastructure, such as new walking and cycle routes. For example:

  • Bradford Council will be pioneering an authority-wide design code to regenerate the urban areas in the district, to support the regeneration of some of the most deprived wards in the UK.
  • In Medway, Kent, the council will use the pathfinder programme to produce a design code for the regeneration of the area’s emerging city centre, Chatham, with new development to reflect on local character while protecting the natural environment.
  • In Mansfield, the district council will develop a design code for the town with a focus on the regeneration of Mansfield town centre with a specific focus on delivering homes and new opportunities for economic growth.

Chair of the Transition Board for the Office for Place, Nicholas Boys Smith said:

The evidence is clear that good design is good for you and good for our neighbourhoods and civic life. Too many of the lives our fellow citizens lead are affected by poor places, no friends round the corner, less sense of community, less walking, less local pride.

Left behind areas have suffered particularly, blighted with fast roads through town centres, ugly ‘boxland development’ where there used to be a neighbourhood or ‘could be anywhere’ housing units when people want to live somewhere.

It is time to change this and to move from a vicious circle of generic development to a virtuous circle of regenerative development. These 25 council and neighbourhood pathfinders will help light the way to support the creation and stewardship of popular, healthy beautiful and sustainable places.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute said:

Today’s announcement of 25 councils and neighbourhood planning groups for the Design Code Pathfinder Programme is encouraging. Together with last year’s government announcement of the 14 council design code pilot schemes, there is a valuable body of evidence being built for the delivery of best in class design codes.

The RTPI is particularly keen to see how the Pathfinder schemes can adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to delivery by including planners, local councillors, designers, ecologists, transport planners, civil engineers and energy professions in their preparation.

I’m looking forward to using my role on the Transition Board for DLUHC’s Office for Place to support these chosen communities to build green, thriving and healthy places.

Local councils and neighbourhood planning groups throughout England will benefit from the work of the pathfinders through the sharing of lessons learnt and good practice.

The National Model Design Code (NMDC), published last year, will help guide selected local councils and neighbourhood planning groups on important design features such as street character, building type and layout, use of public space, and encouraging councils to consider the sustainability of new development.

Last year, the Office for Place supported 14 local councils and communities to set standards for design in their area, using the National Model Design Code.

The areas allocated funding are as follows:

Planning authorities

  • Carlisle City Council – £120,000
  • Lake District National Park Authority – £120,000
  • Trafford Council – £160,000
  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council – £120,000
  • Shropshire Council – £120,000
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council – £120,000
  • Teignbridge District Council – £160,000
  • Medway Council – £120,000
  • Reigate and Banstead Borough Council – £120,000
  • Surrey County Council – £120,000
  • Brent Council – £120,000
  • London Borough of Barking and Dagenham – £120,000
  • Epping Forest District Council – £120,000
  • Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service – £120,000
  • Uttlesford District Council – £160,000
  • East Midlands Development Company – £120,000
  • Gedling Borough Council – £160,000
  • Mansfield District Council – £120,000
  • Bradford Council – £160,000
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council – £160,000
  • Darlington Borough Council – £120,000

Neighbourhood planning groups

  • Weymouth Town Council – £30,000
  • Finsbury Park and Stroud Green – £30,000
  • Bacup and Stacksteads Neighbourhood Forum – £30,000

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