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Publication Detail
Design codes, how have they fared?
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Giordano VP, Carmona M
  • publication date:
  • Status:
  • Commisioning body:
    Urban Design Group
  • Keywords:
    design code, planning, NPPF, quality design, national survey, local planning authorities
  • Addresses:
    Valentina Giordano
    University College London
    Bartlett School of Planning
    United Kingdom
Six years after the completion of a national design coding pilot programme that explored their use, a new report, Design Coding - Diffusion of Practice in England, has been published through the Urban Design Group (UDG). Researched and written by Prof. Matthew Carmona and Valentina Giordano at The Bartlett School of Planning, the report evaluates the diffusion of design coding as a tool in the planning and development process. The research comes at a time when the recently released National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) explicitly endorses their use by local planning authorities to help deliver higher quality design outcomes. The research was based on a national survey of local planning authorities and urban design consultancies. Headline findings include: How widespread are the use of design codes in England today? In excess of a third of local planning authorities have had design codes produced for them, either through requiring or commissioning them, or otherwise through developers voluntarily submitting them as part of a planning application. The use of design codes is advocated in policy in a quarter of local planning authorities, and this is rapidly increasing. Around the two thirds of urban design consultancies have experience of producing design codes. A significant element of diffusion is being driven by private developers, landowners or consultants submitting unsolicited design codes as part of planning applications. What benefits do the use of design codes have? Respondents believed that design codes: improve design quality, tying down ‘must have’ design parameters; ensure consistency (and where appropriate differentiation) in the delivery of key site-wide design principles between development phases. They offer far greater certainly about outcomes and certainly to developers about the process; and bring key stakeholders together early in the process leading to smoother working relationships and to a better understanding of expectations and constraints from the start. On the question of speed, codes do speed up the reserved matters planning applications associated with successive phases of large development projects, but this requires a considerable front-loading of design time to prepare and negotiate the codes. What support exists for the continued use of design codes in the future? The assessment amongst planning authorities was overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority of those who had previously used design codes declaring their intention to use them again in the future as and when the right opportunities arose (namely sites large enough to justify their production). A large majority of planning authorities and urban design consultants who have not used codes intend to do so in future. Planning authorities particularly welcome the increased control design codes give them over the outputs of the volume housebuilding sector, although stressed the need for an in-built review process to maintain flexibility.
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