Quantity and Quality: The NPPF and placemaking
When you are passionate about shaping better places it is essential to have a planning policy framework which promotes quality of design as an overarching objective.
When you are passionate about shaping better places it is essential to have a planning policy framework which promotes quality of design as an overarching objective. Thankfully the revised consultation draft of the NPPF does this, introducing quality as a development imperative and retaining a dedicated Chapter 12 with the title: “Achieving well designed places”.
The principles of placemaking are a narrative thread through the document, referenced in connection with:
- Density, and the effective use of land
- Town centre vitality
- Sustainable transport
- Healthy and safe communities
- Community engagement
The loss of the reference to Garden Cities has been lamented by some, but this rather misses the bigger point that design has been given greater prominence and emphasis within the proposed revisions to the Framework. I am optimistic that this represents a real step forward in enabling places of real quality to be delivered.
Density back on the agenda
Of particular interest to designers and developers alike is the new section on density. A sensible approach to increasing density in sustainable locations (such as around transport hubs) is proposed. A new reference to “minimum density standards” seeking a “significant uplift in the average density” is another notable feature. Whilst local authorities decide how to apply this policy in practice, there is a clear role here designers in helping to articulate what is appropriate in relation to local context and the art of the possible.
Checks and balances
There are checks and balances for design quality within the draft Framework. A new reference to Building for Life as a means of guiding and testing good design has been introduced. The reference to Design Panels is also welcome. Early design and community consultation is also favoured in shaping places.
While I am positive about the great strides that the revised Framework makes towards embedding design quality, it is not without inconsistencies. For example the revised Framework now refers to: “Making effective use of land”, in place of “Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes”. I think the omission of “quality” from Chapter 11 is potentially unhelpful and contrary to the general theme of improving design quality.
A step forward
As house building is accelerated to address the housing crisis, Placemaking as well as the good quality design of buildings and spaces is essential. Quantity of development should not come at the expense of quality.
The ascendance of design and quality matters in this draft of the Framework suggests to me that the Government is acutely aware of this fact.
Get in touch
For further information on any of the issues raised in this article please contact Stephen Taylor. Stephen is the Head of Turley Design, a recognised practitioner of Urban Design, and a member of the Cheshire West and Chester Design Panel.
Further Turley commentary on the draft revised NPPF is available here.