Urban design codes
Our land use planning system does not have a strong track record of consistently producing high quality development. It sometimes manages to stop the very worst new schemes from being built but, with the exception of a small number of exemplary planning authorities, it tends not to be proactive in securing the highest quality new development. The time is therefore right for experimentation within the planning system. As with other areas of Government policy, there is the opportunity to move away from a one-size-fits-all national template to administering the system. Making places is an art as much as a science, and there is no reason why the same control systems need to be applied by every authority to every planning applicant on every site. The Government’s recent decision to pilot Business Planning Zones shows an openness to test alternative planning tools that could both speed up the system and result in higher quality development. The potential use of design codes offers another option.
What is a well designed places?
- Have a complementary mix of uses and activities
- Be fit for purpose accommodating uses well
- Encourage ease of movement
- Create high-quality public space
- Be adaptable to changing needs and circumstances
- Be efficient in how land and other resources are used
- Have an appearance that is appealing and appreciated
- Have a distinctive positive identity and sense of place
The ten characteristics of well designed places:
- Context – enhances the surroundings
- Identity – attractive and distinctive
- Built form – a coherent pattern of development
- Movement – accessible and easy to move around
- Nature – enhanced and optimised
- Public spaces – safe, social and inclusive
- Uses – mixed and integrated
- Homes and buildings – functional, healthy and sustainable
- Resources – efficient and resilient
- Lifespan – made to last
We have learned what kind of place is a well designed places, and it is more conducive to us to see the design value of a plot, whether there is design value, and whether there is a need for investment.
What are design codes look like?
As designers, we not only need to have good design ideas and design inspiration, but also need to follow the national design norms and guidelines.The National Model Design Code sets a baseline standard of quality and practice which local planning authorities are expected to take into account when developing local design codes and guides and when determining planning applications, including:
- The layout of new development, including street pattern
- How landscaping should be approached including the importance of streets being tree-lined
- The factors to be considered when determining whether facades of buildings are of sufficiently high quality
- The environmental performance of place and buildings ensuring they contribute to net zero targets
- That developments should clearly take account of local vernacular and heritage, architecture and material
The code is likely to comprise two related components:
- A three dimensional masterplan of the development area (and probably an area beyond) that shows clearly the intended arrangement of spaces and buildings, including massing, orientation, distribution of uses, densities, building lines, spaces etc.
- A supporting set of written requirements that explain the plan, including dimensions where relevant, and which address more detailed issues, including issues such as use of materials, landscaping and tenancy mix depending on the level of prescription required.
As urban designers you should either be:
- On the planning authority side promoting and defending
- On the developers side designing and responding
Being resolute and standing firm for high design standards
- What is good design? How will you describe it/recognise it?
- Overcoming “investment at any price.”
Start delivering the masterplans
Keeping the suite of documents co-ordinated and mutually supportive
Who is going to do that