New Government policy on design includes custom build housing as part of housing mix

The Government has today (Saturday 30 January) announced new rules to improve the design quality of new development across England.

Key elements include: 

  • Proposing changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to place greater emphasis on beauty and place-making, and to ensure that all new streets are lined with trees.
  • Publishing a draft national design code that provides a checklist of design principles to consider for new developments, such as street character, building type, facade, and the requirements that address wellbeing and environmental impact, which councils can use as a foundation for their own local design codes.
  • Encouraging all councils to publish their unique design code, so residents have a real say in the design of new developments in their area.

The proposed changes to the Framework ask councils and decision makers to reflect the National Design Code and guide in local plans and planning decisions and is expected to be a significant material consideration in the planning process.

The National Design Code makes clear that design codes and guides can be helpful in facilitating custom-build, self-build and the use of modern methods of construction. It also makes specific reference to custom build housing by asking that new development include a mix of tenures and house-types including live/work and custom-build units where possible. 

The accompanying guidance underlines that design codes can facilitate the growth of the custom and self build housing sector by encouraging self- and custom build both on infill sites and on larger schemes where plot-based masterplans can enable individuals to build their own homes. It also helpfully distinguishes between self-build and custom build housing for the first time and refers to the use of ‘plot passports’, a term used to describe the design rules for building plots and which is now becoming widely used across the country as part of design codes.

The announcement responds to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission set up to advise the government on design, whose final report is also published, and paves the way for the new planning reforms which are expected to be introduced in Parliament later this year and which follow the publication of the Government’s Planning for the future White Paper last year.

It also includes reference to a £150 million over 4 years to support a new mortgage scheme for self and custom builders which was announced by the Chancellor in the Spending Review last year as well as the establishment of an ‘Office for Place’ within the next year. It also includes reference to a new Community Housing Fund to support community-based organisations backed by £4 million for local planning.

It also commits the Government to publish the long-awaited revised national planning policy guidance for self-build and custom housebuilding.

Mario Wolf, Director of Planning and Strategic Engagement at Custom Build Homes, said:

“We welcome these wide-ranging proposals and look forward to further engagement with the Government to secure their implementation. Custom build housing has a key role to play in creating well-designed communities and is an important part of housing mix to offer home owners greater choice over the design of their homes. With demand for this form of housing increasing in these unprecedented times, the policy proposals set out in revised National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code will enable more sites to come forward for high quality customisable housing on small and large sites.”