Here’s what a design code can’t do, minister

Jas Bhalla, principal of Jas Bhalla Architects 1

There are some fundamental issues the government must address before its new model design code can make any difference, writes Jas Bhalla

When the idea of a national design code was first mooted, I like many others questioned how useful a guide covering development across England could be. It was encouraging, therefore, to learn the new national model design code is not a code in itself, but rather a guide setting out how local authorities should audit local character and create bespoke place-based standards; essentially a design guide on producing good design guidance.

There is undoubtedly much to be praised in the publication. It deals with different scales, densities, and contexts with precision, demonstrating why urban character is more complex than a discussion around style. Despite this, there are fundamental issues associated with the planning and development process that have a greater bearing on design quality, and to which characterisation and coding are inadequate responses.

Design quality begins within decisions around site allocation and the interdependence between new homes, infrastructure, jobs, and amenities. Bereft of investment and political will, it’s all too common for local authorities to bring forward sites that are most readily available as opposed to those that can support the right type of development. Even the most articulate coding is not capable of preventing poorly connected, leftover slivers of greenfield land from becoming the car-dependent cul-de-sacs of tomorrow.

This is premium content. 

Only logged in subscribers have access to it.

Login or SUBSCRIBE to view this story

Gated access promo

Existing subscriber? LOGIN

A subscription to Building Design will provide:

  • Unlimited architecture news from around the UK
  • Reviews of the latest buildings from all corners of the world
  • Full access to all our online archives
  • PLUS you will receive a digital copy of WA100 worth over £45.

Subscribe now for unlimited access.

Alternatively REGISTER for free access on selected stories and sign up for email alerts