Design code

Background information

Design Codes have been part of the planning system for several years. However, the Government’s Planning for the Future White Paper (August 2020) has brought them back to the forefront of our plan-making and decision-taking responsibilities. 

Elmbridge Borough Council is preparing a new Local Plan which will include policies to shape development in the borough for the next 15 years. Among the strategic and high-level Development Management policies within the Local Plan, there will be other Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) with the aim of providing more specific details and guidance on how these policies will be implemented. The Design Code is one such document; it will support the implementation of policies relating to design matters in Elmbridge.

What is a Design Code?

The purpose of Design Codes is to set out clear expectations for design quality, beauty and sustainability. It is a set of illustrated design requirements that provide specific, detailed parameters for the physical development of a site or area. The visual and written components of the code should build upon a design vision for an area. Its content informed by 10 specific features of good places, called characteristics, set out in the National Design Guide, and the National Model Design Code.

The aim of these documents is to help local authorities and communities decide what good quality design looks like in their area based on the local aspirations for how this area shall develop. Once created, the Design Code will be taken into account when determining planning applications.

The requirement for every local planning authority to produce a Design Code or a Design Guide is set out by the Government in its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF 2021).

Preparing a Design Code

The process of preparing a Design Code is split into 3 stages, each comprising of 2 steps: 

Stage 1: Analysis 

  • Scoping: agreeing on the geographical area to be covered by the code. 
  • Baseline: the analysis that will underpin the code and inform its contents. 

Stage 2: Vision

  • Design Vision: dividing the area covered by the code into a set of typical ‘area types’ and deciding on a vision for each of these area types.
  • Coding Plan: preparing a plan that maps out each of the area types.

Stage 3: Code

  • Guidance for area types: developing guidance for each area type. 
  • General guidance: agreeing on a set of policies that will apply equally across all area types.

Community engagement

Community engagement and the views of those who live and work in the area are key to the success of our Design Code. To enable local communities to be involved in this process and as wide participation as possible, there will be 3 consultations carried out at different stages of the project: 

  1. Initial engagement with local communities, developers and other stakeholders. The aim is to provide residents and local businesses with information about what a code is and how it is developed; and to find out who wishes to be involved and how.  
  2. Analysis of areas. The opportunity to ascertain what residents and businesses views are of their areas, how these are experienced and what is the reality.
  3. Design vision. Based on how Elmbridge will develop in the future, as set out in the new Local Plan, and to be developed with the community.

Progress so far

We undertook the initial consultation on the preparation of a Design Code and this ended on 11 February 2022. We are currently reviewing your responses which will inform the Consultation Strategy.

Throughout the Design Code process up until its adoption, a dedicated email address is available where you can send your Design Code project related enquiries: designcode@elmbridge.gov.uk

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