Blueprints such as Greater Manchester Spatial Framework would have to combine growth with design quality

Urbed selected to write National Model Design Code

The Manchester-based urban design co-operative has been selected by ministers to draw up essential guidance for directing local authorities on design factors to consider alongside the forthcoming radical planning reforms.

The consultancy job, costing up to £80,000, was won following competitive tender. Urbed will set parameters for key items of successful design. This code will then be adapted to local needs by councils.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick trailed the code in October as he unveiled the National Design Guide during the run-up to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s final report, published in January. Jenrick said the code would be “an important milestone in securing a step-change in the quality of design” in this country.

Factors expected to feature in the code include:

  • Facades of buildings
  • How landscaping should be approached
  • Importance of streets being tree-lined wherever possible
  • New developments should utilise a pattern of clear front and backs
  • Developments should clearly take account of local vernacular, architecture and materials
  • Combined authorities and elected mayors to consider design quality and beauty in relation to growth and placemaking

Earlier this month, the government published a white paper on planning reform that, if adopted, would mark the most radical rewriting of the rules around development for decades.

A spokesperson for Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, said: “Although the recent planning reform announcement mentions design coding, Urbed is not involved in the planning reform work directly. Any questions on this or the work we are doing on design codes should be referred to MHCLG.

The design code will be part of the shift towards presumed planning consent in principle if certain design standards are met in areas zoned for renewal.

A spokesperson for Urbed said: “We are very pleased to have been appointed and are excited to be working on the project.”

Urbed was founded more than 40 years ago and is based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The multidisciplinary practice works on urban design, planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and sustainability. The firm was appointed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to work on the second draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

Consultation into the National Model Design Code is expected to open in November.

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It’s worth noting that a design code was used in Lower Broughton (New Broughton) to some success although I believe the process to put it in place was quite lengthy and onerous.

In terms of layout, open space and urban design principles New Broughton isn’t bad but you still ended up with cookie cutter style houses in the later phases and space standards that, I believe, are no different from Countryside’s standard product. It’s no Hulme but much better than a standard developer ‘estate’. Who pays for the infrastructure and amenities will be the key issue I think.

By Plan watch