Guides & Advice

National Design Code: What is 'beautiful'?

Published: 26th April 2021
Area: Urban Design

With new priorities for both the government and homeowners triggered by the pandemic, the planning sector has had to adapt. To meet these changes, the government has issued a 10-point plan to improve living standards, named the National Design Code. This forms part of the Planning Practice Guidance. It aims to help developers reach higher liveability standards and create 'beautiful' homes in thriving communities.

The Design Guide illustrates how well designed places that are beautiful, greener, enduring and successful can be achieved in practice. However, what does 'beautiful' really mean, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this new code?

What is the National Design Code?

The National Design Code outlines 10 points for developers to follow when designing a home. The two main focuses are quality and sustainable building. However, it also highlights the need to keep properties in tune with local communities as well as create homes that meet peoples' evolving needs.

Each of the 10 principles shows what the government's goals are for properties in the coming years. They are:


  • Lifespan - Creating homes that are made to last.
  • Context - Enhancing the location and taking advantage of local characteristics.
  • Identity - Making every home attractive and distinctive.
  • Built form - Considering surroundings to create a coherent development.
  • Movement - Making accessibility a key feature.
  • Nature - Enhancing nature and green spaces.
  • Public spaces - Creating a place with the community at its heart, offering a range of social areas.
  • Uses - Mixed use of the land.
  • Homes and building - Building for tomorrow, with functionality and sustainability in mind.
  • Resources - Using resources efficiently to maximise their uses.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The ambitious framework discusses 'beautiful' places. Beauty is, of course,  a subjective quality. However, according to the government's chief architect, a beautiful home will be one that perfectly addresses the 10-points outlined.

Beauty may be subjective, but quality is not. Perhaps using the Code as a base to design on will be the best use of the framework, giving projects direction without forcing designers to lose their flair.

What are the pros and cons?

The major pros of the proposed National Design Code include the emphasis on the role that local authorities and communities play in the design of places, and the clear framework that it provides to house designers.

On the other hand, the emphasis on local culture could be a difficult goal to achieve. Councils will have varying aspects they would like to focus on and different resources available, so it may be a challenge for developers to reach a finalised plan that ticks every box.

There's also the possibility that the framework could force developers to 'design by numbers', creating housing developments with little personality.

Although the National Design Code provides developers with a great foundation, it's important for designers to bear in mind that 'beauty' is subjective. However, by building on the 10 points and working closely with local authorities, developers will be able to achieve the results desired by both the government and homeowners.

Watch our free webinar, with an expert guest panel, on whether the proposed changes will make a positive impact.

Contact us

For any further information contact Richard Cooke or David Pendle in our dedicated planning consultancy team, Marrons Planning.

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