The Bartlett


Professor Carmona discusses new National Planning Practice Guidance

17 December 2013

Aerial image of buildings in an urban area with an angled structure

Research by Matthew Carmona, Professor of Planning and Urban Design at The Bartlett School of Planning, has formed a major part of the new National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG), an online resource for planners.  

The NPPG aims to provide simplified guidance that anyone can follow, avoiding the technicality of previous planning guides. 

Professor Carmona’s work on design codes, mechanisms for delivering efficient and high quality urban design, has been fundamental to the Government’s planning strategy, and support for design codes survived the streamlining process in the official guidance. The ‘design’ paragraphs of the NPPG are divided into three concise sections, with the final part dedicated to the question ‘When should a design code be considered?’.

Since the adoption of design codes by planning authorities, the practice has become increasingly mainstream, with hundreds of new unsolicited codes being produced independently by private developers. According to Carmona, there is no argument for over-complication and inaccessibility in government guidance, the risk however is to go too far in the opposite direction, producing advice on planning that is accessible, but lacking in depth. 

Commenting on the design paragraphs specifically, Carmona said: ‘We seem to be ending up with something that is easy to read, but says little more than the policy it seeks to illuminate, and is certainly of little use in informing the work of professional planners in need of real resources, some of which will be unashamedly technical.” 

He suggests, considering the complexity of town planning as a public service, that the needs of the audience have failed to be understood. “Planning, through its operationalization, and essential purpose, is political, discretionary, open to challenge, and capable of many paths to implementation. It needs serious technical support, rather than a stripped down, lowest common denominator set of notes.”

Read Professor Carmona's new article 'The Place-shaping Continuum: A Theory of Urban Design Process' in the Journal of Urban Design at: bit.ly/placeshaping

Watch Professor Carmona introduce his new article on The Bartlett's YouTube channel.