The Bartlett School of Planning


New BSP-led Report: Testing Design Codes in England

26 June 2022

Design code pilots, monitoring and evaluation framework

Design codes are defined by the UK Government as "a set of simple, concise, illustrated design requirements that are visual and numerical wherever possible to provide specific, detailed parameters for the physical development of a site or area".

Following the publication of the National Model Design Code (NMDC) in 2021, which provides detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design, the Government launched a six month pilot programme to test the preparation of design codes by local authority-led teams across England. 

Professor Matthew Carmona led the monitoring and evaluation of the pilot which ran between April and September 2021 and involved sixteen local authorities, spread across fifteen pilot teams, sharing fourteen awards of £50,000 to assist them in their work.

Design codes have gained a new status in the English planning system and their use looks set to grow and grow.  Like any tool, there will be good design codes and bad ones and just having a code in place is no guarantee that design quality will be delivered.  They need to be well conceived, carefully crafted and consistently executed to achieve that, and all these things take time, skills and resources to secure.  However, when done well, as other research has shown, they do have the potential to deliver superior design outcomes...

- Professor Matthew Carmona (matthew-carmona.com

The report will be crucial in informing the recently announced second phase of pilots in which 25 councils will receive a share of £3 million to set local design codes.

Useful Links