The NPPF (2019) states that Plans should set out a clear design vision and expectations, so that applicants have as much certainty as possible about what is likely to be acceptable. The NPPF (2019) also recommends that plans or supplementary planning documents should use visual tools such as design guides and codes to provide maximum clarity about design expectations at an early stage.
The National Planning Policy Framework is supported by a suite of planning practice guidance that is relevant to both design quality and quality in delivery. The underlying purpose for design quality and the quality of new development at all scales is to create well-designed and well-built places that benefit people and communities.
The National Design Guide (2019) addresses the question of how we recognise well designed places, by outlining and illustrating the Government’s priorities for well-designed places in the form of ten characteristics:
- Context – enhances the surroundings.
- Identity – attractive and distinctive.
- Built form – a coherent pattern of development.
- Movement – accessible and easy to move around.
- Nature – enhanced and optimised.
- Public spaces – safe, social and inclusive.
- Uses – mixed and integrated.
- Homes and buildings – functional, healthy and sustainable.
- Resources – efficient and resilient.
- Lifespan – made to last.
The report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, Living with Beauty, published in Jan 2020 highlights a number of issues with the current system and proposes a new development and planning framework which will:
- Ask for beauty and ensure that new developments are beautiful places where people want to live and can flourish;
- Free people from the blight of ugliness by regenerating derelict and damaged places; and
- Ensure long-term stewardship of our built heritage and of the natural environment in which it is placed.
At a local level, the Council has adopted the Kent Design Guide as a Supplementary Planning Document. The Kent Design Guide seeks to provide a starting point for good design while retaining scope for creative, individual approaches to different buildings and different areas. It aims to assist designers and others to achieve high standards of design and construction by promoting a common approach to the main principles which underlie Local Planning Authorities’ criteria for assessing planning applications. It also seeks to ensure that the best of Kent’s places remain to enrich the environment for future generations. The Guide does not seek to restrict designs for new development to any historic Kent vernacular. Rather it aims to encourage well considered and contextually sympathetic schemes that create developments where people really want to live, work and enjoy life.
Dover has a rich and diverse built and natural environment, and the District's towns, villages, rural and coastal areas all have their own distinct character and unique history that is valued by local communities. It is important that new development in the District respects this and seeks to enhance the Districts environment by creating places that are attractive, well connected and legible, that harmonise with the surrounding built form or landscape, whilst seeking, where appropriate, to embrace the best of modern architecture and design so that innovation is not stifled.
New residential developments should not be 'housing led' in respect of their design, instead residential amenity, open space, landscaping and high quality public realm should be at the core of all new schemes to ensure the creation of high quality places. New commercial and mixed use developments should also seek to create places that are high quality in terms of their public realm, where parking and servicing is discreet, and the emphasis is on active street frontages which create safe and welcoming places.
Dover Town Centre in particular offers opportunities for significant change through the redevelopment of vacant sites and replacement of poorly designed buildings. Developments with innovative layouts which maximise the use of a site and, where appropriate, make use of multiple levels are encouraged, having regard to local context and the historic setting of the town. Proposed schemes that aim to achieve landmark buildings should be of demonstrably outstanding architecture. Furthermore, good design is not a cost, to be negotiated away once planning permission has been obtained. It is the benchmark that all new developments should meet. Good design should be considered an intrinsic part of good place making and should be considered at the start of the design process for any development.