Design Policies

Our preferred policy approach to design and place making in the District over the Plan period, and the justification for this, is set out below:

Strategic Policy 15: Place Making

Place Making

The National Planning Policy Framework (2019) is clear that the creation of high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve.

Good quality, inclusive design is essential in creating and maintaining places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. Good design is not just about making places visually attractive. It has a fundamental role in achieving sustainable development, helping to create flourishing economies and diverse, vibrant and attractive local communities. The hallmark of good design is a place that is designed around people, with its own identity, that functions well and that creates variety and choice.

Delivering development that achieves design excellence, that is of the right type, and in the right location, and that adds to the existing high quality natural and built environment is a key priority for the Council.

This policy provides clear design expectations for proposals that come forward in the District and sets out a number of key principles that should inform all development from the earliest stages of the design process.

To support this policy approach, the Council will also produce a Local Design Guide for the District. The purpose of this Design Guide will be to provide clarity over what constitutes acceptable design quality for different areas in the District, and thereby provide a level of certainty for developers and the local community alike.

Strategic Policy 15: Place Making

All development in the District must achieve a high quality of design, that promotes sustainability, and fosters a positive sense of place, by responding to the following principles in an integrated and coherent way. All new development must:

Context and Identity
  • Demonstrate that they understand the context of the area, appreciate existing built form and respond positively to it.
  • Enhance character to create locally distinctive design or create character where none exists.
  • Have a positive and coherent identity that everyone can identify with and be visually attractive.
  • Where relevant, draw inspiration from traditional building forms to inform contemporary designs and materials.
Built Form
  • Make efficient use of land and promote compact forms of development that are walkable, and have access to local public transport, facilities and services.
  • Integrate into existing areas of the District, be well connected with all transport modes, and prioritise sustainable transport choices.
  • Create a clear structure and hierarchy of streets to ensure the development is easy to understand and navigate for all groups in society.
  • Give priority to people over cars, and reduce vehicle domination and vehicle speeds.
  • Demonstrate that they understand the local landscape context and bring green infrastructure into streets, open and public spaces.
  • Provide high quality green open spaces with a variety of landscapes and activities, including play, that also deliver enhanced biodiversity and flood mitigation.
Public Spaces
  • Deliver well located, high quality and attractive public spaces that are integrated into the surrounding area, support a wide variety of activities, and encourage social interaction, to promote health, well-being, social and civic inclusion.
  • Provide a mix of uses that meet local housing and employment requirements and deliver local services and facilities to support daily life and create inclusive and cohesive communities.
  • Be designed and planned to last and be well managed and maintained through long term stewardship models.

To support the delivery of high quality buildings and places in the District the Council will produce a Local Design Guide to provide clear and detailed parameters as a benchmark for design quality in the local area.

DM Policy 36: Achieving High Quality Design

Achieving High Quality Design

The District contains many established, attractive areas which are highly valued by residents and which are worthy of protection from damaging and insensitive new development. While there may be capacity to accommodate new development in many parts of the District, it should only occur where proposals are of a scale, density and design that would not cause damage to the qualities, character and amenity of the areas in which they are situated. Such development should also provide attractive high quality buildings and public realm that positively contributes to the area in which it is located, in accordance with good urban design principles. Where appropriate, the use of modern architecture and design will be embraced and innovation supported.

There will be a strong expectation that design issues will be dealt with at pre-application stage. Some major proposals will be referred to a Design Review Panel where there are significant design implications.

Design and access statements are required with most types of planning application. They should demonstrate how the Council’s key design principles, set out in Strategic Policy 15 and DM Policies 2, 36 and 37 and those in Neighbourhood Plans have been taken into account and reflected in project design. The findings of any public involvement in exhibitions or design workshops should be summarised with an explanation showing where they have influenced the design.

DM Policy 36: Achieving High Quality Design

All new development must:

Context and Identity

a. Be well designed, respect and enhance the character of the area paying particular attention to context and identity of its location, scale, massing, rhythm, layout and use of materials appropriate to the locality. The development itself must be compatible with neighbouring buildings and spaces and be inclusive in its design for all users.

Built Form

b. Be of an appropriate density (typically between 30 - 50 net dwellings per hectare) that combines the efficient use of land with high quality design that respects character and context. Higher density development will be encouraged in accessible locations, such as around transport hubs or town centres, where this is appropriate.

c. Incorporate focal points and destinations to create a sense of place and make it easy for anyone to find their way around.


d. Ensure that open spaces are designed to be high quality, multi-functional, robust and adaptable over time so that they remain fit for purpose and must be managed and maintained for continual use.

Public Spaces

e. Ensure that public spaces are faced by buildings, and are designed to be safe, secure, inclusive and attractive for all to use.

f. Incorporate trees and other planting within public spaces to promote health and well-being and provide shading.

g. Ensure that existing features, including trees, natural habitats, boundary treatments and historic street furniture, that positively contribute to the quality and character of an area, are retained, enhanced and protected where appropriate.

h. Take a coordinated approach to the design and siting of street furniture, boundary treatments, lighting, signage and public art to meet the needs of all users.

i. Ensure that new advertisements do not detract from the character and appearance of the surrounding area and do not have an adverse effect on public safety.

Homes and Buildings

j. Ensure that the siting, layout and design of vehicle and cycle parking (including detached garage blocks) is sensitively integrated into the development; maintains an attractive and coherent street scene; does not prejudice the wider functionality of public and private space; and creates an effective functional link and relationship with the buildings and areas they serve.

k. Make appropriate provision for service areas, refuse storage (including waste and recycling bins), and collection areas in accordance with the nature of the development. Such areas and access to them should be appropriately sited and designed to ensure they can:

  • Perform their role effectively without prejudicing or being prejudiced by other functions and users;
  • Maintain an attractive and coherent street scene and protect visual amenity; and
  • Avoid creating risk to human health or an environmental nuisance

l. Be adaptable to their users’ changing needs and evolving technologies.

m. Be robust, easy to use and look after, and enable their users to establish a sense of ownership.

Development proposals must provide evidence to demonstrate how they have responded positively to the design policies in the Local Plan and associated guidance, including national and local design guidance, relevant Neighbourhood Plans, Village Design Statements and site specific development briefs.

Where significant design implications are identified on major proposals these will be referred to a Design Review Panel.

DM Policy 37: Quality of Residential Accommodation

Quality of Residential Accommodation

Internal space within new dwellings is an important factor in creating homes that support a high quality of life and allow households and families to meet their current needs whilst also being flexible enough to accommodate changes in their circumstances.

A wide range of other factors also have a significant influence upon the internal and external amenity of dwellings and other types of development. These include levels of sunlight and daylight, relationship with other buildings and elements of the built environment (e.g. Roads), ventilation, and general outlook.

Paragraph 50 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that local planning authorities should identify the size, type, tenure and range of housing that is required in particular locations, reflecting local demand. The National Planning Practice Guidance further qualifies this by recommending that where a local planning authority wishes to require an internal space standard they should do so by reference in their local plan (paragraph 18).

The Council believes that everyone has the right to a high standard of residential accommodation with sufficient space to meet their own needs. There has been a general trend for houses today to be comparatively smaller than ones built a hundred years ago and these trends have led to calls for the introduction of national space standards for housing. The requirement of a minimum space standard can add to the attractiveness of the development and increase the marketability of properties, thereby widening the potential sale and rental markets

In order to ensure that new housing is built to a high standard of design and provide adequately for the changing needs of future occupants thereby improving the quality of life, the Council is intending to implement the National Described Space Standard (March 2015). The policy will apply to all tenures and it will be up to the applicant to demonstrate why these standards cannot be met within their development.

Given the District has an ageing population, increasingly there will be a need for accessible and lifetime homes, so that new houses meet the needs of the people who live in them and can be adapted across their lifetime. Developments will therefore need to be designed to last, and be flexible and adaptive in their design to respond to changes in society.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) 2017 indicates that the population aged 65 or over is going to increase dramatically in Dover District over the plan period; from 28,409 in 2020 to 43,616 in 2040, a rise of 53.5%. The projections also suggest that there will be an increase in the number of households headed by someone over 65 from 18,567 in 2020 to 29,179 in 2040, an increase of 57.1%. As a result of these emerging trends the SHMA partial update December 2019, estimates that by 2040 there will need to be between 9,813 and 10,878 dwellings built to the lifetime homes standard in the District within the general housing stock.

In order to meet the changing needs of this increasing age group, the Council will encourage developers to consider the future needs of households when designing residential units. The Council requires as a minimum, all new development to be designed to building regulation optional requirement M4 (2) accessible and adaptable dwellings. In respect of the Building Regulation optional requirement M4 (3) wheelchair user dwellings, in accordance with national guidance this can only be required on units where the local authority has nomination rights, i.e. within the affordable rented element of a development. This requirement will be applied on sites of 20 dwellings or more, where the Council will require 5% of the total dwellings to meet this standard.

This policy supports the general aim of the Plan to improve the quality of life and health of the residents of the District and ensuring a high standard of design. These standards aim to future proof new development in a sustainable way ensuring adaptability to changing needs and achieving longevity of design.

DM Policy 37: Quality of Residential Accommodation

All new development must:

a. Be compatible with neighbouring buildings and spaces and not lead to unacceptable living conditions through overlooking, noise or vibration, odour, light pollution, overshadowing, loss of natural light or sense of enclosure.

b. Be of appropriate size and layout with sufficient usable space to facilitate comfortable and safe living conditions.

c. Meet the governments latest Nationally Described Space Standards in respect of internal accommodation;

d. Meet the accessibility standards set out in Part M4 of the Building Regulations.

  • On schemes of up to 19 dwellings, the Council will expect all new build development to be built in compliance with building regulation part M4(2).
  • On schemes of 20 or more dwellings, the Council will require 5% of the development to be built in compliance with building regulation M4(3) (wheelchair accessible homes), with the remaining development to be built in compliance with building regulation part M4(2). 

e. Provide well designed private or shared external amenity space/play space on-site, that is fit for purpose and well related to the development.

f. Provide flexible and adaptive homes for home working and more intensive use.

g. Provide sufficient clothes drying facilities.

Planning applications must be supported with clear information to demonstrate that the above requirements have been met.