National Design Guide: Planning practice guidance for beautiful, enduring and successful places

Author MHCLG

This resource, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in 2021, outlines national design guidance for creating beautiful, enduring, and successful places. It provides practical planning advice around the 10 characteristics informing well-designed places: context; identity; built form; movement; nature; public spaces; uses; homes and buildings; resources; and lifespan.

Date added 30 November 2021
Last updated 30 November 2021

*This resource is about planning and urban design. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to appearance, recreational space, and vision priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This MHCLG resource provides practical national design guidance for creating beautiful, enduring, and successful places, which forms part of the Government’s series of planning practice guidance and tools. As the resource suggests, it is of particular use for local authority planning officers, councillors who make planning decisions, urban design teams, local communities and their representatives.

The guidance identifies how planners need to focus beyond just the appearance and detailing of buildings, to also thinking about issues around layout, form and scale of buildings, landscape, and materials. The design advice is organised around the 10 characteristics the authors argue inform the character of places, how they nurture and sustain a sense of community, and have the potential to address the climate emergency. For each characteristic, practical design advice is included alongside best practice examples. These 10 characteristics are outlined below:

Context- “An understanding of the context, history and the cultural characteristics of a site, neighbourhood and region influences the location, siting and design of new developments. It means they are well grounded in their locality and more likely to be acceptable to existing communities” (p. 10).

Identity- “The identity or character of a place comes from the way that buildings, streets and spaces, landscape and infrastructure combine together and how people experience them. It is not just about the buildings or how a place looks, but how it engages with all of the senses. Local character makes places distinctive and memorable and helps people to find their way around” (p.14).

Built form - “Built form is the three-dimensional pattern or arrangement of development blocks, streets, buildings and open spaces. It is the interrelationship between all these elements that creates an attractive place to live, work and visit, rather than their individual characteristics. Together they create the built environment and contribute to its character and sense of place” (p.18).

Movement - “Patterns of movement for people are integral to well-designed places. They include walking and cycling, access to facilities, employment and servicing, parking and the convenience of public transport. They contribute to making high quality places for people to enjoy” (p.22).

Nature - “Nature contributes to the quality of a place, and to people’s quality of life, and it is a critical component of well-designed places. Natural features are integrated into well-designed development. They include natural and designed landscapes, high quality public open spaces, street trees, and other trees, grass, planting and water” (p.26).

Public spaces- “Public spaces are streets, squares, and other spaces that are open to all. They are the setting for most movement. The design of a public space encompasses its siting and integration into the wider network of routes as well as its various elements. These include areas allocated to different users – cars, cyclists and pedestrians” (p.30).

Uses - “Well-designed neighbourhoods need to include an integrated mix of tenures and housing types that reflect local housing need and market demand. They are designed to be inclusive and to meet the changing needs of people of different ages and abilities” (p.34).

Homes and buildings - “Well-designed homes and buildings are functional, accessible and sustainable. They provide internal environments and associated external spaces that support the health and well- being of their users and all who experience them” (p. 38).

Resources- “Well-designed places and buildings conserve natural resources including land, water, energy and materials. Their design responds to the impacts of climate change by being energy efficient and minimising carbon emissions to meet net zero by 2050” (p.42).

Lifespan - “Well-designed places sustain their beauty over the long term. They add to the quality of life of their users and as a result, people are more likely to care for them over their lifespan. They have an emphasis on quality and simplicity” (p.46).