If developers see this as new freedom from red tape and local people are claiming it as protection for their way of life can they both be right or will the planners at the local authority now be squeezed from both sides so hard that their heads will pop off?
Meanwhile, the architecture press is heralding this as step change for design and architecture to feature so prominently in the national guidance. Indeed, PPS1 (2005) had two mentions of architecture and the NPPF now has three - that’s progress. Much of the text does seem to be familiar to users of PPS1.
The draft NPPF was potentially controversial. The actual document an evolution and not a revolution and I find it hard to see it as the biggest shake up of the planning system in two generations.
Most welcome amendment between the draft and the final is the removal of the word ‘obviously’ from the statement in paragraph 64. It is clear that poor design should be refused. The government has also given some guidance on who should decide what good design, perhaps what poor design, is. The government expects local authorities to have design review arrangements in place at the local level and that ‘major’ schemes should be referred to a national body; currently Design Council cabe. This was more the case at BDC cabe (Before Design Council cabe) in the old days when it only reviewed schemes with 'more than local significance'. This definition allowed shopping centres and town extensions as well as tall buildings to come before cabe but prevented the run of the mill smaller schemes that in reality affected very few people and those that it did affect could choose not to live there. Somewhere along the line it was decided that this wasn’t very representative of the 'public', so cabe got pushed into meddling in some small scale schemes, by capable architects for ordinary developers in places where there was little affect one way or the other and where the local authority had little interest anyway. Applicants felt that they were being picked on after a random selection. Just the sort of thing that the government is saying slows down economic development.
So it is a very welcomed return to reviewing the things that matter most of the time - the significant schemes. Whether, highly regarded design review services such as are apparent now in some london boroughs and in Essex and Shape East, for example, will need to refer anything to cabe other than mayor infrastructure remains to be seen. However, the views of a design review panel are to be taken into account by local authorities in determining planning applications. This gives design review panels some teeth and makes it far more likely to be a service that is valued and therefore paid for.
So hang on to the PPGs and PPSs, By Design and Better Places to Live aren’t history yet and join your local design review panel.