National Model Design Code recognises importance of custom build housing in creating beautiful communities


Custom Build Homes (CBH) welcomes the government’s announcement (Tuesday, 20 July) launching a range of measures to achieve its vision for building beautiful places and putting people at the heart of new neighbourhoods, with an expectation that new housing projects should include custom build as part of the housing mix. 

In publishing the National Model Design Code (NMDC) the Government has provided detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design. An important element of good design when planning for all new housing set out in the Code is to provide for a mix of homes that custom build where possible. This should give councils the confidence to secure custom build housing on larger sites and give preference to schemes where such housing is proposed as part of the mix.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also announced a new Office of Place to drive up design standards, testing and piloting the NMDC.

The NMDC also includes supporting Guidance Notes which, for the first time, define what custom build housing is – namely new homes built on serviced building plots that are designed or customised for the occupant and the purchaser has input into the design, this can also include different house types and tenures. This helps to provide much needed clarification in terms of what type of housing Ministers consider to fall within the legal definition under the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 which is currently under review.

Design codes along with plot-based masterplans and plot passports are also recognised as important tools when planning for self-build and custom build.

To support the implementation of the NMDC the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been revised to set an expectation that all local planning authorities are to prepare local design guides or design codes consistent with the principles in the NMDC and which reflect local character and design preferences. The NPPF also expects that development which is not well designed should be refused.

New houses will also be expected to be built on tree-lined streets with an emphasis on well-designed local architecture and support for walking and cycling to boost health, wellbeing and happiness.

The government aims to digitalise the planning system to streamline planning decisions supported by design codes and enable local people to better navigate and access the planning process with online map-based local plans. This will allow people to visualise local plans for development and participate more fully in the planning system.

Mario Wolf, CBH Director of Planning & Strategic Engagement at Custom Build Homes, said:

“The changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and new National Model Design Code mark an important step change in the consideration of design quality and the use of design codes in the planning and development process.

“The recognition that custom build housing is as an integral part of well-designed new housing schemes should not be under-estimated and we will be advising our clients that it forms an increasingly important material consideration when new projects are submitted for planning.”

CBH is well positioned to maximise the opportunities from this latest announcement for its clients. All our developments are demand led and sit well with this range of new planning measures. We generate data from our subscribers who have expressed an interest in creating their own home and use this data to inform our masterplans and customisable housing products to communities. We currently have a database of over 100,000 people actively looking for a building opportunity.

CBH specialise in the preparation of design codes and plot passports for self-commissioned housing projects and typically use these for all our development projects. This ensures the look and feel of the places we create take full account of local preferences and fit into an area’s local vernacular. We typically work with a range of different types of landowners and match the development opportunity to the preferences of people who are actively looking to create their own homes. This maximises value and ensures that the development is built out as fast as the market allows. 

Our schemes also align with the government’s ambition to deliver housing via more innovative and modern methods of construction (MMC) which the NMDC supports.

The delivery of custom build housing using MMC can be supported by design codes and maintain consistency where customisable house types are used on larger phased developments. MMC can also reduce time on-site and therefore disruption to new and existing communities, which is especially important on bespoke custom build plots as sites are built out.

Using MMC over traditional building methods can also improve building performance with higher levels of air tightness and insulation which can mean a more sustainable and energy efficient house for new homebuyers. This is also what our demand surveys for sites consistently tell us. Infill and brownfield sites within existing urban contexts could also benefit from our customisable housing products as the impact on the surrounding neighbours is minimised given the reduced time spent on site.


Latest Issue

BDC 317 : Jun 2024