Formalise: determine the status of the code

As with a masterplan, you must determine up-front what the formal status of a code is going to be.

Preparing Design Codes sets out four options:

  • formal adoption, within which there are further possibilities: adoption as a development control document or supplementary planning document, as development control guidelines or as highways standards
  • formalised through development control: submission of the code as part of an outline, reserved matters or detailed planning application
  • as a local development order (LDO): a local planning authority can approve a code and allow compliant proposals as permitted development, that is, without the need for a planning application
  • formalised through exercise of freehold rights via a development agreement or covenant

Selecting the appropriate route requires you to consider the status of the plan that a code will operate, formal requirements, resource implications, the potential for community involvement and the degree of control you require.

The LDO route would require comparatively more up-front preparation than other routes and would tend to be used only in less contentious development contexts. Although this has not been tested in the UK, other countries, such as Australia, have extended permitted development rights in this way by allowing development proposals that can be shown to have met performance criteria – based on defined 'acceptable solutions' in the code – without the need for a detailed application.

Coding through development agreements can be useful for prescribing the circumstances and details under which parcel developers sell freehold rights on to potential purchasers. Covenants are often used for very specific prescription – such as guaranteeing on-street parking in perpetuity. A drawback of these mechanisms is that they are based on private agreements, thereby taking the negotiations out of any kind of public scrutiny.