Agenda item

Joint Design Guide

For scrutiny committee to consider the Joint Design Guide and provide any comments or recommendations to the Cabinet Member for Planning.


Councillor Sue Cooper addressed the committee, as she was Cabinet Member for Climate, she wanted to share some thoughts. In summary, she felt that the guide was very good and was in support of it, but had some comments as follows:

·       The new version circulated was an improvement

·       Climate and sustainability section was good, and we should consider this for extensions. It was felt some statements appear to contradict climate change and sustainability principles, particularly the figures 43 to 46.

·       Energy inefficient outside walls should be covered during extensions if they lose heat. The diagram labelled red (simple build, covers the old wall) would be more sustainable and efficient. Would rather a plain functional extension rather than a more complex build with smaller, multiple joins.

·       Questioned why there was a requirement for a setback by a third.

·       Cabinet member considered that the guide and its updates were a great improvement.


This item was introduced by Cabinet Member for Planning (South), Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson. Also supporting the item was Cabinet Member for Planning Policy (Vale), Councillor Debby Hallett. Officers Jake Bassett and Marta Bou-Fernandez were present to answer technical questions, along with Head of Planning, Adrian Duffield.


Cabinet member for Planning (South) explained that the design guide was intended to support high quality development for both districts, containing advice and giving clarity on sustainable design, and supporting our corporate priorities on climate emergency. It was a Supplementary Planning Document, produced in-house by the hard work of officers, and will support decision making for planning applications. It will have greater accessibility with its online format. The external consultation had led to amendments and then some further minor amendments as presented. Councillors had been directed to view those amendments by comparison of the old and new website links. Thanks were given to the Joint Design Guide working group for their input.

Cabinet member for Vale added that she was excited about this document and felt it was an exemplar piece of work. Working together on this planning document paves the way for further joint working. Central Government changes in planning policy could lead to a further review of the design guide in future and strengthening of climate emergency targets.


The committee asked questions and made comments, of which the main points are summarised below.


  • Discussion was had about the amended diagram figures 43 and 44. Officers would check these to ensure they were correctly labelled. Regarding the guidance on suitable home extensions (coded red for not likely acceptable, amber and green for acceptable in principle), some members queried whether this should be so prescriptive. Officers responded to this, explaining that the figures were to give guidance and all planning applications are assessed on their own merits, but they needed to be sympathetic to local character and the original dwelling (well established design principles, as in the NPPF and national Design Code). Permitted development was the figure labelled in green. The other coloured diagrams show examples where permission would likely be required.
  • Some members of the committee expressed that there was some difficulty cross referencing the guide that was to be published online. Difficult to search keywords through the whole document. After discussion officers did offer a solution of providing a plain text version that could be searched, but once a document was agreed by Cabinet, the full functionality of our website including a search function would be available.
  • The committee agreed that the Joint Design Guide was a very good piece of work and thanked the officers involved.
  • A member felt that the colour scheme of the document was not always ideal for ease of reading. Officer explained that the document was made to meet the requirements of accessibility guidance for web design.
  • Officer advised that they could add a sentence into the guide regarding the suggestion to include underground parking (where viable) for residential property development. A member questioned car club schemes and the Head of Planning confirmed that this can be secured under Section 106.
  • A committee member wanted to see strengthening of using hedgerows / soft boundary treatments, as these should be as important as trees. Another idea was to add advice for householders on ways to support ‘dark skies’ (, avoiding artificial lights to support nature).
  • Identified some link errors at the beginning of the guide – officers to check.
  • A member of the committee asked for strengthened wording, noting that the word ensure was less common and replaced with “if you are considering”. Suggested wording was “in order to make your house more sustainable”. This was discussed and officers did agree with the desire to strengthen wording, however national policy does not back up stronger wording – at this stage, we can only encourage. If we make demands where there was no policy to back up the stronger requests, there could be judicial reviews and appeals as a result, which we could lose (wasting officer time and work). The development of a new Joint Local Plan should assist this strengthening in future, and at that stage we would also update the Joint Design Guide. Overall, the aim was to encourage, and we hope for a shift in national policy to support strengthened wording in our guidance. Our guidance needed to link to our currently adopted local plans. Planning reforms may help in the future to strengthen the planning weight used in decision making.
  • Can there be more detail on what was meant by permitted development?
  • Request to make weblinks on the document a different, more stand-out colour.
  • A member asked officers to check inconsistency on distances – ‘no more than 1 metre’ on figures and ‘no more than 1.2 metres’ in the body text.
  • Solar and wind renewable energy in AONBs was suggested for the guide. Officers reminded that this was guidance, but the Joint Local Plan will help strengthen this. There was high level mention of renewable energy in the guide, under the header ‘Natural features and resources’.



Chair concluded the meeting by summarising the key points made:

1. creating a searchable document online – officers had offered a solution

2. a link to permitted development information requested

3. Hedge and soft boundary treatments and information on Dark Skies

4. Look into word strengthening where it was deemed viable to do so.


Officers and Cabinet Members were thanked, along with officers supporting the management of the meeting.


Supporting documents: