Following the publication of the White Paper last month, Robert Jenrick announced on 22 September 2020 that he was appointing Nicholas Boys Smith, co-chair of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, to chair a steering group to advise ministers on how to help communities set binding design codes for local development taking into account beauty and environmental standards. The details surrounding how the codes will be considered in the context of planning applications is yet to be announced, and it may be that they are considered a material consideration in the determination of an application. The fact that they are to be prepared locally is likely to cause a divergence in standards between neighbouring authorities, which will need to be borne in mind for any schemes straddling administrative boundaries.

Robert Jenrick has also announced Charles O’Brien, historian and commissioner at Historic England, as the government’s listing heritage adviser to help conserve historic buildings. His role will be to work with Historic England to identify ten local authorities which would benefit from an increased number of assets classified as locally listed. Although locally listed buildings are not treated in the same way as formal heritage assets in terms of statutory planning controls (for example listed buildings), the NPPF definition of heritage assets includes local listings. Under NPPF paragraphs 121 and 126, this means that local planning authorities should take into account the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of such heritage assets and of putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation and the consideration of the positive contribution that conserving such heritage assets can make to sustainable communities including their economic vitality. This will be a material consideration when determining the outcome of a planning application affecting the asset or its setting. Historic England Advice Note 7 is a useful reference for further information about local listings.

We will continue to monitor these changes as more details come to light and keep you updated to assess whether the appointments lead to more permanent long term impacts.