Fitting in with local character and achieving consent are both common obstacles when seeking to gain planning and build new homes. Chesham is an infamous example of this problem, having rebelled against Conservative planning reforms by delivering a Liberal Democrat MP in 2021 (in a historically very safe Conservative seat) after a substantial development was proposed which did not find favour amongst locals. This planning rebellion put an end to proposed Tory planning reforms around zoning.
Chesham still required houses after the rebellion and the town began to draw up four Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) that would provide guidance on density and design on 19 sites within the area.
The four NDOs were decided through consultation, allowing residents to input into what buildings they considered beautiful or ugly and, through this process, narrowed down proposed design choices to nine building ‘types’ and a ‘book of materials’, ranging from a Victorian warehouse aesthetic for flats to a Georgian-esque terraced design.
Cllr Nick Southworth, the Chesham councillor behind the NDOs, stated that the design specifications put residents in charge, and allowed developers to know upfront what they can build and where.
Soon every council will need to draw up a design code under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. We must hope the Chesham NDOs provide the certainty all parties need to make development a success.