7.1 Design is not only concerned with how places look but with how places work and are used by people. It is to do with the interaction between people and places, the built form, movement in and around this form and the natural environment.

7.2 Design is an integral part of creating sustainable environments; it can aid with the careful use of natural resources and help with social progress. A poor environment can affect the quality of life of residents; good design can help improve the environment and help create lively places with well-used safe and accessible streets and spaces.

7.3 This chapter sets out the major design principles and policies that need to be considered within the district to ensure the highest quality of design in all new developments, to preserve and enhance the overall quality of design in the district.


7.4 The value of urban design and its role in the planning system has become increasingly important in the past few years. The Government's 'Quality in Town and Country' initiative in 1996 and the Urban Design Campaign marked a turnaround in government thinking. The quality of design in new development is now recognised as one of the three key aims of the planning system with which local authorities should be concerned. Good design will help to encourage more sustainable and viable communities for the future.

7.5 Over the past few years, the Government has paid increasing attention to the design and sustainability of settlements. In the past, greater attention was paid to preserving and enhancing 'special areas', such as Conservation Areas (i.e. 'making the best better') and less regard was paid to the other areas, which were often those that needed time and money spent on them. Current government policy aims to enhance the vitality and viability of urban areas by improving urban design and encouraging the use of previously developed land without causing town cramming. Whilst raising residential densities is important, the quality of design of such developments is equally if not more important.

7.6 The publication of the revised PPG1 in 1997 gave a high priority to design in planning. The latest versions of other PPGs, in particular PPG3, have also given an increased importance to the quality of design in new development. In summary, government guidance on design promotes:

  • High quality, mixed use developments;

  • That the design of buildings and urban design both require an understanding of the context in which the development takes place;

  • That good design can promote sustainability, improve the environment, attract business and investment and reinforce civic pride and a sense of place;

  • Attention should be paid and weight given to the impact of new development on existing buildings;

  • New residential development should be well designed, concentrated principally in existing urban areas and make a significant contribution to promoting urban renaissance;

  • The need to travel, in particular by car, should be reduced by influencing the location of different types of development and fostering forms of development which encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport;

  • That landscaping should play an integral part in all new development;

  • That applicants for planning permission should be able to demonstrate how the need for good design has been taken account of in development proposals and that regard has been paid to relevant planning policies, design guidance and good practice guidance;

  • Local authorities should reject poor design, but should not impose a particular taste or style on development, unless it is to promote and reinforce local distinctiveness.

7.7 In addition to the PPGs, other reports and guidance have been published which seek to raise design quality. The Urban Task Force report, published in June 1999, recognises the importance of design excellence in producing sustainable development, as well as social inclusion and environmental responsibility. This has been reflected in the Government's Urban White Paper, 'Our Towns and Cities: The Future' published in November 2000. More detailed design guidance can be found in 'By Design, Urban Design in the Planning System: Towards Better Practice', published in May 2000 by DETR and CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) and also in 'By Design: Better Places to Live' published in September 2001 by the DTLR and CABE, which is a companion guide to PPG3. The County Structure Plan states that the design of development will be expected to help achieve the sustainability aims and objectives of the Plan.

7.8 The Crime and Disorder Act introduced by the Government in 1998 obliges local authorities to take account of community safety in its plans and decisions. 'Designing out Crime' is an important element of good design, to make environments safer and enable people using them to feel safe. Circular 5/94, 'Planning Out Crime' contains further information on this and developers may also wish to contact the Hertfordshire Constabulary Architectural Liaison Officer before submitting planning applications.

7.9 In the past the emphasis has been on preserving and enhancing 'special' areas with recognised quality such as Conservation Areas, i.e. making the best better, but it is now recognised that high quality design should be incorporated in all new development. Also, up to now rigid, quantitative standards have been applied to design, resulting in development which is often stifled in terms of imaginative and innovative design and is of a mediocre standard.

Strategy and Objectives

7.10 The strategy and objectives of the Plan for design are set out below:

  1. To ensure the highest quality of design in all new developments to help create vital and viable environments in which to live, work, shop, spend leisure time and invest;

  2. The design of new developments will be expected to respect and enhance local distinctiveness and character, whilst allowing for innovative design and new technology to be used;

  3. Applicants for planning permission will be expected to show how their proposals meet the design principles and policies in the Plan and the Supplementary Design Guidance.


Quality of Design

7.11 The quality of design in parts of the district is historically of a high quality and the Council wish to see good quality design in all new developments in the district. The district is home to two planned towns; Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City, which is internationally famed as an example of a Garden City. In the towns can be seen some early examples of good urban design; the importance of this should be built on to make the whole district a good example of urban design.

7.12 The architecture of all new development should contribute to the quality of design in the district, be appropriate to the setting and context of the area of development and be of the highest standard.

7.13 The good quality design of new developments should help promote sustainable development, improve and enhance the quality of the existing environment, attract business and investment into the district and help reinforce civic pride and create a sense of place. Good design should help public acceptance of necessary new development.

Policy D1 - Quality of Design

The Council will require the standard of design in all new development to be of a high quality. The design of new development should incorporate the design principles and policies in the Plan and the guidance contained in the Supplementary Design Guidance.

Design Principles

7.14 The Council has adopted a design-led approach to new development, in which it will seek to apply the following design principles:

  • Character

  • Continuity and Enclosure

  • Quality of the Public Realm

  • Ease of Movement

  • Legibility

  • Adaptability

  • Diversity

7.15 Developments which take account of these principles should promote sustainable, more responsive environments which will in turn provide a better quality of life for those who live and work in the district. These principles are explained more fully below with further information on how to achieve them in the Supplementary Design Guidance.

Character and Context

7.16 The context of a site i.e. the character and setting of the area in which it is located is crucial, and a clear understanding and appreciation of this in the design of new development is the starting point for creating distinctive and attractive places.

7.17 Character is one of the main issues affecting design in this district. Welwyn Hatfield has a diverse character comprising of both urban and rural settings, and settlements of different sizes and ages. Within both these settings there are different character areas, therefore each development has a unique context.

7.18 New development should respect and relate to the area in which it is proposed. This is not to say that new development must mirror the local character, rather that it must be sensitive to it and not harm it. It should seek to enhance key characteristics which contribute to the landscape and architectural quality. Where an area is accepted as being of poor quality and undistinguished, the challenge is to create a new area of distinctiveness and quality. Character and innovation can exist together with old and new buildings fitting together provided they are carefully designed. Innovative design that has similar scale and massing to the existing will be welcomed where it enhances the character of the area.

7.19 In considering the character and context of an area, account should be taken of its history, the geography and geology of the area, the landform of a site, the existing vegetation and landscaping, including trees, the existing street layout and pattern and form of building, and use of space, the local materials, the scale, height and massing of the built form and boundary treatments, and of any distinctive architectural and landscape quality and features such as trees, fenestration and brickwork. Further guidance can be found in the Supplementary Design Guidance.

7.20 Where other Supplementary Planning Guidance has been adopted such as Village Design Statements, Character Appraisals and Landscape Character Area Statements, these should also be used as a principal source of information about the design context of the development. Policy R24 states that character appraisals will be produced for the Conservation Areas, and these appraisals should be used to help new development proposed in Conservation Areas respect and relate to the area. In addition, design statements accompanying planning applications for development should demonstrate that the developer has taken character and context into account. Further guidance can be found in the Supplementary Design Guide.

Policy D2: Character and Context

The Council will require all new development to respect and relate to the character and context of the area in which it is proposed. Development proposals should as a minimum maintain, and where possible, should enhance or improve the character of the existing area.

Continuity and Enclosure

7.21 This helps distinguish between public and private spaces. All developments should promote the continuity of street frontages, with buildings that clearly define public and private spaces and give enclosure to the public realm whilst promoting safety and security.

7.22 The means of enclosure should provide both privacy and security without becoming a dominant visual feature of the site. Regard should be paid to the character of the area when choosing the form of enclosure to be incorporated.

7.23 New development should:

  • Relate to the line of the buildings in the street and provide an active and where possible continuous street frontage;

  • Incorporate pedestrian access from the street rather than from the rear or from internal courtyards;

  • Have distinctive fronts and backs;

  • Define and enclose private space to the rear of buildings;

  • Define open spaces and streets i.e. by the use of appropriately scaled buildings and trees;

  • Clearly define the relationship between the fronts of buildings and the street.

Policy D3 - Continuity and Enclosure

The Council will require all new development to incorporate the principles of continuity and enclosure to distinguish between public and private spaces.

Quality of the Public Realm

7.24 Historically, the public realm has been important in the district, particularly in the central open space areas of the planned settlements. It is important that any development which incorporates public realm is well designed to ensure that the public areas are both attractive and successful, i.e. the space is usable by every sector of the population. Public areas must not be land which is left over after the buildings have been designed, but should be designed to form a part of and feature of the development. Where possible the open spaces should have natural surveillance; this will make them both feel and be safer. Design of the Public Realm should also meet the requirements of Policy D8 on Landscaping.

7.25 Developments will be expected to enhance the public realm by:

  • Being accessible to all;

  • Ensuring that the ground floor use of units in central areas creates activity and interest;

  • Incorporating spaces into the design of developments so that they are not simply left over spaces;

  • Ensuring that the design provides natural surveillance over public spaces and areas;

  • Taking the microclimate into account in the orientation and design of buildings and spaces;

  • Integrating street furniture and public art into the design of development to give areas identity.

Policy D4 - Quality of the Public Realm

The Council will expect new development where appropriate to either create or enhance public areas and the public realm.Design For and Ease of Movement

7.26 It is important that all new development helps create places which are both easy to get to and move through. It should be remembered that streets are more than just channels for vehicles; they should offer a safe and attractive environment for all users to help make going outside a safe and pleasant experience. It is essential that transport routes reflect urban design qualities and not just traffic considerations, i.e. a street should be a public space.

7.27 One of the main priorities of the Plan is to reduce dependence on the car and encourage the use of other more sustainable forms of transport including walking, cycling and passenger transport. The impact of this on the design of new developments is that highway engineering standards should no longer be the starting point in the design of layouts. Encouragement will be given to schemes that give maximum space to pedestrians and cyclists and minimum space to the car.

7.28 A well-designed urban structure has a network of routes and spaces allowing for use by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, with that order of priority. All new routes should connect to existing routes and movement patterns and where possible follow established short cuts. The design of a street layout should where possible include public transport facilities, and walking distances between major land uses and public transport stops should be minimised to encourage the use of public transport and make it more popular.

7.29 Whilst the Council is keen to ensure that design is not dominated by roads and provision for the car user, it must be remembered that it is unrealistic to design out the car and therefore parking provision should be incorporated as an integral part of design. In commercial, business and leisure developments this should be carefully designed to prevent an over dominance of car parking and in residential developments the parking may either be within the curtilage of development or in carefully designed parking courts.

Policy D5 - Design For Movement

The Council will require all new development to take account of its impact on existing and proposed movement patterns. New development will be required to make provision for pedestrian, cyclist and passenger transport facilities. Parking and traffic management provision must be included in new development.


7.30 A legible place is one which has a clear identity and which is easy to understand i.e. the ability to recognise where you are and where you can go in a development. This can be achieved by creating interesting places and views between the most important parts of the site. Traditional urban design features, such as landmark buildings, good views and a variety of roads radiating from one point will help people recognise where they are at all times and to distinguish one place from another. Roads and footpaths, and areas of public and private open space will need to be clearly identified to encourage confidence, legibility and safety.

7.31 All new developments in the district, especially large scale ones, should reinforce the identity of the district and be clearly legible to the user.

7.32 New development will be expected to:

  • Be sited to respect and enhance existing views and vistas or create new ones;

  • Position buildings with active uses at junctions or nodal points;

  • Pay careful attention to the design of corner developments and ensure they are interesting and distinctive and become points of local identity;

  • Aid legibility through the use of detailing and materials, particularly at ground level.

Policy D6 - Legibility

The Council will require all new development to enhance and contribute to the legibility of the development itself and of the area in which it is located.


7.33 Adaptability of development is allowing for change relatively easily, i.e. the most successful places are those that have prospered in changing circumstances. Developments should promote flexible and versatile buildings and open spaces that can respond to changing social, technological, economic and market conditions; this avoids large scale blight and dereliction and the need for comprehensive redevelopment. Within the district, areas such as the town centres and employment areas need to be able to adapt and respond to changes in economic climates resulting in the rise and decline of industries and changes in demand for housing, workspace, infrastructure and buildings. (See Policy EMP13 in Chapter 12 Employment).

7.34 Residential development needs to be able to adapt to the occupiers' changing needs such as working from home or changes in requirements due to health and age changes, or through permanent or temporary disability. This adaptability can be found by building to Lifetime Homes standards (see Policy H10 in Chapter 9 Housing).


7.35 The Council considers it important that the area is diverse and is able to provide choice and variety to the user. Developments should promote a fine-grained mix of uses, users and forms that serve to create important, sustainable places. How well used a place is, can be affected by the mix of uses (within a building, street or area) and what economic and social activities the place supports. Mixed uses can occur and be appropriate at a variety of scales: within a building, a street, neighbourhood, village or town. The Plan identifies particular areas where mixed uses may be appropriate such as the town and neighbourhood centres e.g. Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and Hilltop in Hatfield. In town centres residential use provides customers for shops, makes use of space above shops and generates activity when shops are closed, whilst in residential areas, workplaces and other commercial uses can create activity within otherwise predominantly dormitory areas i.e. live work units (see Policy EMP14 in Chapter 12 Employment). Within residential areas a variety of tenures and mix of unit sizes can help create diversity (see Policy H8 in Chapter 9 Housing). Mixed-use development can be particularly good in higher density and more accessible locations and can help provide choice and variety.

Other Design Policies

7.36 Whilst all developments will be expected to conform to the Design Principles, there are other design policies which are applicable to all development in the district and which development should conform to. These policies are set out below; information on more specific design standards can be found in the Supplementary Design Guidance.

7.37 The Supplementary Design Guidance includes information on:

  • Design principles: additional information to that above

  • Energy efficiency including passive solar design

  • Noise

  • Sunlight and daylight

  • Servicing and access

  • Residential extensions

  • Gardens and communal areas

  • Overlooking and privacy

  • Advertisements; general, in Conservation areas and in Welwyn Garden City Town Centre

  • Shop front design

  • Security shutters and grilles

  • Blinds, awnings and canopies

  • Development briefs

Information and policies on energy efficiency, waste and water conservation can be found in Chapter 5 Resources.

Designing Out Crime

7.38 The Council considers it important that all new development has regard to the safety of residents and users in its design and layout. Well-designed development can reduce the opportunity for crime and therefore reduce the fear of crime. One of the main ways of reducing crime is to allow natural or casual observation over the public realm and to ensure the separation of private and public space. Natural surveillance is a form of natural policing. With distinct separation between the fronts and backs of buildings, there should be no exposed private areas which could be accessed by criminals, and all the private areas should be overlooked, taking account of the need for privacy. Care needs to be taken in the planning of communal parking and entrances as they may lead to confusion over ownership and responsibilities which can lead to less effective security. Landscaping schemes should not obliterate public areas from natural vision and the possible mature size of plants should be taken into account in planting schemes. In considering design, the advice in Circular 5/94, 'Planning Out Crime' should be taken into account and developers may also contact the Hertfordshire Constabulary Architectural Liaison Officer before submitting planning applications. However, the approach adopted should be sufficiently flexible to allow solutions to remain sensitive to local circumstances.

Policy D7 - Safety by Design

The Council requires the design of new development to contribute to safer communities, to help with the reduction of the fear of crime.


7.39 The design and use of spaces between and around buildings are as important as the design of the buildings. A poorly landscaped, leftover piece of land will detract from the quality of the built environment. A carefully landscaped piece of open space will benefit local residents and users both in terms of amenity land and in providing a buffer between the development and adjoining land. The incorporation of landscaping is important for increasing biodiversity and habitats and encouraging wildlife into urban areas. Within the district, particularly in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, there is a strong tradition of verges which the Council wish to see replicated in new development. The Council will expect landscaping schemes to incorporate native British species and, where possible, those commonly found in Hertfordshire, as well as those that are drought tolerant, low maintenance and beneficial to wildlife. All new landscaping schemes should be generous and not token.

7.40 Where established planting is removed to allow for development, the Council will expect a replacement planting scheme to be incorporated in the development proposals. The replacement planting should be appropriate and equivalent to that which is lost, however, it may be appropriate to replace a mature tree with an equivalent biomass of vegetation.

7.41 The Council will require detailed site surveys, in accordance with British Standards guidelines, to ensure the retention of trees, hedgerows and woodland on proposed development sites. If important trees or hedges appear to be under threat from the proposals the Council may request for the development to be redesigned around them. Special measures should be used to protect trees during the course of development such as fencing off. The Council will ensure that existing and new planting is managed through the preparation and undertaking of a maintenance schedule.

Policy D8 - Landscaping

All development, other than changes of use of buildings, should include landscaping as an integral part of the overall design. This should reflect the strong tradition of urban landscape design in the district.

Landscaping schemes will require the use of materials which respect the character of the area, the planting of trees, hedgerows and shrubs and details of future maintenance. The retention and enhancement of existing key landscape features such as trees and shrubs, ponds and watercourses will be expected where feasible; where this is not possible, replacement planting should be carried out.

The design of landscaped areas should be such that maintenance is straightforward. On larger schemes, certain landscaped areas will be required to be designed in a manner capable of adoption.

Tree Preservation Orders or planning conditions may be used to ensure continued future protection of particular trees, groups of trees or woodlands.

Access and Design for People with Disabilities

7.42 In the past, people with disabilities and mobility problems were often deprived of the opportunity to use a public facility, area or building because of inconsiderate design. More recently, changes in Building Regulations, the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act and increased awareness of disability, have led to buildings designed with better and more direct access for the disabled.

7.43 Applicants and developers must consider the needs of people with disabilities and impaired mobility at the earliest opportunity. Part M of the Building Regulations 1991, as amended by the Building Regulations (Amendment) 1998, came into effect on 25 October 1999 and is concerned with access and facilities for disabled people. The regulations include access to a building from the entrance to the site curtilage, the car parking on site and also that the external circulation between the parts of a building is suitable. The provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 required that by 2004, all public buildings have to be accessible to all.

7.44 The Council considers that every opportunity should be taken to improve access provision for all sections of the community and will undertake to support initiatives such as the Shopmobility scheme for major retail areas.

Policy D9 - Access and Design for People with Disabilities

All new development should be designed to allow access by the disabled, young children in prams and pushchairs and those who are temporarily disabled through accident or injury. This includes access required to the site and access within the buildings and open spaces on the site. The Council will continue to provide for the movement needs of people with mobility restrictions in existing and proposed public areas and will support the promotion of mobility initiatives wherever possible.

Public Art

7.45 The provision of works of art in public areas and spaces can be an effective way of reinforcing or establishing the character of a particular area and creating a sense of place and civic pride. The Council will therefore encourage the use of such works of art which may take a number of forms from street furniture to major sculpture. The Council will encourage developers to commission and contribute towards the provision of public works of art for display adjacent to public buildings, business developments, street scenes and public open spaces.

Policy D10 - Public Art

The Council will expect developers to include, as appropriate, the provision of an element of public art within proposals for new development.

Design Statements

7.46 The Council believes that all developers should be held responsible for design of their developments. The Council expects developers to take account of the design principles and policies in this Plan and the guidance in the Supplementary Design Guidance, when drawing up their proposals. This responsibility is reinforced by PPG1 which states that applicants for planning permission should be able to demonstrate how they have taken account of the need for good design in their proposals and that they have had regard to relevant development plan policies and supplementary planning guidance.

7.47 To aid good design, the Council will expect developers to submit a design statement with planning applications for residential developments or for business and commercial developments. The design statement should justify the design approach used in the proposed development, how it accords with the design principles and guidance set out in the Plan and how the design responds to the local character and context of the area in which the site is located. The design of extensions or alterations to houses are also important. To aid good design, the Council will consider householder applications using a design checklist.

7.48 The following extract from the DETR's publication 'By Design - Urban Design in the Planning System: Towards Better Practice' (May 2000) provides an initial guide on the content of design statements. It says, 'Design statements should explain the design principles and the design concept and explain how the design relates to its wider context (through a full context appraisal where appropriate). The written design statement should be illustrated as appropriate by plans and elevations, photographs of the site and its surroundings and other illustrations such as perspectives.'

Policy D11 - Design Statements

Applicants will be required to submit a design statement with all applications for business, commercial or residential developments.

The statement should justify how the development meets the design principles, policies and guidance set out in the Plan and the Supplementary Design Guidance.

Householder applications will be considered against a design checklist.

Development Briefs

7.49 The development briefing process is designed to assist developers in providing detailed advice on appropriate and acceptable development solutions at an early stage in the planning process. This is done by interpreting the relevant development plan policies for the site and the characteristics of the site and its location, to ensure a high quality built environment which contributes to the local community. This approach reduces uncertainty for developers, by informing them about the constraints and opportunities presented by the site and the type of development expected by the local planning authority. It also improves the efficiency with which the subsequent applications can be considered by reducing negotiation time.

7.50 Each site will be unique and it is therefore expected that each development brief will be similarly unique, responding to the nature, size, ownership and location of the site. Although it is expected that each brief will be different, there are essential steps in the process of development briefing that are common to the preparation of each brief. More information as to what should be included in development briefs can be found in the Supplementary Design Guidance.

7.51 Where developers and/or landowners wish to prepare a brief, this must be done in consultation with the Council. All development briefs will be subject to public consultation before they are adopted.

Policy D12 - Development Briefs

The Council will require development briefs for sites proposed for major residential, commercial, business, or mixed use schemes and any other sites for which it is felt to be appropriate.

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