National Model Design Code (NMDC) Pilot Programme Phase One, Monitoring & Evaluation

In January 2021, the UK Government published a draft National Model Design Code (NMDC) and followed it up in July with a final version of the guide. Publication of the draft was accompanied by a call to local planning authorities to be part of a government funded pilot programme to test aspects of the process and content of the NMDC, how it might be applied to different contexts, and the use of design coding in the current planning system. 14 awards of £50,000 were made across 15 pilot teams (Portsmouth spit their award across two teams) kicking off the first phase of the pilot programme.

Learning from these pilots can inform the potential further development of the NMDC, the level and type of support provided by the Office for Place and decisions on the use of design codes in the reformed planning system. To assist with the learning, UCL was appointed by the Planning Advisory Services (PAS) on behalf of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to conduct a monitoring and evaluation of the NMDC Programme. The work was conducted in two stages. At the heart of the approach adopted by UCL were interviews with the pilot teams at interim (three month) and final (six month) stages of the programme. These were supplemented by analysis of the interim and final reports of the pilot teams, their presentations at pilot workshops organised by DLUHC, and through analysing the content of the codes or other outputs produced by the teams.

Over the course of the monitoring and evaluation the range of issues captured in analytical framework were examined, structured across the four key phases of inputs, processes, outputs and anticipated impacts. The final report discusses all these phases, although the progress of some pilots was more limited.