England’s planning system is being overhauled by Government. Following an initial consultation last summer, another is now underway on a specific element of the system: design codes. This is a huge opportunity to make sure trees are at the heart of every new development. 

What is a design code?

A design code is a set of requirements that provides specific, detailed instructions for development. Once finalised, the code will influence the design of all new developments in England and will apply to the current planning system as well as the new one.  

Why is this consultation important?

The new national design codes will affect the protection of trees in your local area and tree planting in new developments.

The consultation is your chance to imagine and demand a better approach to planning. One where existing trees are a fundamental part of new designs, and high quality green spaces are embedded into the way we approach new developments.

Trees and woods are crucial to our health and wellbeing. Any planning system should protect the precious trees we already have and plant more to give us all access to the trees and woods we need.

The codes must have nature and people at their heart, right from the start.

What we want to see

To give everyone access to high quality green space and nature, the design codes must: 

  • protect and integrate existing trees into new developments from the first designs. 
  • increase canopy cover in new developments to at least 30% with tree-lined streets, community woods, parks and gardens. 
  • make sure trees thrive long term. Local authorities must be properly resourced so they can implement the new design codes, enforce decisions and manage trees long-term. Development designs should also include provision for the trees’ long-term care. 

The consultation already includes one positive proposal: new developments should have tree-lined streets. We welcome this idea, but we must make sure it is just the start. 

How do the design codes fit into the wider planning system changes?

The initial published proposals for changes to England’s planning system pose two major threats to woods and trees, with potential to:

  • remove existing protection for most of the country’s ancient woods and trees, leaving them vulnerable to damage and destruction from development
  • reduce the say that communities can have on decisions affecting their local trees.

More than 9,000 of you stood up for woods and trees by responding to the Government’s initial consultation through our campaign. This was key to getting Government’s attention, but it was just the beginning.

We expect the Government to put forward new legislation to implement the proposed changes later this year.

The design codes consultation

Thanks to everyone that responded to the Government’s public design codes consultation to call for all new developments to include trees. The consultation closed on 27 March 2021.

More consultations on changes to England’s planning system will follow, including on local design codes for your area. We’ll keep you posted with news and how you can get involved.