ixia: public art think tank

ixia has taken over the ownership and management of Public Art Online from Arts Council England. The design and content of the website are currently being reviewed.

National Planning Policies and Guidance: Introduction and Links

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have national policies for planning and development. Public Art is rarely mentioned within the national planning documents, although there is an emphasis on achieving design quality within the built environment. It is important that the contribution of artists to achieving high quality design is recognised, and that this is best accomplished through an integrated approach to architecture and urban design.

At the regional level Regional bodies prepare a Regional Spatial strategy (RSS), which sets out development priorities for the subsequent fifteen years.

Public art policies and strategies are set out at the more local level by Unitary Authorities, and County, Borough and District Councils. These sit within the broader national policies and can be site specific.


The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is the Government department responsible for the production and update of National Planning Policies. These are set out in Planning Policy Statements (PPSs), which are replacing and updating the Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs). The most recent versions of PPSs are available in the Planning>Planning Policy section of the DCLG's website, www.communities.gov.uk.

Amongst the relevant PPSs, with sample extracts, are:

Planning Policy Statement (PPS)1:Delivering Sustainable Development

PPS1 sets out the Government's overarching planning policies on the delivery of sustainable development through the planning system. This PPS broadly sets out the need for high quality design and replaces Planning Policy Guidance Note 1, General Policies and Principles, published in February 1997.

  • 'Good design ensures attractive, usable, durable and adaptable places and is a key element in achieving sustainable development. Good design is indivisible from good planning.' (para 33)
  • 'Planning policies should promote high-quality inclusive design in the layout of new developments and individual buildings in terms of function and impact, not just for the short term but over the lifetime of the development. Design which fails to take the opportunties available for improving the character and quality of an area should not be accepted.' (key principle [iv], para 13)
  • 'Good design should contribute positively to making places better for people.' (para 34)
  • 'High-quality and inclusive design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process.' (para 35)
  • 'Planning authorities should prepare robust policies on design and access...based on stated objectives for the future of the area and an understanding and evaluation of its present defining characteristics.' (para 36)
  • 'Planning authorities should have regard to good practice set out in By design - urban design in the planning system: towards better practice. (ODPM, CABE 2000)'

    (para 37)

PPS 3:Housing

PPS3 published in November 2006 looks at issues of both delivering the appropriate quantity and quality of housing to meet the needs of the local community. High quality is emphasised, as it was in the previous guidance in PPG3 and its companion guide: Better Places to Live by Design.

  • 'Good design is fundamental to the development of high quality new housing, which contributes to the creation of sustainable, mixed communities.' (para 12)

  • 'Matters to consider when assessing design quality include the extent to which the proposed development:

    - Is easily accessible and well-connected to public transport and community facilities and services, and is well laid out so that all the space is used efficiently, is safe, accessible adn user-friendly.

    - Provides, or enables good access to, community and green and open amenity and recreational space (including play space) as well as private outdoor space such as residential gardens, patios and balconies.

    -Is well integrated with, and complements, the neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally in terms of scale, density, layout and access.

    - Facilitates the efficient use of resources, during construction and in use, and seeks to adapt to and reduce the impact of, and on, climate change.

    - Takes a design-led approach to the provision of car-parking space, that is well-integrated

    with a high quality public realm and streets that are pedestrian, cycle and vehicle friendly.

    - Creates, or enhances, a distinctive character that relates well to the surroundings and supports a sense of local pride and civic identity.

    - Provides for the retention or re-establishment of the biodiversity within residential environments.' (para 16)

  • 'Good design is fundamental to using land efficiently. Local Planning Authorities should facilitate good design by identifying the distinctive features that define the character of a particular local area.' (para 48)

PPS 6: Planning for Town Centres 

PPS6 replaces Revised Planning Policy Guidance Note 6: Town Centres and Retail Developments (PPG6, 1996) and subsequent policy statements. It promotes the role of design quality in the success of town centre development. See also Planning for town centres: guidance on design and implementation tools (ODPM 2005), which puts particular emphasis on design of the public realm.

  • 'It is essential that town centres provide a high-quality and safe environment if they are to remain attractive and competitive. Well designed public spaces and buildings which are fit for purpose, comfortable, safe, attractive, accessible and durable, are key elements which can improve the health, vitality and economic potential of a town centre. Policies for the design of the development for main town centre uses, regardless of location, and for development in town centres, should promote high quality and inclusive design, in order to improve the character and quality of the area in which such development is located and the way it functions.' (para 2.19)

PPS7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas

PPS7 focuses on rural areas, including the need to consider community facilities, housing, agricultural activities and tourism. The policy acknowledges the importance of design and the character of rural settlements.

  • 'Planning authorities should take a positive approach to innovative, high-quality contemporary designs that are sensitive to their immediate setting and help to make country towns and villages better places for people to live and work.' (para 12)
  • 'Planning authorities should ensure that development... contributes to a sense of local identity and regional diversity and be of an appropriate design and scale for its location, having regard to the policies on design contained in PPS1 and supported in By design.' (para 12)

PPS11: Regional Spatial Structures

The development planning system has recently undergone major changes with the introduction of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. This new system replaces Structure Plans and Local Plans with Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks.

PPS11 sets out policies to be taken into account by Regional bodies when preparing Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs), the strategic document for determining the provision of significant new housing development, environmental policies and aspects of transport and infrastructure planning, economic development, agriculture, minerals and waste management.

PPS12: Local Development Frameworks

PPS12 sets out a framework for the new planning system designed to streamline the formulation of planning policies. The new system is based on the production of a portfolio of focused policy documents rather than all-encompassing and slow to produce Local Plans. The system is intended to produce better policies for development that are more proactive, and responsive to local needs and circumstances. Responsibility for producing LDF’s is given to Unitary Authorities, Borough and District Councils.

The Local Development Framework contains a number of types of documents which manage the process, set out development policies and proposals, and which provide detailed and supplementary guidance:

All Local Development Frameworks Folders include the following management tools:

  • The Local Development Scheme (LDS) setting out the Council's programme for preparing the key policies or Local Development Documents that will guide future planning decisions in the local area. The LDS allows the local community to engage with the broad outline of policy formulation, and is reviewed and rolled forward on an annual basis.
  • The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) sets out when and how the Council will involve the community in the preparation and revision of all Local Development Documents, and sets out the standards to be met in consulting on all development control decisions.

The main part of the LDF comprises the Development Plan Documents (DPD) which set out planning policies for the area; these carry the equivalent weight in planning law of the old Local Plans. Each individual document is approved by the Secretary of State following a prescribed process of community consultation.

The main documents include:

  • The Core Strategy is the key document which sets out the broad objectives for the area. Typically a Core Strategy will define the main areas of development priority, an analysis of the area's main characteristics and strategic policies covering infrastructure requirements, the use of land and standards of design quality.

  • Area Action Plans (AAPs) provide a detailed framework for areas where significant change or conservation is needed and focus on the delivery of development objectives. The main purpose is to ensure that development is of an appropriate scale, mix and quality.
  • Generic Development Control Policies are set out to provide an additional and limited set of policies to guide decisions on planning applications. These could include detailed requirements for public art provision, such as the scale of development where planning obligations requiring public art will be considered.

Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD) do not carry the legal weight of Development Plan Documents but are produced to elaborate on specific policies and proposals, and are taken into account when assessing planning applications. SPD’s are not subject to Secretary of State approval but are subject to community consultation. Examples of SPD would include individual site briefs of topic based guidance on issues such as affordable housing, design codes or public art.

PPG12 specifically highlights the importance of design quality within the built environment:

  • 'In preparing local development documents, local planning authorities must include policies on design and access...PPS1 makes clear that good design... is crucial to the delivery of sustainable development, not separate from it.' (para 1.12)
  • 'Well designed development responds well to the local physical, social and economic context, being safe, clean, attractive and accessible for all users. Local development documents should therefore include policies that set out strategic design and access objectives in line with PPS1 and relevant good practice.' (para 1.13)
  • 'Local development documents relating to specific areas could usefully inform the implementation of strategic design policies by including design policies that relate to local conditions and objectives.' (para 1.14)

PPG13: Transport

See also Manual for Streets (DfT 2007).

The transport planning agenda has increasingly recognised the value of design to integrate infrastructure and encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport as well as accommodate higher standards of community safety.

  • ‘Land use planning has a key role in delivering the Government's integrated transport strategy. By shaping the pattern of development and influencing the location, scale, density, design and mix of land uses, planning can help to reduce the need to travel, reduce the length of journeys and make it safer and easier for people to access jobs, shopping, leisure facilities and services by public transport, walking, and cycling’. (para 3)
  • 'Local authorities should... actively manage the pattern of urban growth to make the fullest use of public transport...and seek by the design and layout of developments and areas, to secure community safety and road safety.' (para 6)
  • 'When thinking about new development, and in adapting existing development, the needs and safety of all in the community should be considered from the outset...taking account of the importance of good design.' (para 29)
  • ‘Local authorities should… pay particular attention to the design, location and access arrangements of new development to help promote walking as a prime means of access.’ (para 76)

Manual for Streets is a comprehensive design manual for all aspects of street design dealing with the functional as well as high quality design and maintenance of the public realm. The role of artists within the design process and any references to public art are however notably absent.

PPG 15: Planning and the Historic Environment

To be read in conjunction with Circulars 01/2001 ands 09/2005 which discuss arrangements for handling heritage applications that amend the existing PPG 15.

  • 'The design of new buildings intended to stand alongside historic buildings needs very careful consideration. In general it is better that old buildings are not set apart, but are woven into the fabric of the living and working community.' (para 2.11)
  • 'New buildings do not have to copy their older neighbours in detail. Some of the most interesting streets include a variety of building styles, materials and forms of construction, of many different periods, but together forming a harmonious group.' (para 2.14)

PPG 17: Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation

See also Assessing needs and opportunities: PPG17 companion guide (ODPM 2002)

  • 'Local networks of high quality and well-managed open space help create urban environments that are attractive, clean and safe and can play a major part in improving people's sense of well being'. (page 2)
  • 'LPAs should...audit open space facilities... audits of quality will be particularly important as they will allow local authorities to identify potential for increased use through better design, management and maintenance.' (page 3)
  • 'New open spaces should improve the quality of the public realm through good design.' (page 20)

Good Practice Guide on Planning for Tourism (DCLG, May 2006)

This Guide is available from http://www.communities.gov.uk and should be read in the context of national planning policy.

  • 'Proposals involving high quality design improve the visual and environmental experience for visitors and the local community alike.' (page 9)

Northern Ireland

Planning policy statements and supplementary planning guidance for Northern Ireland are published by the Northern Ireland Planning Office on its website http://www.planningni.gov.uk/index/policy/policy_publications.htm

Design quality features as a theme in a number of national planning documents but without specific reference to public art. Amongst the relevant planning policy statements (PPS) are:

PPS 1: General Principles

PPS 5: Retailing and Town Centres

PPS 6: Planning, Archaeology and the Built Heritage with Addendum: Areas of Townscape Character

PPS 7: Quality Residential Environments

PPS 12: Housing in Settlements

Public art is included within the national design guide 'Creating Places', in relation to the creation of landmarks as a way of creating distinctiveness and identity.


The Scottish Executive handles planning policy and planning advice in Scotland and details are published on its website www.scotland.gov.uk/topics/planning

The National Planning Framework for Scotland published in 2004 identifies key aims for Scotland’s spatial development to 2025, including the promotion of sustainable development and the protection and enhancement of quality within the natural, built and cultural environments.

Design Quality is emphasised in a number of well illustrated planning documents published in Scotland. The agency Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) has been established by Scottish Ministers as the national champion for good architecture, design and planning in the built environment.

Public art is specifically highlighted in the publication ‘Building Our Legacy – Statement on Scotland’s Architecture Policy 2007’ which states:

“When successfully implemented, artworks can help to create more distinctive and attractive buildings and urban spaces, and enhance the public's experience of an architectural space. The (Scottish) Executive’s Construction Procurement Manual now advises that clients may wish to consider allocating a specific budget for the inclusion of artwork as an integral element of a project. In this respect, the manual also advises that it is best to consider artwork from the start, when designs can be most easily integrated into the overall design. Such early involvement can often contribute to the creation of a scheme with a distinctive character, and public sector clients are advised that they may wish to seek specialist advice from public art agencies with regard to including artwork within a project.

…We will work closely with the Scottish Arts Council and its successor body Creative Scotland to help support the early involvement of artists in building projects. “

A Policy Statement for Scotland – Designing Places

Designing Places sets out the policy context for important areas of planning policy, design guidance, professional practice, and education and training. It is aimed at everyone who plays a part in shaping the built environment, whether as politicians, developers, planners, designers, opinion-formers or anyone else whose attitudes have a direct or indirect influence on what gets built.

The publication recognised the value of good design and includes the beauty of places as a key quality of successful places along with identity, safe and pleasant spaces, ease of movement, a sense of welcome, adaptability and good use of resources. Public art is also recognised as a tool for improving legibility:

“Places where new landmarks could create or improve views and help people find their way around; places where views need to be opened up; opportunities to mark places that act as gateways to particular areas; places where better lighting is needed

to improve safety, help people find their way around, highlight landmarks, show off attractive buildings or disguise eyesores; opportunities for creating distinctive works or art and craft; and places where better signs are needed.”

Amongst the relevant Scottish planning policy statements (SPP) and National Planning Policy Guidelines (NPPG) are:

SPP 1: The Planning System

SPP 3: Planning for Housing

SPP 20: The Role of 'Architecture and Design Scotland'

NPPG 18: Planning the Historic Environment

NPPG 8: Town Centres and Retailing

The Scottish equivalent of SPGs are Planning Advice Notes (PAN). Many of these advocate quality design and public art is encouraged as a way of achieving identity and distinctiveness. The most relevant PANs are:

PAN 59: Improving Town Centres

PAN 65: Planning and Open Space

PAN 67: Housing Quality

PAN 68: Design Statements

PAN 72: Housing in the Countryside

PAN 76: New Residential Streets

PAN 77: Designing Safer Places


In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government publishes up to date planning policy statements and advice on its website http://wales.gov.uk/topics/planning/policy/tans/?lang=en

The document 'Planning Policy Wales' contains all policies relevant to planning and land use, including design issues.

Advice and guidance is given in Technical Advice Notes (TAN). Some relevant TANs are:

TAN 2: Planning and Affordable Housing

TAN 4: Retailing and Town Centres

TAN 12: Design

National Planning Policies and Guidance: Introduction and Links