General principles

Goal: Respect the local context whilst striving for excellence in architectural quality and sustainability.

  p77. South and Vale have a beautiful landscape character and a mix of towns and villages with locally distinctive buildings. However, many recent developments do not reflect that local distinctiveness and they could be anywhere in the UK. New development must create a positive character, with an identity that relates to the specific characteristics of the district.

  p78. The building forms used along a street should create rhythm and interest. Subtle variations in the height and width of buildings can add visual interest to the street, making it more attractive and interesting.

  p79. The scale of new development should be appropriate and sensitive to its context. Heights of buildings should be informed by contextual analysis. A variety of building heights along street frontages can also help to achieve this.

  p80. The form and massing of development can make a significant contribution to the character of a neighbourhood. The majority of traditional buildings in South and Vale, in both urban and rural areas, adopt a very consistent, simple form, with rectangular floor plans and pitched roofs. New development should adopt a simple form - but good contemporary design that respects context will be welcomed. Note that articulation of massing and roof line can help to present variety along the building frontage.

  p81. Note that in order to design a building to be as energy efficient (as close to zero-carbon) as possible this may result in conflict with other design principles in this Design Guide. When this occurs, be prepared to explain why this happens and explain why your solution is better.

Town centre

Figure 38

  Figure 36: General character and built form of town centres

Urban built form

Figure 39

  Figure 37: General character and built form of urban areas


Figure 39

  Figure 38: General character and built form of suburban areas

Lower density

Figure 38

  Figure 39: General character and built form of lower density areas


Inform your design:

A robust character assessment of the form and design of the buildings in the local area should be undertaken. This should focus on buildings of high-quality design in the wider context of the site and not solely on the nearest buildings to the site.

Communicate your design:

Demonstrate how the form of the buildings and their design relate to existing buildings in the local area by showing what cues have been translated into the design;

Indicate how corner plots and focal points have been addressed.

Support your design:

National Design Guide (2019)

National Design Code Part 1: The Coding Process (2021)

National Design Code Part 2: Guidance Notes (2021)

Building for a Healthy Life (2020)


Examples of how corner situations can be resolved with two-fronted properties, providing surveillance and active frontages in both directions (Great Western Park, Didcot)
Defining scale at key locations
An example of how local materials can be used in a contemporary way (Goring-on-Thames)
Defining enclosure (Upton, Northamptonshire)

Ensure the scheme:

    1. complements/responds positively to the character and local vernacular (architectural style) identified as part of the character assessment of the area. This includes wider character such as streets rhythm, walls, railing, gardens, trees, etc.;
    2. is sensitive to its context regarding scale, massing and height. In most instances new development should adopt a simple form. An uplift in scale, massing or height may be appropriate for landmark buildings in a key location, or more complex forms, when responding to a specific character area;
    3. works with and responds positively to the existing landscape, topography and settlement pattern, including recognising glimpsed views in and out the development and important views across the site;
    4. breaks down larger footprint buildings to comprise a number of simple, geometric forms to reduce their apparent bulk. Floor plans that necessitate flat roof sections should be avoided;
    5. maintains established building lines and predominant plot patterns;
    6. has a landmark or feature building with high quality materials and good use of detailing to stand out when in prominent locations, such as gateways, key vistas, and corner plots;
    7. avoids long, blank (windowless or without material detail) elevations when visible from an adjacent street / public realm, parking area or public space;
    8. provides dual aspect, such as on corner plots, return materials details, fenestration and landscaping to maintain a consistent façade. Blank elevations or gable ends will not be acceptable;
    9. has entrances to buildings (including houses, ground floor or communal entrances for flats and non-residential uses) which directly face onto the street and are clearly visible and identifiable from the public realm;
    10. has a built form designed to ensure good and direct natural passive surveillance over streets, public spaces and parking to design out and prevent crime;
    11. has articulated ground floors of buildings with windows and doors and interesting detail (through the use of materials, datum line or façade detail) to create a development with a more human scale;
    12. uses materials that are sustainable and have been informed by the character and appearance of the surrounding area;
    13. has balconies (where provided) that are able to accommodate a table and chairs and space for planting/kitchen gardening;
    14. mitigates the impact of signage (by using an appropriate scale) onto the public realm;
    15. incorporates green and/or brown roofs/roof gardens on flat roof buildings and vertical gardens. Building design should seek to integrate biodiversity enhancements wherever possible. These could be through the provision of green walls/roofs, or faunal features (bird/bat boxes). They can be discretely incorporated into structures, or made into focal points, and will contribute to the need for development to deliver biodiversity net gain.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications