The revised version of the NPPF makes for interesting reading especially if you are a designer and actively trying to create beautiful and sustainable environments in which people live. The latest version now includes the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development as set out by the UN. Social objectives have been updated along with the requirement to ‘protect and enhance’ the environment and ‘improve biodiversity’. There is now reference to the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code (which will be featured in another ACD blog over the coming weeks).

There is now also a policy stating that ‘trees make an important contribution to the character and quality of urban environments’ that is surely welcomed by all. We can all appreciate what important roles that trees have in our lives, their ability to mitigate climate change, offering shelter and shade, providing habitats and food sources, mitigating storm event rainfall, filtering air pollutants…. The list goes on. The policy outlines that new streets are to be tree-lined, but how will that be achieved on new developments? How will they be safeguarded and how will long-term maintenance be secured to ensure their survival?

Street trees

Given the opportunity landscape architects will always specify trees in their design. Considering the type, species, form, and maintenance of that particular tree in that location. However, not all sites have sufficient room to support sustainable tree growth with density targets, underground services, easements, foundation design and the requirements of the adopting authorities often impacting on the ability to offer sustainable tree growth. The NPPF suggests that applicants should work with highways officers to ensure that ‘the right trees are planted in the right places’. But what if the local highway authority will not adopt trees or demands such large, commuted sums from applicants that it makes tree planting unviable?

Will tree planting now take precedent over features and services? For example, will a road and drainage design now have to be worked around the landscape design rather than the other way around, which is often the case? Landscape architects have to remove proposed trees from designs due to services or other features being ‘in the way’….It will be interesting to see how the revised NPPF is applied to live projects and whether it achieves its objectives to provide a high-quality sustainable design that contributes to the character of the area.