What do we mean by ‘contemporary’?

As planners we frequently use the term ‘contemporary’ but ought we to pause in order to consider what we mean, exactly?

The Concise OED defines ‘contemporary’ variously as ‘living, occurring or originating at the same time’ and as ‘modern in style or design’. In an appeal case concerning the redevelopment of a house in Surrey with a pair of semis (DCS Number 400-010-054) the inspector interpreted the meaning of ‘contemporary’ as used within a core strategy policy. The appellant took the view that the proposal for a building with a flat roof, large windows and a horizontal emphasis was innovative contemporary design and therefore gained support from the policy. The inspector, on the other hand, favoured a somewhat more literal interpretation: ‘In my experience, contemporary design can be defined as design that addresses contemporary matters such as current regulations, site constraints, fashions and functionality, and can be an interpretation of many styles from the more traditional to modernism.’

Perhaps this is why the term is not to be found in the NPPF.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.132

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