Design Review Guidance Notes

1. Introduction

The Design: South West Review Panel (DSWRP) is managed by Creating Excellence Ltd., a not for profit company, established in 2007 to provide impartial advice and support to communities, developers and public bodies. The DSWRP process provides a professional and independent service that assesses and advises on the design quality of schemes being developed in the South West of England.

We review a range of projects from urban extensions, garden villages, large regeneration projects, masterplans, public buildings, mixed use developments, public realm, policy documents and single dwellings.

Creating Excellence Ltd. also manages a Housing Excellence Design Panel that looks specifically at Building for Life 12 (BfL12) criteria in the review of housing schemes.

Submitting schemes for Design Review is specifically encouraged in the National Planning Policy Framework as stated below:

Local planning authorities should ensure that they have access to, and make appropriate use of, tools and processes for assessing and improving the design of development. These include workshops to engage the local community, design advice and review arrangements, and assessment frameworks such as Building for Life 12. These are of most benefit if used as early as possible in the evolution of schemes and are particularly important for significant projects such as large-scale housing and mixed use developments. In assessing applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the outcome from these processes, including any recommendations made by design review panels

The Design: South West Review Panel has built and natural environment specialists comprising of architects, urban designers, landscape architects, planners, engineers, transport, heritage, sustainability and other professional experts in place making fields that can be drawn upon as appropriate depending on the nature of the scheme.

The process should be a positive experience for all participants where the aim is to support and improve the quality of the proposal through comment, advice and practical suggestions.

2. When to submit for a Design Review

Local planning authorities, clients or their agents should initially contact Creating Excellence at an early stage of the design process. For the review to have the greatest benefit, there should be enough flexibility and time available to enable the findings of the review to be considered prior to the submission of a planning application.

It may be appropriate to resubmit the scheme for a follow up review to endorse changes made to the scheme, or to continue dialogue on specific aspects.

Design Review can also be delivered on a submitted scheme if needed.

3. The Process

The Panel Manager is responsible for ensuring the right Panel is selected to review your scheme. They are there to advise on the site visit and on representation from the LPA, Highways Authority and Statutory Consultees as appropriate. Creating Excellence will encourage engagement from client, design team and LPA in the process.

  • Agree a date for the review that suits all parties. This should be at least three to four weeks prior to the review date.
  • The fee will be confirmed by Design: South West (sliding scale according to the nature and scale of the proposal – see section below on fees) Create link
  • Applicants should complete and return the Scheme Submission Form available on our website under the Design Review section. Create link
  • A Panel will be appointed with a range of disciplines, skills and expertise to suit the project
  • Applicants need to submit their drawings and supporting information at least a week prior to the review date. We will send you a Dropbox Link to upload this information, held confidentially and made available to only those engaged in the review process.
  • The review will commence with a site visit, and follow with a scheme presentation, policy overview by the local planning authority, and then a Panel Q & A and discussion on the proposals. Recommendations will be provided at the end of the review. The session will normally last between 2 and 4 hours in total.
  • A written report will be drafted and sent out to all parties, normally within 10 working days.

4. Information required

The information provided prior to the Review session should focus on the following:

  • Site description and context – the topography, surrounding landscape and the setting of the proposal, site constraints and the character of the adjoining built environment
  • The planning context – planning history, status of the site, and relevant policies affecting it
  • The client’s brief - objectives, quantum requirements, constraints, design preferences
  • The design rationale – the design concept and the thinking behind it, how the site and its context has informed this process should be a central part of the development of the concept (this analysis should be well illustrated as it will be critical to the Panel’s considerations)
  • The proposal itself – plans, elevations, sections and perspectives where possible.
  • If an emerging Design & Access Statement is available.

5. Involvement of the Local Planning Authority

Design: South West strongly supports the involvement of the local planning authority in the Design Review process. The attendance of one or more representatives at the discussion is essential in highlighting the key planning issues and clarifying points of policy interpretation or background as well as other relevant planning matters. Attendance at the discussion can also help their general understanding of design as well as the thinking behind the Panel’s observations. A Neighbourhood Plan representative will also be invited to attend if appropriate. 6. The Panel The Panel consists of a Chair and three or four Panel members depending on the scale and complexity of the scheme being reviewed. The expertise of the Panel will be tailored to the nature of the proposal.

6. The Panel

The Panel consists of a Chair and three or four Panel members depending on the scale and complexity of the scheme being reviewed. The expertise of the Panel will be tailored to the nature of the proposal.

7. The Design Review day

Site visit (1 hr depending on the scale of the scheme)

The Panel is shown around the site where the context for the proposals can be explained and any queries from the Panel responded to.

Scheme presentation (20 mins)

The design team provide a presentation which covers the site context, design rationale and the essential elements of the proposal. Queries and questions, options can be included if appropriate.
Please note: It is important that this is kept brief to maximise the time available for discussion which is the focus of the review.

Briefing from the Local Planning Authority (5 minutes)

A policy briefing from the local authority will explain the planning context of the project for example planning policies, planning history and what they want the review to address.

Questions, discussion and comment (approx. 1.5 /2hrs)

The session will be chaired by the Chair of the D:SW Panel. The Panel will seek clarification on points they are unsure about or ask for additional information where needed. The Panel will highlight both the positive aspects of the scheme as well as any areas which would benefit from further consideration. Suggestions or alternatives, best practice examples will be put forward where possible to provide some direction to the design team on how they might proceed.

The Chair will summarise the key points that have arisen which will then feature in the final written report that Creating Excellence will issue.

8. Follow-up Design Reviews

A follow up Design Review can be arranged where proposals have been refined in response to Panel’s comments. The revised proposals can be considered at a design review meeting which will comprise of the same Panel members to ensure continuity and consistency of advice. Or alternatively a desktop review which is undertaken remotely led by two of the original Panel. The above options will depend on the extent of the amendments and is at the discretion of the Panel Manager.

9. Fees

The following represent the fees charged by Creating Excellence as at January 2020. Fees are to be paid in advance of the Review session.

Small scheme (half a day, site visit (where applicable), 3 Panel)

(individual buildings, BFL12 assessment, infill and those less than 49 homes)

£2,500.00 + VAT

Medium scheme (half a day, site visit, 4 Panel)

(para 79, mixed use, regeneration, town centre, 50+ homes)

£3,950.00 + VAT

Major scheme (full day, site visit, 5 Panel)

(200+ homes, where new infrastructure is included such as a new community, major regeneration, new campus, transport hub)
£4,950.00 + VAT

10. Following the DRP

Clients and/or their agents are encouraged to provide feedback on the Design Review process and the extent to which it has helped the design process.

Although at pre-application stages DRP letters are confidential to those parties involved in the review process, the following is recommended;

  • Design teams include the DRP recommendations as part of their Design & Access Statement and planning application submission.
  • LPAs refer to the DRP Panel recommendations in their determination letters and Committee reports.

11. Contact

Design Review Panel Manager
Julie Tanner
07970 514480

Design Support
Amanda Hamley

© Creating Excellence
Website created by Nicky Stephen Marketing
Photos courtesy of: @DougKing Photos
Creating Excellence Ltd is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England and Wales number 6148133. Registered address: 9 Beechen Cliff Villas, Beechen Cliff Road, Bath, BA2 4QR
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