Support for investors, developers and agents

Design reviews

All significant development proposals must be assessed by our Design Review panel. Their reviews take place at an early stage, before a planning application is submitted.

Reviews remain confidential when part of a pre-application discussion, unless otherwise agreed. When considering schemes that have already been submitted for planning approval, the panel's report will become publicly available.

Our panel is drawn from leading national multi-disciplinary experts – provided by our partners, Cabe – with a range of experience and specialism, who have been involved in delivering high quality policy and design.

A fee is charged for the development reviews to cover operational costs.

Review principles

All reviews are focused on outcomes for people. They explore how a building or place can better meet the needs of the people who will use it and those whom it will affect. It does this by seeking to improve the implementation and quality of:

  • architecture
  • urban design
  • landscape
  • transport
  • social infrastructure
  • highway design

Our Design Review panel operates under 10 nationally accepted design review principles. Each review must be:

  • independent – panel members are independent and the report is compiled through the peer review process, where members have no connection with the scheme's promoters and decision makers
  • expert – the review is undertaken by leading designers who have an acknowledged standing and expertise
  • multi-disciplinary – the panel combines the different perspectives of architects, urban designers, planners, landscape architects, engineers, and other specialists to provide a complete, rounded assessment
  • accountable – the panel and its advice must be clearly seen to work for the benefit of the public, and its reports will be made available publicly where the scheme is the subject of a planning application
  • transparent – the panel's remit, membership, governance processes and funding are in the public domain
  • proportionate – the panel will be used only for projects whose significance or complexity warrants the investment needed to provide the service
  • timely – reviews should take place as early as possible in the design process to avoid wasted time, and because it costs less to make changes at an early stage
  • advisory – the panel does not take planning decisions, but it offers impartial advice
  • objective – the panel appraises schemes according to reasoned, objective criteria rather than the stylistic tastes of individual members
  • accessible – findings and advice are clearly expressed in terms that policy makers, design teams, decision makers and clients can all understand and use

What will be seen by the Design Review panel

The Design Review panel will look at:

  • comprehensive master plan reviews, including area-wide strategies such as urban realm, open space and infrastructure, including energy and waste
  • major development proposals that will have impact on a significant proportion of the site
  • development proposals with significant impact locally such as housing, a secondary school or public realm
  • small scale developments – for example, fewer than 50 homes
  • other plans that are assessed to be significant in terms of design, public interest or impact on a locality

We will decide which development proposals will be reviewed. Major and sensitive schemes will go before the panel while still at the pre-application stage, while there is the opportunity for the applicant and design team to modify the scheme in response to the review report.

Schemes can also be nominated after a planning application has been submitted.

Where appropriate, reviews will be preceded by a site visit.

Meetings of the Design Review panel

Each Design Review meeting has a dedicated Chair who works alongside a panel of between 3 and 6 experts selected from the larger Design Review pool, depending on the scale and type of the policy or proposal to be reviewed.

Meetings will not be open to the public as most development proposals will be reviewed at the pre-application stage. In general, a review will last approximately 2 hours, including a presentation by the applicant that may last up to 20 minutes. For larger projects, the review may be lengthened to allow enough time to properly present and assess the proposal.

At the end of each meeting, the Chair will present the panel's conclusions.

Where development proposals are subject to subsequent reviews, as far as possible, the same panel members will attend to achieve consistency.