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The Forum Exeter, Devon

An RIBA south west award wining building at Exeter University in Devon; The Forum. This building benefited from design review during the design and pre-planning stage

Design Review Panel Training 2018

Design Review Panel training session carried out in Taunton and the Somerset County Cricket Ground in November 2018. The event was extremely well attended by local authority representatives, house builders and design team members

Exeter Quay by Jonathan Braddick

Photograph of Exeter Quay taken by Architect and Design Review Panel Manager Jonathan Braddick. The Design Review Panel holds regular design review panel sessions at Exeter City Council

Design Review Panel Training 2018

Design Review Panel training event 2018. Jonathan Tricker, Highways Engineer, Urban Designer & Director at Phil Jones Associates, gave a talk entitled: ‘Highway Design in Placemaking’

Steiner School Exeter

The design review Panel was engaged by Willmott Dixon during the pre-application design stage of the project to help them prepare a design that would be acceptable to the local authority

Design Review Panel Site Visit Poole

Photograph from a 2018 design review panel site visit carried out in Dorset in 2018. A full sit down design review panel was subsequently held in the Poole Borough Council Offices

North Grays Farm Para 80 House

External visualization for a NPPF paragraph 55 (now 79) house that was presented to the design review panel. This project has subsequently gone on to achieve planning permission and is now built on site

Design Review Panel Training 2017

Design Review Panel training session carried out in Exeter, Devon in December 2017. The event was extremely well attended by local authority representatives, house builders and design team members

Exeter Quay - Rockfish Restaurant

A small but sensitive project in Exeter Quay; The Rockfish Restaurant has been designed by Grainge Architects who engaged with The Design Review Panel during the design & pre -application planning stage

Extra Care Development by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

Pegasus Life secured planning permission through public inquiry for a Sarah Wigglesworth Architects scheme for a C2 assisted living community at The Knowle, Sidmouth, Devon. The Design Review Panel ( were instructed by East Devon District Council (EDDC) to provide multidisciplinary, expert, independent and impartial guidance and feedback to the local authority, applicant and design team during the pre-application design stage.

Plymouth Hoe

Photograph of Plymouth Hoe, Devon. The Design Review Panel holds regular design review panel sessions at Plymouth City Council

Design Review Panel Training

Design Review Panel training session carried out in Exeter, Devon. The event was extremely well attended and incorporated a mock design review panel session and design workshop.

Biodiversity Provision Within Built Structures – standard rather than exceptional design

Many thanks to Adam Bratt who has provided the below guidance on biodiversity provision within built structures. Adam is a senior Ecologist at Blackdown Environmental and a regular Design Review Panel member, attending Design Review Panels across the South West; in Devon (both Plymouth and Exeter) as well as Somerset sessions held in Taunton.

Intergrated Bat Tube by Blackdown Environmental

"There may be many and varied reasons for incorporating opportunities for wildlife into built designs. For some, this may be a planning condition (or protected species licence) with a requirement to compensate for the loss of existing wildlife habitats within demolished structures. However, increasingly, such provisions are provided by way of targeted enhancements, often to assist planning applications achieving net biodiversity gain or at the direct requests of an applicant who either wishes to encourage wildlife to their surroundings or organisation wishing to demonstrate corporate environmental responsibility.

But it is likely that the introduction of local planning policies and supplementary planning documents by local authorities, will have the biggest effect on provision of biodiversity opportunity within built structures. Many local authorities now have stated requirements for provision of bat and bird boxes within new dwellings, and it is likely that this trend will continue.

Intergrated Bat Box - Blackdown Environmental

Barn Owl nest box dormer entrance - Blackdown Environmental

The reasons for this provision are clear. All too often when sustainable building is discussed, the focus is on energy and material (or waste) considerations. But biodiversity is fundamental to sustainable development, and the advancement of building design and construction techniques by creating ever more sealed structures has, on occasion, been to the detriment of the wildlife which have historically resided alongside people for hundreds (if not thousands!) of years. Surveys of buildings by the charity Swift Conservation have identified that swifts nest almost entirely in buildings constructed pre-1944. They go on to note that while approximately 10% of homes built before 1919 can house swifts, the figure for inter-war housing is about 7%, and for post war housing only 1.4%. For post-2000 properties it is almost nil.

And these figures are borne out by records of declines. For example, the UK breeding population of swifts has declined by an estimated 42% between 1995 and 2013 (RSPB). And it is not only swifts; other bird species traditionally reliant on buildings including house sparrows, house martins and starlings are also species listed as being of conservation concern. Whilst such declines are obviously not solely attributable to loss of nest sites, the demolition and/or conversion of old factories and inter-war social housing is certainly considered to be a contributing factor. But it needn’t be the case. There is now an increasing array of specially designed products available to accommodate wildlife within buildings.

Intergrated Swift nest boxes - Blackdown Environmental

There are also a variety of technical guides and instructions for incorporating more bespoke wildlife provision within buildings (including some available through RIBA Publishing such as Biodiversity for Low and Zero Carbon Buildings: A technical Guide for New Build). Such guides are based upon specialist research to ensure maximum likelihood of wildlife occupation and compatibility with modern, efficient construction techniques. With careful thought to which species will benefit within a given structure and site (and careful consideration for micro-sighting boxes, bricks and tubes to ensure maximum likelihood of occupation), the provisions made can have significant positive impact on local wildlife populations.

And whilst the reason for incorporating these opportunities into building design may largely be due to compliance with planning conditions and policies; it is a real hope that increasingly these features will be provided proactively and routinely by built environment professionals, even where a project may not necessarily include a dedicated ecological consultant. After all, biodiversity inclusion within built structures should be standard, not exceptional, design."

Blackdown Environmental Footer and Logo

Blackdown Environmental is an Ecological Consultancy and Environmental Contracting company providing specialist ecological advice and habitat management services to a wide variety of clients in sectors including residential and commercial development, transport and infrastructure engineering, local authorities and charitable trusts. For more information about wildlife inclusion within structures please contact our Senior Ecologist Adam Bratt - - You can read more about Adam by clicking here ...

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