The Design Review Panel’s Eye for Detail: “Your design’s a wow.”

Thank you to Adrian Dobinson (Architectural design & conservation practitioner and former Councillor on policy and decision-making planning board) for sharing the below blog article:-


Britain badly needs a free on demand Design Code (NPPF 59) to speed up the cabinet’s election pledge to build a million healthy or sustainable homes by 2020.

In the same July week as the NHS in 1948, Prime Minister Atlee founded the Town & Country Planning service and it was equally innovative. The NHS has The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to steer outcomes, whilst council’s, which are also development businesses, have the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) with no design training and little guidance to steer outcomes.

Architects can be as rare as doctors in some council areas and speak for only 12% of the £7.14trillion national housing stock., as post-war it was thought, “government has no business interfering in design taste.” This might be true for some, but not Britain; covered with a rash of blandness in homogenous cul-desacs and the loss-making policy intensifies the “broken house market” crisis.

“Greater variety of homes needed to solve housing crisis,” says Oliver Letwin in his panel’s draft ‘Independent Review of Build-Out Rates’June 2018, and the government’s solution is a universal Design Code (NPPF 59) that could be some help to rural families getting on the property ladder than those living in cities. Councils are required to have access to an independent Design Review Panel (NPPF 62) to supervise a free Design Code, assess, and support self-builders, renovators, passivhouse, and big projects such developer Gladman, at local, regional, and national sub-appeal levels. It is helpful to have a good “eye for detail” when you are building one house or hundreds.

Design Review panellists are good at seeing things that other people might not notice. A trained eye sees how the world really is governed by classic orders readily identifiable by means of proportions and aesthetics.

Design Review panellists do not just ‘look’ they also ‘see’ innate talent and the amount of work a developer’s built environment team have done to acquire the skill and sense to say “your design’s a wow” and go on to win a planning permission permit to build; and maybe nomination for an award.

Its not migrant numbers, but not enough houses being built, that is a strain on hospitals and schools. UK has the slowest process, confused ‘affordable’ and tinniest homes in the developed world. Most reviews are future schemes and panelists focus on resolving pre-eminent client instructions; akin to a heritage building listing, test style taste as chosen by the owner as patron.

The best review will be external as internal local planning authority (LPA) panels tend to rush to refuse, whereas LPAs likely to refuse or defer give a chance to re-assess regulations acting as current proxy design codes.

Conservation area, and regional design panels have proved to be useful to planning permission providers. It can be daunting for developers applying for planning when officers struggle to assess draft innovative schemes. If the goal is to be the absolute best, it can usually be acquired if both the developer as applicant, and planning officer as decision-maker, put in the hard work to improve schemes, not redesign but simplification analysis of spatial and nimby rules.

The Design Review Panel chair is architect Jonathan Braddick, who meets the job type:

“A review lead will have been trained to help others turn on part of the brain that identifies icons as well as objects: There’s looking, and then there’s seeing what lies behind talent or future heritage impact.”

Blog with the help of delegates confirmed the job description at Housing 2018 in Manchester 26-28 June. Found, was an industry looking to fill the national, but currently missing, Design Code; and progress is expected late summer.

Design Review Panellists can offer options: For built environment ideas-assessment on-site £180; for a new scheme broad review on-line £750; or thorough judgment when the planning inspectorate gives significant weight to review panel attendance £950.


By Adrian Dobinson (Architectural design & conservation practitioner and former Councillor on a policy and decision-making planning board) Renaissance Rodden House Frome BA11 5LE T: 01373 462730 M: 07598 899062

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