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 79 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

Para 79 House by Hawkes Architecture

Para 79 House in Dover Kent by Hawkes Architecture

Rockfish Exeter Quay

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

Pegasus Life Project Sidmouth Devon

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 (www.designreviewpanel.co.uk) 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 2017

Design Review Panel training session carried out in Exeter, Devon in December 2017. The event was extremely well attended and incorporated a mock design review panel session and design workshop

Guidance on How The Design Review Panel Evaluates Quality in Architecture & Urban Design



Design Review Panel Member Arthur Tatchell - Chartered Architect

Many thanks to Chartered Architect and Design Review Panel member Arthur Tatchell (BSc Hons; BArch; DipNLP; DipFS; MBA; ARB; RIBA) for compiling the below guidance on how The Design Review Panel evaluates quality in architecture and urban design:-

“Design is a creative activity, and definitions of quality in design are elusive. It cannot be reduced to codes and prescriptions; and even in those areas where there appear to be codes - such as classical architecture – the best examples often break or transcend the rules. It is possible, however, to distinguish good design from bad design.

By good design we mean design that is fit for purpose, sustainable, efficient, coherent, flexible, responsive to context, good looking and a clear expression of the requirements of the brief”.

Project Framework

To evaluate a project, it is necessary to understand the nature of the client and the design team, and how the project is being organised.

The Brief

  • Is there a clear brief for the project?

  • Does the brief set clear aims and objectives for the project?

  • Have a budget and a programme been established?

  • Is the brief realistic in relation to the budget available?

  • Is the brief realistic in relation to the site?

Evaluating Designs - Understanding the Context

One of the keys to a successful project is to achieve an understanding of its physical context through an urban design analysis; it is unwise to try to change a place without first understanding it.


Design Review Panel site visit - understanding the context

The following aspects of form should be considered in carrying out an urban design analysis:

  • Urban structure - the framework of routes and spaces.

  • Urban grain - the pattern of blocks, plots and buildings.

  • Landscape - shape, form, ecology and natural features.

  • Density and mix - the amount of development and the range of uses.

  • Scale - height and massing.

  • Appearance - details and material.

These aspects, taken together, create the physical character of an area. It is important for the analysis to deal with dynamic as well as static aspects of character, with patterns of movement of people and vehicles, with routes and linkages, as much as the physical characteristics of the project’s setting.

Key Questions - Understanding the Context

  • Is there an urban design analysis? Is there evidence that the nature of the site’s context has been investigated and understood?

  • Does this deal with patterns of movement as well as physical characteristics?

Evaluating Designs – The Project in its Context.

“By Design” suggests the following as the objectives of urban design:

  • Character - a place with its own identity.

  • Continuity and enclosure - a place where public and private spaces are clearly distinguished.

  • Quality of the public realm - a place with attractive and successful outdoor areas (that is, areas which are valued by people who use them or pass through them).

  • Ease of movement - a place that is easy to get to and move through.

  • Legibility - a place that has a clear image and is easy to understand.

  • Adaptability - a place that can change easily.

  • Diversity - a place with variety and choice.

The above objectives should be thought of in relation to people and activities as much as built form.


Sir Winston Churchill Design of Building Quote

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” This quote by Winston Churchill is said in a speech in the House of Commons on 28th October 1944.

The meaning of the quote itself is, first of all, a building is a result of the design of the architect’s ideas, but over time after the building was occupied, people who live and work in it take the quality of the buildings they live in.

Key Questions – The Project in its Context

  • Have the important characteristics of the site been identified?

  • Has the urban design analysis informed the design?

  • Does the design have a considered relationship with the character of the context?

  • Does the project make a positive contribution to the public realm?

  • What effect will it have on people’s lives? Will it participate in the life of the city?

  • Is there a clear distinction between public and private spaces?

  • Does the project make a positive contribution to the way people move around a place and the way they are able to understand it?

  • Does it provide convenient access for all to the site and buildings?

  • Does it open up options for moving through the wider area?

  • Is there good access to public transport? Can the project contribute to improving public transport links?

Evaluating Designs – Planning the Site

It is increasingly common for major projects to be developed by way of a master-plan. Master plans are successful when they strike the difficult balance between providing a coherent framework for planning the site while allowing for the design of individual buildings, responding to changes in needs, uses and technologies which may occur over the period of a master plan.


Design Review Panel Master plan

Master plans cannot be considered separately from landscape design, and it is a characteristic of good projects that landscape has been an integral part of the design thinking from the beginning of the project.

The following aspects of site planning also need to be considered: -

  • Movement hierarchy - people first, cars second.

  • Parking provision - is it well-planned and convenient to use?

  • Service access - is it carefully considered so that it does not cause conflict with other functions and is not visually intrusive?

  • Have refuse storage and collection been dealt with satisfactorily?

  • Vehicle movements and service provision do not cause inconvenience.

  • Boundary treatments.

Planning the Site – Key Questions

  • Is the chosen site appropriate for the aspirations of the project? Is it suitable for the size, intensity and nature of the uses proposed?

  • In the case of masterplans for large projects, does the plan work if only part of it is executed?

  • Does the design allow for piecemeal redevelopment in the future?

  • Does the site planning make sense in relation to future development near