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South East Regional Design Panel

South East Regional Design Panel

SEEDA was the first Regional Development Agency (RDA) to fund a regional design panel as an independent resource for the whole region, and a potential model for other regions. The South East Regional Design Panel is operated by the Kent Architecture Centre along with a series of training, enabling and community participation initiatives developed to support the delivery of sustainable, high quality and well designed developments.

Its remit was to champion design excellence and sustainability, especially where substantial growth is being proposed. The Panel provides a free design review service to a wide range of public and private organisations. Panel members are selected for their knowledge and experience of design related issues and drawn from different professional disciplines. Its aim is to be involved at the early stages of a project before ideas and financial commitments are fixed. Projects are submitted to the panel on a voluntary basis.

Some 60 projects a year are considered, through a process that includes a site visit and meeting to consider the application and a subsequent write-up. The panel uses a thirteen-point checklist covering complex issues such as density and character, thus supplementing the sometimes limited expertise of local authorities. It complements the CABE Design Review process, and is credited with helping to raise the standard of design on projects such as proposals for part of Sevenoaks town centre, as well as helping to write the brief for major new schemes such as St Leonards town centre. From the schemes that the panel has seen in the last 2 years the following good practice messages have emerged:

  • Many projects have benefited from being part of a wider masterplan or equivalent development framework;
  • Best practice tends to result from early consultation with the planning authority and the input of the Design Panel can be most effective when consulted early in the design process;
  • Successful projects generally have a realistically costed and timetabled brief from the commissioner to the designer, and equally important is the quality of site briefs from planning departments that set a clear goal of the type of development they wish to see;
  • The better schemes that the panel has seen have been informed by a careful analysis of the existing context and have used the design statement to show the integrity of their work.

© South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), 2009 
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