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Planners praise design review

6 August 2010

Almost every local planning officer (96 per cent) says that there are benefits from including design review in the planning system. Of these, 67 per cent say that access to specialist expertise is the main advantage.

Centre for Disability Studies, Rochford, Essex by Simmonds Mills.

Centre for Disability Studies, Rochford, Essex by Simmonds Mills. Photo by Disability Essex.

These findings are part of a new report, Helping local people choose good design. This marks the end of the first year of the design review network – a unique affiliation between CABE and the eight leading design review panels across England. It also shows that in 2009/10, almost two thirds of local authorities benefited from the design review network. 

Despite the recession, the number of schemes coming to design review remained high. A third of the reviews were for returning schemes. This shows that the design review process acts as a continuous conversation while schemes evolve, and also suggests that previous experience of design review was positive.

The report reveals that the cost of design review is only 0.005 per cent of the value of the development reviewed, and that the service is most beneficial early in the design process.

The report contains case studies which illustrate the value of the advice given by the panels. Inspire East panel, for instance, helped charity Disability Essex to make its new Centre for Disability Studies a third more energy efficient. Suggestions by the panel helped the charity generate income by selling surplus electricity to the national grid and let commercial office space at better rates. The building, completed in 2010, is the first non-domestic PassivHaus construction to be completed in England and has already won awards.

There are eight affiliated panels: Opun; Inspire East; Ignite; Places Matter; Kent Architecture Centre; Creating Excellence; MADE; and Integreat Yorkshire.