Design review is a process of independent, expert design advice provided by a multi-disciplinary and expert panel during the pre-application process. It benefits the applicant and the planning authority by providing an objective and clear assessment of the design merits of a development proposal, and offering constructive and considered recommendations.

For many local authorities design review has become an integral part of the design management and planning control processes. It is identified in the National Planning Policy Framework as a key tool for local planning authorities to ensure design quality. Paragraph 62 of the NPPF states:

‘Local planning authorities should have local design review arrangements in place to provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design. … In general early engagement on design produces the greatest benefits. In assessing applications local planning authorities should have regard to the recommendations from the design review panel.’

Design review can:

  • Build confidence among decision makers, and remove confusion or risk associated with major projects
  • Improve the design of a scheme and identify was to make it function better
  • Achieve consensus around design objectives through a process of constructive engagement
  • Helps to progress a site through the planning process: an endorsement from design review or evidence that a promoter has responded to the panel’s suggestions adds weight to decision making
  • Offer fresh perspectives, providing solutions to seemingly intractable design issues
  • Unlock higher sale or rental values through improved design
  • Facilitate engagement with interested parties e.g. highways, politicians and communities, and provide cross authority/stakeholder assistance when schemes span local authority boundaries

Why design review through Design South East?

From DSE you can expect a professional service and access to expertise when you need it. The key reasons for why DSE is uniquely equipped to help you:

  • Our track record – we have over 12 years of design review management experience, and our collaborative approach is seen as the Rolls Royce model for design review
  • A bespoke service tailored to the particular needs of the place and project – working with you to ensure the timeliness and relevance of the service ad our advice
  • Our skilled full-time team – our service is managed by a highly experienced and respected staff team who ensure quality and consistency in all reviews
  • Our track record in helping to manage growth – the majority of our design review now involves housing and we are engaged on many of the most significant housing schemes in the South East and East Anglia
  • The range of skills on the South East Panel – we are extremely active and have attracted a multi-disciplinary range of panel members, who have a shared enthusiasm for improving the quality of the built environment across the South East and East Anglia
  • Our approach to local design review – we deliver the service through close partnership working with local authorities and we have developed local models of design review.

Delivery of design review

The design review service is fully managed by full-time staff team at Design South East and all aspects of the service are co-ordinated by us. Costs are typically met by the scheme promoter.

SET-UP: Design review meetings can be set up on demand. There is typically a three-week lead in time to set up a design review meeting to ensure the availability of the right team to support the project.

ON THE DAY: Meetings are held with three to four panel members and a panel Chair in attendance, plus the DSE team. The meeting is always proceeded by a site visit and briefing of the panel by the LPA and development team to ensure members have a clear understanding of the project and their role in supporting the success of the scheme.

FOLLOW UP: The review is concluded with a letter from the panel, circulated within in ten working days of the meeting, which summaries the finding of the review.

Design South East’s role includes:

  • Organising design review meetings to work with project timescales undertaking design review meetings in the locality
  • Assembling a bespoke design panel for each scheme to ensure the breadth of skills, knowledge and experience best suit the needs of a project
  • Undertaking thorough site visits with those involved in the project so that the local authority and design team have an opportunity to walk and talk through the site with the panel members to ensure that the panel have a good understanding of the site and context i.e. topography, connections, views and existing buildings.
  • Inviting representatives from other organisations/groups, where appropriate to the meeting, i.e. English Heritage, ATLAS, to provide an opportunity for joint working
  • Conducting the design review session in a positive manner which promotes dialogue between the design team, client, developer, local authority, councillors and panel members


Contact and next steps
David Tittle, Head of Design Advice

Design South East

01634 401166