Following our recent appointment as Oxford City Council’s partner for design review, we are delighted to confirm that work is already well underway with our new panel members.

Since January the panel has already looked at a variety of proposals including new student accommodation and educational facilities addressing the growing demand on Oxford’s universities.

Working in close partnership with the Council, the refreshed panel reflects our innovative and inclusive ambitions for the future of design review, with a recruitment process designed to consolidate the strengths of the original panel, but also to include new skills and perspectives.  We received more than 180 applications to take part in the panel, a significant response which helped facilitate our ambition for more diversity, equality and inclusion in our recruitment process.  The new ODRP more closely reflects the population it serves, with a close gender-balanced (22 men and 20 women) and 19% BAME members.

For the first time, the design review panel includes a mentees scheme, promoting further inclusion and opportunities for access and training.  Design South East  offered 7 menteeships, places for non-paid observers, to improve knowledge and access to the process. We are now developing a programme which supports mentees to not only learn about planning and design within the local authority context of Oxford, but also to improve development of all important ‘soft’ skills including communication and diplomacy.

The leaner ODRP of 42 members underwent a group induction in January to engender a sense of collective focus and purpose and to get up to speed faster with the City’s requirements.

Alongside more established names, six panellists are in the early stages of their careers and 29 have experience of living or working in Oxford, rooting the panel in a real understanding of local people and place. Expertise in energy and sustainability is strongly represented on the panel, with members also contributing knowledge of historic environments, housing, urban design, landscape, movement and planning.  The panel will continue to have two co-chairs, with newly appointed Joanne Cave of David Lock Associates joining existing co-chair Joanna van Heyningen, and has the potential to work with elected members to develop bespoke learning and training programmes.

With sustainable development an ongoing priority, ODRP will be looking at a wide range of cross sectoral projects including not only those within the historic core of Oxford, but housing schemes, development at hospital sites and the regeneration of estates on the city outskirts.