GUIDANCE FOR APPLICANTS

1. Introduction 

The Design:Midlands Design Review process provides a professional and independent service that assesses and advises on the design quality of schemes being developed in the Midlands.

We review a range of projects from sustainable urban extensions, large regeneration projects, masterplans, public buildings, mixed use developments, housing schemes to single dwellings. 

Submitting schemes for Design Review is specifically encouraged in the National Planning Policy Framework as stated below:

Local planning authorities should ensure that they have access to, and make appropriate use of, tools and processes for assessing and improving the design of development. These include workshops to engage the local community, design advice and review arrangements, and assessment frameworks such as Building for Life47. These are of most benefit if used as early as possible in the evolution of schemes, and are particularly important for significant projects such as large scale housing and mixed use developments. In assessing applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the outcome from these processes, including any recommendations made by design review panels 

Design:Midlands has an expert Panel of built environment specialist comprising of  architects, urban designers, landscape architects, planners, engineers, conservationist, sustainability professionals and other experts in the built environment fields that can be drawn upon as appropriate depending on the nature of the scheme. 

The process should be a positive experience for all participants where the aim is to support and improve the quality of the proposal through comment, advice and practical suggestions. 

2. When to submit for a Design Review 

Clients or their agents should initially contact Design:Midlands at an early stage of the design process. For the review to have the greatest benefit, there should be enough flexibility and time available to enable the findings of the review to be considered and hopefully taken on board prior to the submission of a planning application. 

It may be appropriate to resubmit the scheme for a follow up review just before or at the time of submission for planning permission where changes have been made to the original scheme. 

3. The Process 

  • Agree a date for the review that suits all parties. This should be at least three to four weeks prior to the review date. 
  • The fee will be confirmed by Design Midlands (sliding scale according to the nature and scale of the proposal – see section below on fees) 
  • Applicants should complete and return the Design Review Submission Form available on our website under the Design Review section. 
  • A Panel will be appointed with a range of disciplines, skills and expertise to suit the project
  • Applicants need to submit their drawings and supporting information at least a week prior to the review date 
  • The review will commence with a briefing from the local planning authority, a site visit, scheme presentation followed by a discussion on the proposals which should take place at or near the site. The session normally lasts 3 hours in total. 
  • A written report will be drafted and sent out to the applicants by Design:Midlands following the Review. This normally takes about 10 working days. 

4. Information required 

The information provided prior to the Review session should focus on the following : 

  • Site description and context – the topography, surrounding landscape and the setting of the proposal, site constraints and the character of the adjoining built environment 
  • The planning context – planning history, status of the site, and relevant policies affecting it 
  • The client’s brief - objectives, accommodation requirements, constraints, design preferences 
  • The design rationale – the design concept and the thinking behind it, How the site and its context has informed this process should be a central part of the development of the concept (this analysis should be well illustrated as it will be critical to the Panel’s considerations
  • The proposal itself – plans, elevations, sections and perspectives where possible. 

5. Involvement of the Local Planning Authority 

Design Midlands strongly supports the involvement of the local planning authority in the Design Review process. The attendance of one or more representatives at the discussion is essential in highlighting the key planning issues and clarifying points of policy interpretation or background as well as other relevant planning matters. Attendance at the discussion can also help their general understanding of design as well as the thinking behind the Panel’s observations. 

6. The Panel 

The Panel consists of a Chair and two or three Panel members depending on the scale and complexity of the scheme being reviewed. The expertise of the Panel will be tailored to the nature of the proposal.

7. The Design Review day 

Briefing from the Local Planning Authority (10 minutes)

The meeting commences with a briefing from the local authority to explain the planning context of the project for example planning policies, planning history and they are wanting the review to address. 

Site visit (1 hr depending on the scale of the scheme)
The Panel is shown around the site where the context for the proposals can be explained and any queries from the Panel responded to.

Scheme presentation (20 mins)
The design team provide a presentation which covers the site context, design rationale and the essential elements of the proposal.
Please note: It is important that this is kept brief to maximise the time available for discussion which is the focus of the review. 

Questions, discussion and comment (approx. 1 hr)
The session will be chaired by the Chair of the Design Panel.  The Panel will seek clarification on points they are unsure about or ask for additional information where needed. The Chair of the Panel will identify what the Panel members consider to be the key issues and the subsequent discussion will focus on these aspects. The Panel will highlight both the positive aspects of the scheme as well as any areas which would benefit from further considertaion. Suggestions or alternatives will be put forward where possible to provide some direction to the design team as to how they might proceed.
The Chair will summarise the key points that have arisen which will then feature in the final written report that Design:Midlands will issue.
Please Note: The final report will only cover points raised at the discussion.

8. Follow-up Design Reviews 

A follow up Design Review can be arranged where proposals have been refined in response to Panels comments.  The revised proposals can be considered at a design review meeting which will comprise of the same panel members who undertook the initial review to ensure continuity and consistency of advice. Or alternatively a desktop review which is undertaken   remotely led by two of the original panel. The above options will depend on the extent of the  amendments. 

9. Fees 

The following represent the fees charged by Design Midlands as at September 2019. Fees are to be paid in advance of the Review session. 

a) Small schemes (individual buildings including isolated homes in the open countryside / paragraph 79 of the NPPF, BFL12 assessment, infill and those less than 20 dwellings) £3000+VAT 

b) Medium sized schemes (mixed use, regeneration, town / city centre, public buildings, 20+ dwellings) £4000 +VAT 

c) Major schemes (where new infrastructure is included such as sustainable urban extensions (SUE), major regeneration, new campus, transport hub) £6000+VAT 

10. Feedback 

Clients and/or their agents are encouraged to provide feedback on the Design Review process and the extent to which it has helped the design process. 

11. Contact 

Design Review Panel Manager - Dharmista Patel dharmista@designmidlands.org / 07967 638 786

...because everyone deserves better designed places
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