Final planning framework says councils should have regard to Design Review verdicts on plans

Design review has been given a formal role in the planning system, under the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework published today.

The NPPF, the revised version of which has been welcomed today by design bodies, has also made high quality design one of the “core principals” of the planning system, an omission from the previous version.

The previous version of the NPPF had said that local planning authorities should have local design review arrangements in place, and should also “when appropriate” refer major projects for a national design review.

However, the finalised version says in addition that: “In assessing applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the recommendations from the design review panel.”

Design review is a process that puts developers plans in front of a panel of experts for comment and analysis.

The NPPF also calls for “early engagement on design” which it says produces the greatest benefits.

On the list of core principals of the planning system, it adds: “Always seek to secure high quality design and a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings.”

Kathy McEwan, head of localism and planning at design charity Design Council Cabe, which runs the national design review programme, said: “The revisions are very positive. The addition of design to the core principles of the planning system is a very significant point. It’s also very significant giving real weight to design review.

“In general if a local authority is trying to use the NPPF to protect something of value, there is the material to back that up.”

The revised version has also been welcomed by the RIBA. Ruth Reed, chair of the body’s planning group said: “We are delighted that the government has accepted many of the key recommendations put forward by the RIBA.

“Enshrining good design as a core planning principle and ensuring that the advice of design review panels has greater weight within the planning system will send a clear message to developers, planning officers and committees that poor quality development will no longer be accepted.”