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The following section provides an overview of the key principles of Design Review, the role of design review within the planning system, and the benefits it can deliver.

“Design Review is a well-established way of improving the quality of design outcomes in the built environment, and it is now recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework. “ Design Review Principles and Practice, Design Council CABE.

10 principles of Design Review

The panel operates in accordance with Design Council CABE’s ten principles of high quality resign review.

  • 1. Independent - It is conducted by people who are unconnected with the scheme’s promoters and decision makers, and ensures that conflicts of interest do not arise. 
  • 2. Expert - It is carried out by suitably trained people who are experienced in design and know how to criticise constructively.
  • 3. Multidisciplinary - It combines the different perspectives of architects, urban designers, urban and rural planners, landscape architects, engineers and other specialist experts to provide a complete, rounded assessment.
  • 4. Accountable - The panel and its advice must be clearly seen to work for the benefit of the public, as ingrained within the panel’s terms of reference.
  • 5. Transparent - The panel’s remit, membership, governance processes and funding should always be in the public domain.
  • 6. Proportionate - It is used on projects whose significance warrants the investment needed to provide the service. 
  • 7. Timely - It takes place as early as possible in the design process, because this can avoid a great deal of wasted time. It also costs less to make changes at an early stage.
  • 8. Advisory - A design review panel does not make decisions, but it offers impartial advice for the people who do.
  • 9. Objective - It appraises schemes according to reasoned, objective criteria rather than the stylistic tastes of individual panel members.
  • 10. Accessible - It's findings and advice are clearly expressed in terms that design teams, decision makers and clients can all understand and make use of.

Planning context

National Planning Policy Framework

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) recognises high quality design as a core principle of sustainable development, and promotes the use of local design review to provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design in new development.

With regards the planning process, the NPPF advocates early engagement with design review in order to deliver the greatest benefits, and states that local planning authorities should have regard for the recommendations of the Design Review Panel.

The planning process

Design review is a valuable addition to existing planning mechanisms, and helps local planning authorities determine whether schemes are truly high quality and should be promoted, are mediocre and in need of improvement, or of poor quality and should be redesigned or refused.

Design review is most beneficial at the pre-application stage, however schemes that are already at the full application stage can benefit greatly from design review.

Design review reports can support planning decisions at appeal if an application has been rejected on design grounds.
Schemes of local, regional or national significance can be reviewed, and are likely to be those that have recurring design issues, or that may have significant impact on landscape/ townscape character, visual amenity, or settlement pattern.


It is encouraged to submit development proposals for design review, as early as possible in the planning and design process, to ensure that positive action can be taken in response to the panel’s advice and recommendations.

Local planning authorities

For local planning authorities, design review enables them to ensure the delivery of high quality sustainable buildings and public places. It helps them to recognise outstanding and innovative design, resist poor and costly design, and gives them a practical means of understanding where improvements need to be made. 

The involvement of planning officers and members in design review can also raise their confidence in assessing and negotiating the design approach for other developments occurring in their area.

Project team

For project teams, design review provides an opportunity to receive a fresh viewpoint and highlight any design issues and opportunities that may have been missed. It allows alternative approaches to be considered and explored, leading to the delivery of significantly higher quality schemes in a more cost-effective way.

The review can also help reduce the risks and costs of delays in the planning process as a result of inadequate design quality.

Local communities

Design review can provide a forum for fostering and communicating understanding of development proposals with the local community.


The Hertfordshire Design Review Panel is a not-for-profit service and the fees levied for each design review are solely to cover operational costs.

Design review costs vary depending upon the type of review (panel or desktop), and the number, scale, and nature of scheme(s) put forward for review.

To enquire about design review and for an overview of the costs involved, please contact the design review team.


Contact us

For more information, contact us by:


Phone: 01992 556294



Hertfordshire Design Review Panel

Environmental Resource Planning

Postal Point CHN215

Hertfordshire County Council

County Hall

Pegs Lane

Hertford SG13 8DN