You may recall our posts last year on the future of CABE, as the organisation fell victim to the Government funding cuts; CABE merged with the Design Council. One of the pressing concerns expressed at the time was: what will happen to design review? This had been an important part of CABE’s work in the past as part of the planning process. The Design Council commissioned a review, which has recently reported, the Bishop Report. The brief for the report was to clarify and recommend a nationwide system of support to deliver design quality in the built environment which will be accessible and user- friendly, support the nation’s growth agenda and enable sustainable development.

The Bishop Report makes a number of recommendations, expressed as a series of aims. Amongst these are “to achieve good design through the planning system” – with a call that the Government should “explicitly recognise and reinforce the value of good design… within the new planning system”. There is also a call for NPPF to be amended to include design review as part of the sustainable development assessment. The report acknowledges issues arising from the capacity and capability of local authorities to deliver the relevant expertise. Suggestions are made for drawing on greater networks of experts, and that the costs of design review should be covered by local authority statutory planning fees, or voluntary pre-application fees. Developers’ concerns are also addressed, with proposals for making the review process more user-friendly.

The report concludes that local planning authorities have a central role to play and it is essential that design expertise is resourced and embedded at local level, with effective support.