Design at appealAdvice on dealing withdesign issues withinplanning appeals
IntroductionHigh quality buildings and spaces are achievablethrough good planning. Appeals should be seenas a last resort but they are an important partof the planning system and appeal decisionscan greatly affect the way future applicationsare devised, negotiated and decided.National, regional and locally important designobjectives should not be compromised byill-founded perceptions of what will or will notstand up at appeal. It is important that all partiesinvolved in appeals understand how to dealwith design issues and give them appropriateattention. The what to do list in this leafletwill help to achieve this. All involved, whetherlocal authority planner, appellant or third party,should apply them wherever possible.Published in 2006 by the Commission forArchitecture and the Built Environment.Graphic design by Draught Associates.Printed by White Oak Press on Starfineenvironmentally friendly paper.All rights reserved. No part of thispublication may be reproduced, stored ina retrieval system, copied or transmittedwithout the prior written consent of thepublisher except that the material may bephotocopied for non-commercial purposeswithout permission from the publisher.This document is available in alternativeformats on request from the publisher.CABE is the government’s advisor onarchitecture, urban design and public space.As a public body, we encourage policymakersto create places that work for people. We helplocal planners apply national design policyand offer expert advice to developers andarchitects. We show public sector clients howto commission buildings that meet the needs oftheir users. And we seek to inspire the public todemand more from their buildings and spaces.Advising, influencing and inspiring, we workto create well-designed, welcoming places.CABE1 Kemble StreetLondon WC2B 4ANT 020 7070 6700F 020 7070 6777E email@example.com
BackgroundDesign is a legitimate and important consideration in planningdecisions. Planning policy statement 1 (PPS1) now tells us that‘design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take theopportunities available for improving the character and quality of anarea and the way it functions, should not be accepted’. This meansthat rather than refusing only poor schemes as the old planning policyguidance note 1 (PPG1) instructed, planners should be rejectingeverything that fails to meet these new requirements. This raising ofthe bar in favour of quality will be a key test within planning appeals.Design is about how places look and work. By Design, thecompanion guide to PPS1, sets out the core principles of gooddesign. Planning decisions on design issues should refer tothese and the physical characteristics of the proposal in termsof how they will, or will not, produce well designed results.It is interesting to compare PPS1’s stance on design with old versionsof PPG1 that may still be influencing behaviour, despite no longerbeing in force. The 1992 version instructed authorities ‘not to seek tocontrol the detailed design of buildings unless the sensitive characterof the setting for the development justifies it’. The 1988 version ofPPG1 was even more stringent, saying: ‘Matters of detailed designhave long been an unnecessary source of contention and delayin the planning system.’ ‘Where a refusal of permission is basedsimply on a preference for a different external appearance, theremay be grounds for an award of costs in an inquiry appeal’. Thingshave moved on and these out of date policies no longer apply.We have come a long way since then and PPS1 should be seenas a clear endorsement of the relevance of design, explaining, asit does, that: ‘Good design is indivisible from good planning.’The need for good design is clearly set out in national policy and normallyincluded in regional and local policy. Even if design does not featurein an authority’s reasons for refusal, other parties might raise it or theinspector may decide to consider the merits of a scheme’s design. Allparties should be aware of this and set out their own views accordingly.In CABE’s recent survey of local planning authorities, nearly a thirdof respondents cited a lack of support by the planning inspectorate,and concerns about losing claims for costs, as a major reason for notrefusing planning permission on design grounds. This perceptionabout the inspectorate seems to have its roots in old versions of PPG1,and there is no clear evidence to support it. In fact, many appeals turnon design issues and many poorly designed schemes are regularlydismissed at appeal. The planning inspectorate’s own figures showthat in the six months to 31 January 2005, of the 5,617 appeals thatwere decided on design issues, only 35 per cent were allowed.Whatever the reality of appeal decisions the idea that designbased refusal will not be upheld does seem to have a veryreal effect on how authorities deal with design issues.
Use clear, positive policiesPlanning policy statements 1 and 12 (PPS1 and PPS12) clearlystate the need for positive design policies based on a goodunderstanding of local characteristics and objectives. Well writtenand unambiguous policies and guidance are the best way for a localauthority to show the design quality it expects. Developers shouldtake these policies into account and formulate their proposalsaccordingly. If they strongly disagree with a policy they shouldbecome involved in the policy making process and not use an appealon an individual development proposal to raise their objections.The appeal evidence submitted by the appellant should clearly setout how they have responded to national, regional and local policies.Similarly, reasons for refusal and evidence submitted by the localauthority should set out why they consider the scheme does not meetthe challenge set down in policies. This will provide a framework forthe inspector to consider the appeal.Heron Tower, LondonThe proposed 182m tower was approvedfollowing amendments made as a resultof the involvement of CABE’s designreview committee. © Kohn Pedersen FoxAssociates International.‘The purpose of the DETR/CABE document By Design isto promote higher standardsof urban design. I considerthat as the building wouldpositively contribute to itsimmediate setting and the widerskyline it would accord withthe thrust of this guidance.’Inspector’s decision letter forHeron Tower development,London. Approval recommendedto First Secretary of State.
Use expert design adviceGood quality advice is invaluable to both applicants/appellants and localplanning authorities. The right advice, at the right time, can help ensure aproposal is based on a thorough response to its context. This should helpmake it more acceptable to all, and so avoid the need to go to appeal.CABE provides a design review service for locally important or strategic schemesbut demand constantly exceeds supply. Local authorities and applicants/appellants should not see this as an alternative to having direct access tospecialist advice on architecture, urban design and landscape architecture.There is not enough high quality advice to go around. However, there are anumber of ways in which you can access good quality design advice. Localauthorities can group together to draw on advisors or set up local design reviewpanels. Applicants should seek out high quality design advice in the shapeof consultant architects, urban designers, access consultants, landscapearchitects, engineers and other relevant professionals.Design reviewCABE’s service offers design advice onstrategically important developments,masterplans or design frameworks. © CABE.Where schemes go to appeal, the appellant needs to provide evidence ofhow this type of expertise has influenced the design of the scheme. Thelocal planning authority’s evidence should show how expert advice hasinfluenced the decision to refuse permission.‘In considering the harm fromdesign the Secretary of Stateagrees with the inspectorthat harm may stem from thedesign concept overall, infailing to respond positively tothe character and merits of aparticular site, and from creatingan unsatisfactory environmentfor future residents…thatdespite the applicant’s effortsthere is no clear evidence thatthe overall design has beenunderpinned by a thoroughgoinganalysis of the site...TheSecretary of State concludesthat allowing this appeal wouldundermine government policyon securing good design.’First Secretary of State’s decisionletter for proposed residentialdevelopment on waterfront site,Eccleston Road, Maidstone, Kent.
Design is more thanaestheticsThe idea that design issues are not supported at appealmay be due to confusion over what design is reallyabout. Some people wrongly feel that design just meansaesthetics, style and the outward detailing of a building,and this attitude stifles appropriate decision making.Appearance is part of design but it is defined by PPS1 as muchbroader. Design is about how places work, fit together, andthe quality of life they support. Proposals must show that thedevelopment will function well in addition to being attractiveand responding to the existing character of the area.Design is about responding to the existing character, movementpatterns, appearance and other attributes of the area. It isabout how people will be able to use the development when itis built. At a more detailed level, design addresses matters ofmassing and bulk, external materials and landscaping, inclusivedesign and how the orientation of proposed buildings and theirrelationship to public spaces would provide adequate naturalsurveillance to help make a safe, secure environment.Haymarket, LiverpoolProviding for an active street frontage isone of the core aspects of good design.© David Millington.‘There is very clear guidanceto the effect that good urbandevelopment works bestwhere it is based on a grid,which allows and encouragesmovement, activity andconnectivity…[the proposal]would produce statictownscape at ground floorlevel, and secondly, thesafety of the environmentwould be compromised.’Inspector’s decision letterrecommending dismissalto Secretary of State fordevelopment at former Everardssite in Greenhithe, Kent.
Explain your caseWhen a scheme is examined at appeal, written or oral evidencewill need to say why it is or is not seen as appropriate. Theclarity of the rationale behind a proposed design, and howthe need for good design has been taken into account,may be crucial to the decision maker’s conclusion.A design and access statement may have been submitted with theapplication. This should be written specifically for the applicationand should explain how an understanding of local physical,social, economic and policy requirements have been applied tothe proposal. Statements can be used to demonstrate a rigorousdesign process, or indeed criticise it, in appeal evidence.London BridgeThe high quality of design of Renzo Piano’sLondon Bridge Tower, and the resultingregenerating effect on the local area, wasthe deciding factor in the First Secretary ofState’s decision to approve. © John McLean.It is important to use easily understandable language; both inreasons for refusal and appeal evidence. Generalised or genericterms such as ‘out of keeping’ or ‘overdevelopment’ should beavoided as they are meaningless when not substantiated by sitespecific information. The design, and why it is appropriate orinappropriate, should be described in as much detail as possible.‘The First Secretary of Stateconsiders that for a buildingof this size to be acceptable,the quality of the designis critical, in line with thegovernment’s commitmentto the achievement of gooddesign. In this case, like theinspector, he is satisfied thatthe proposed tower is of thehighest architectural quality.Had this not been the case, theSecretary of State might havereached a different decisionbut he considers that thequality of the design of thisparticular building is a verystrong argument in its favour.’First Secretary of State’sdecision letter approving LondonBridge Tower, London.
Appeals play an important role inthe planning system. But there is alack of confidence in dealing withdesign issues at this stage, and this isaffecting the quality of development.We hope that by producing this short‘how to’ guide, we will help all involvedwhen dealing with design at appeal.