Driving up design quality

Forums Quality assessments, templates and other best practice Driving up design quality

This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Toby Hamilton 8 years, 1 month ago.

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    Ray Crawford

    I’ll be upfront about this – I’m after some (more) ideas to steal here.

    With the old full on benchmarking and now with the Planning Quality Framework benchmarking lite we have tended to focus on process, but the reason we became planners is to make better places. Although nobody has ever come up with any real evidence, we have been criticised for accepting designs that are just “good enough for Hastings” rather than excellent.

    We have had some success with improving our validation rates by publishing our agents performance online, but that just reduces the important things that are missing when an application comes in, rather than improving the quality of the submissions. In particular the quality of supporting statements justifying and explaining the design concept are sometimes lamentable .

    PAS showed us really neat piece of work that Camden use to score a design and to judge the impact of their pre-app service.
    I have simplified that a bit to take out the actual scoring, and I have liked the items to policies in our local plan (I also changed it to our corporate colours to sidestep any accusations of plagiarism, but I guess the cat is out of the bag now!)

    My hope is that it will act as an aide memoir for agents submitting an application, so at the very least it will improve their design and access statements. I also dream that one day someone might use it at the start of the design process.

    I was worried that when I raised it at our last Agents Forum the architects, as opposed to the technicians, would take exception to us teaching them how to do their job. However, the response was quite the opposite – they welcomed it and said that it would be a useful tool. Who’d have thought!

    Before publishing it on our website I tried it out at one of our quarterly training sessions for Members. We had previously done a tour of the town looking at recent developments and it was interesting that there were two contemporary buildings that on the face of it were quite similar in terms of their design approach and location. The Members loved one but hated the other, but they found it hard to explain what it was that they liked and didn’t like.

    At a subsequent training session I gave the Members some drawings that had recently been submitted for pre-app and that we had already advised on, and gave them the checklist. With very little prompting they started having some pretty detailed discussions about design – in this particular case it was more about layout than the quality of the buildings themselves . An important point that I think came out for the Members was that design isn’t just about what a building looks like, its how a development actually works. This was before we had published the list online, and they asked for copies to take away to help them judge future applications. I mark that up as a success and I hope that it will lead to more informed discussions about design in the future.

    It’s too early to tell whether this will actually make any difference in the real world, but I live in hope.

    So, having shared this with you, has anybody else got any ideas that I can steal to drive up the quality of design?


    Toby Hamilton

    Hi Ray,

    This looks interesting. I can’t see any links in your post but I’m guessing that this relates to the ‘design and construction’ section on your validation requirements page on the Hastings website:


    …and also this document, which contains the policy links:



    • This reply was modified 8 years, 1 month ago by  Toby Hamilton. Reason: links not showing
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