New research demonstrates that independent design review improves the design of buildings and brings clear benefits to the quality of places.

Research carried out by the Place Alliance, supported by the Mayor of London and Urban Design London, provides convincing evidence that design review1 delivers real benefits in terms of raising the quality of design in new developments and changes the culture locally to prioritise the delivery of better place quality.

The results reinforce the strong recommendation made by the Place Alliance and its partners2 that the revised National Planning Policy Framework should contain a much stronger endorsement of the process and that all major development schemes should be subject to design review.

For local authorities, design review is cost neutral, raises aspirations, and can be used to support in-house design capacity. Developers also benefit from a faster and more predictable formal planning process at what they regard as a minimal headline cost.

The report, Reviewing Design Review, provides extensive analysis and guidance on the process of design review, from setting up a panel, running it, and maximising its effectiveness. The research focussed on London, but the findings are equally applicable elsewhere.

Prof. Matthew Carmona, Chair of the Place Alliance commented: “Professionally run, independent design review improves the design of development and brings clear benefits to the quality of places. It is a no-brainer that local authorities across England should adopt it as a standard practice for all major developments”.


  1. Design Review is an independent and impartial evaluation process in which a panel of experts on the built environment assess the design of a building proposal. It offers feedback and observations to improve schemes. Design Review gives decision makers the confidence and information with which to support their decisions and helps to achieve a higher quality of design.
  2. The Place Alliance with the Academy of Urbanism, Civic Voice, Design Network, Institute of Historic Building Conservation, and Urban Design Group, provided a joint submission to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government’s recent consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework


Notes for editors

The Place Alliance is a new movement which emerged following the Farrell Review of architecture and the built environment (2014). It brings together organisations and individuals who share a belief that the quality of our built environment has a profound influence on people’s lives.

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