Design support

What we have to offer

Our Consultancy Unit offers a range of design services to our customers to help ensure positive planning outcomes:

National Planning Policy Framework

Paragraph 128 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (2018) states that design quality should be considered throughout the evolution and assessment of individual proposals.

Early discussion between applicants, the local planning authority and local community about the design and style of emerging schemes is important for clarifying expectations and reconciling local and commercial interests.

Paragraph 129 of the NPPF states that in assessing applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the outcome from design workshop and design review processes, particularly for significant projects such as large scale housing and mixed use developments.

What is a design workshop for?

Design Workshops offer the applicant and their design team the opportunity to work with our specialists on development proposals at pre-application stage through a collaborative approach. This can help ensure that the design takes into account national and local planning policies and guidance and maximises the potential of the site.

At the Design Workshop, developers would normally table a preliminary sketch containing a basic layout to allow our specialists to further develop the concept with the applicant's design team.

The Design Workshop provides an opportunity for collaborative working between all parties to explore and agree on the best design solutions for particular issues at an early stage.

This service is suitable for developers who intend to:

  • Submit an outline planning application to demonstrate how a site has the capacity to accommodate a certain amount of dwellings taking into account the site context and planning policy requirements. This can help ascertain the quantum of development and the location of access - key elements to be determined at outline stage.
  • Submit a full planning application where key design related considerations such as scale, layout, appearance, landscape treatment, ecological enhancement etc. should be taken into account at an early stage to inform the scheme. The more thoughts given to these elements at pre-application and planning submission stage, the better the chances of securing a positive planning outcome and the less number of conditions will be attached to the Decision Notice. This would in turn save time and money in the long run.
  • Submit a Reserved Matters application to agree on the scale, layout, appearance and landscaping of an outline planning approval.
  • submit a Discharge of Conditions application that involves specialists' advice on materials, landscaping scheme, architectural detailing, etc.

The format of the Design Workshop is informal, flexible and tailored to your requirements. The planning case officer will usually attend the Design Workshop. The specialists are tailored to the specific requirements of the scheme.

Typically, we include the following specialists for residential-led development proposals:

  • Urban design
  • Landscape
  • Ecology
  • Trees
  • Housing
  • Sustainability

When should you request a design workshop?

Design Workshops should only be requested once the principle of development has been accepted (the planning case officer can advise you if this is the case), and after most 'planning' issues have been resolved.

How much does a design workshop cost?

A fee will be calculated for each design workshop, based on an hourly rate per officer in attendance, and will include any preparation time and writing up / checking of the final report. The more specialists that attend and the more complex the issues to be discussed are, the higher the costs are likely to be.

The average cost for a design workshop is approximately £2,000 inclusive of VAT.

What happens after the design workshop?

A Design Workshop note, setting out the key issues discussed at the Design Workshop, will be issued to the applicant within 21 days following the Design Workshop.

It should be attached to any Design and Design Statement and/or Planning Statement to demonstrate how the design has evolved over time via a positive collaborative design approach.

How to book a design workshop?

The Design Workshop can be booked via the planning case officer.

If the planning case officer us in agreement that a Design Workshop would be beneficial, they will ask the Consultancy Unit to contact you directly to arrange the Design Workshop at a mutually agreeable date.

Customers have found our Design Workshop service very helpful in giving them directions at pre-application stage to ensure that the scheme receives support at officer level before submission.

The Design Enabling panel review customers designs to resolve any potential design issues to speed up the planning process. The panel provides constructive advice to applicants and their design team to help enable high-quality developments in Greater Cambridge. Development proposals are encouraged to be shown to the DEP early on in the pre-application stage so changes can be made more easily, reducing risk, cost and delays. 

For further information, please visit our DEP webpage.

The Consultancy Unit provides a Design Brief production service to help developers maximise the development potential of a site.

This takes into account the business requirement, specific site context as well as the requirements of national and local planning policies and guidance.

Each Design Brief will be tailored to suit the different requirements of each site, but will usually contain site analysis (constraints, opportunities, analysis of local character and so forth). This will inform a set of robust design principles to guide development proposals at a strategic level.

The cost is dependent on the complexity of the project and the number of specialists involved.


National Planning Policy Framework

Paragraph 124 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (2018) states the importance of effective engagement between applicants, communities, local planning authorities and other interests throughout the planning process to achieve high quality buildings and places.

Paragraph 128 of the NPPF states that applicants should work closely with those affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community, and that applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.

What is the Youth Engagement Workshop

The Consultancy Unit provides a bespoke Youth Engagement Workshop service to help developers engage local youths and obtain their views on development proposals in their villages.

This can help ensure that the final design takes into account the specific interests of children and young people (who are often under-represented in public consultations) on development proposals in their local areas, particularly on the design of play areas and public open spaces, to ensure that they are child-friendly and are fit-for-purpose.

The Youth Engagement Workshop is led by the Consultancy Unit's Youth Engagement Specialist who is experienced in facilitating effective youth engagement. The planning case officer and a representative of the developer's design/planning team are also encouraged to take part in the Workshop.

The average cost for a Youth Engagement Workshop is approximately £1,500 to £2,000 plus VAT depending on the nature and scale of the proposed development.

The Youth Engagement Workshop typically takes place at pre-application stage at a local school near the development site, and involves students and their teachers.

What activities take place at the workshop

A series of engagement exercises, including drawings, model-making and group discussions, designed based upon a Youth Engagement Framework, are carried out at the Workshop within a 3-hour slot.

The developer's design team would provide ideas on play equipment and the design of public open space - these would form the basis for the Engagement Workshop.

We aim to issue the results of Youth Engagement Workshop to the developer within 21 days following the Youth Engagement Workshop. It should be attached to any Design and Design Statement, Statement of Community Involvement and/or Planning Statement. This is to demonstrate how the final design has taken into account the interest of youths via a positive collaborative design approach. 

Contact Details

Please contact the Consultancy Unit's Lead Urban Design Project Coordinator for further information: or by phone on 01954 713167.

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