Planning Advice Note 68: Design Statements

Explains what a design statement is, why it is a useful tool, when it is required and how it should be prepared and presented.

Planning Advice Note 68: Design Statements

Annex - The design process

As part of the Designing Places design framework, the following sets out what is required at each stage of the design process. Whilst going through each stage, clients should always be effectively engaged in the process. Also, for major or sensitive schemes, developers must be conscious of public involvement and carry out consultation exercises with the public and local amenity groups.

Stage 1 Site and area appraisal
The first step is to carry out a site and area appraisal (see checklist opposite). This involves a desk survey combined with observations made on site - during the day and in the evening. For example, the use of certain spaces, access to pedestrian routes and the impact of lighting will vary depending on the time of day. The main aim is to examine the site in its wider and immediate context, to assess its current identity, and to check connections.

The site and area appraisal checklist has a dual purpose. It can be used by applicants as useful indicator of the type of information that will need to be investigated during a site appraisal, and it can also be used by officials to assess the extent of analysis. The list is a prompt - it is neither inclusive nor exclusive. The relevance of all the items on the list will vary according to the nature and circumstances of each site.

Stage 2 Identifying design principles
The second step is to identify the established design principles. Design principles are not just a list of preferences but a framework of ideas from which the design will be developed. Design principles will vary in number and complexity from one proposal to another, but whatever the final design, it should relate and respond positively to the principles.

These can include government policy such as the guidance set out in SPP1: The Planning System and Designing Places. Consistent with these will be the local authority's own design principles, set out in the development plan or supplementary planning guidance. In addition, site specific principles, such as a development brief, may have been drawn up.

Stage 3 Analysis
When sufficient information has been collected, the findings can be analysed. This will involve looking at the opportunities and constraints of the site. Examples include important views, features worthy of retention or protection, and any other features which may affect proposals.

Stage 4 Developing the design concept
The fourth stage is to combine the site investigation, design principles and analysis to produce a 3-dimensional design concept. The concept should show how the designer has understood, embraced and interpreted the site in its context - all in the light of relevant policies. If more than one design option has been drawn up, the applicant may wish to present and discuss these options with the planning authority.

Stage 5 The design solution
The last stage involves deciding on the best solution and drawing it up. If the applicant has followed all the stages, the subsequent process of producing a design statement should be relatively straightforward.

Site and area appraisal checklist


>Local area

  • Location of the site
  • General description of the surroundings, e.g. urban, residential and industrial
  • Is the site in or near a conservation area?

>Site description

  • Planning history
  • Ownership of the site
  • Adjacent land uses, and relevant planning proposals
  • Heritage conservation - listed buildings
  • Focal points
  • Landmarks
  • Vistas
  • Views to/from/over site
  • Topography - contours on the site
  • Microclimate - wind, sun orientation, exposure, shelter


  • Public utilities, e.g. underground services, drainage systems, overhead power lines
  • Public services available locally, e.g. schools, public transport


>Surrounding buildings

  • Building lines - groupings, rhythms and plot/feu sizes
  • Entrances - styles and sizes
  • Windows - styles and sizes
  • Active frontages
  • Scale - height and massing
  • Appearance - details and materials

>Use of the space

  • Use of spaces between buildings - public/private
  • Day, night, seasonal variation of use
  • Prohibited activities, security arrangements
>Hard landscaping
  • Location of street furniture
  • Condition and maintenance
  • How people use it
  • Public art/sculpture trail

>Soft landscaping

  • Landscape character
  • Quality of landscaping
  • Need for ground modelling
  • Nature conservation area
  • Wildlife habitats
  • Tree Preservation Orders
  • Play space/recreational space

>Vehicular movement

  • Surrounding road and street layout
  • Access, parking and circulation
  • Bus & tram stops and routes, taxi stops, cycle routes
  • Areas of vehicular/pedestrian conflict
  • Use of traffic measures, e.g. speed humps, surfaces, crossing points, bollards
  • Servicing arrangements

>Pedestrian access

  • Where are people coming from, going to?
  • Desire lines
  • Disabled access
  • Are people restricted from access due to any current aspects of design?
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