LETTER TO CHIEF PLANNING OFFICERS FROM CHRISTOPHER
BOWDEN, HEAD OF DIVISION
The letter below was sent out by Christopher
Bowden, Head Of Division, Development Control Policy on Tuesday
15 May 2001.
The Royal Fine Art Commission (RFAC) was a non-statutory
consultee for the purposes of planning applications. Following
the winding-up of the RFAC and the creation of the Commission
for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), the Department
has agreed that CABE should become a non-statutory consultee in
place of the RFAC. The present guidance on non-statutory consultation
is set out in DOE Circular 9/95 and in the "Statutory and
Non-Statutory Consultation Report" published by DETR in January
2001. This letter explains the arrangements for consulting CABE.
The Government has charged CABE with the promotion
of excellence in architecture and the built environment throughout
England. It is doing this in a number of ways. Reviewing the design
of projects which have been submitted for planning permission
is only one of them. CABE is also devoting a high proportion of
its efforts to becoming involved in projects at an early stage,
helping clients, designers and local authorities to achieve the
best possible quality.
CABE sees design review as an important aspect
of its work and its Design Review Committee meets monthly to consider
proposals. It considers about 30-40 projects a year on the basis
of full presentations and a similar number from submitted papers
and drawings. In addition, CABE can offer informal advice on other
projects on which local authorities consult it.
In view of the limited number of proposals on
which it can advise, CABE wishes to be consulted about projects
which are significant in some way. This is difficult to define
precisely because significance is not necessarily related to the
size of the project, its location or type, but guidance is set
out below. This will be kept under review in the light of experience.
The Government wishes CABE to pay increased
attention to proposals whose significance is mainly regional or
local. This is a wide remit and is concerned not just with metropolitan
centres and historic areas but, for example, with deprived areas,
suburbs, small towns and villages. Design review can be used to
help raise the quality of proposals for buildings and structures
because they have the potential to enhance the quality of people's
everyday lives and promote social inclusion. Such proposals may
include housing schemes, mixed use developments and changes to
An important part of CABE's remit is to scrutinise
the quality of buildings in the public sector, in particular those
procured through the Private Finance Initiative, and of projects
involving public money. For this reason, the Department is particularly
interested to see CABE consulted about such projects.
To assist authorities in deciding whether to
consult CABE, the Department has agreed with the Commission the
following guidance on significant projects.
1. Proposals which are significant because
of their size or the uses they contain
This category includes:
large buildings or groups of buildings
such as courts, large religious buildings, museums or art galleries,
hospitals, shopping and leisure complexes, and office or commercial
infrastructure projects such as stations,
airports and other transport interchanges, bridges, power stations
and waste incinerators; and
major changes in the public realm
such as pedestrianisation schemes or proposals to enhance public
squares and civic open spaces.
2. Proposals which are significant because
of their site
In this category are proposals which affect
important viewsinto or from a World Heritage Site, for
exampleor are sited in such a way that they give rise to
exceptional effects on their locality. A relatively modest proposal
can be of strategic importance to a town or city if it is situated
at an important street junction, in a square, on a river bank
or on the approach to the urban area.
3. Proposals with an importance greater than
their size, use or site would suggest
proposals which are likely to establish
the planning, form or architectural quality for future large scale
development or re-development;
proposals which are out of the ordinary
in their context or setting because of their scale, form or materials;
proposals which are particularly
relevant to the quality of everyday life and contain design features
which, if repeated, would offer substantial benefits for society.
CABE's staff are happy to advise planning authorities
whether they wish to be consulted about a particular proposal.
They can be contacted at:
The Tower Building, 11 York Road, 16th Floor,
London SE1 7NX. Tel: 020 7960 2400. Fax: 020 7960 2444. Or through
In line with the recommendations in the report
mentioned in paragraph 1 of this letter, authorities should set
clear deadlines for comment by CABE, as for other consultees,
having regard to the Government's Best Value target for handling
planning applications and to the circumstances of the case.
As well as offering formal advice on planning
applications, CABE is prepared to become involved in some schemes
more closely, offering advice at all stages including the preparation
of the brief and during the design process itself. CABE wants
to contribute to the quality of urban areas in the widest sense
and is prepared not only to advise on landmark buildings but,
for example, housing developments, retail facilities or townscapes.
It therefore welcomes approaches from local authorities and others
at the earliest possible stage, when it will consider and advise
whether it wants to become involved in a project in this informal
way, and whether it wants to review the design of a project formally
at a later stage.
If CABE does not want to become involved in
a project on which it has been consulted it will say so in writing.
In such cases, there is no need for CABE to be consulted formally
again as part of the planning process. In all other cases it should
be notified when a planning application is submitted. However,
whatever CABE's previous position on relevant applications, authorities
should consider notifying CABE if those applications are called-in
by or the subject of an appeal to the Secretary of State in case
CABE wants to draw attention to particular issues that might be
considered during the inquiry.
When CABE intends to consider a project in its
Design Review Committee, the developer and designer will be invited
to explain the project. A member of staff, committee member or
both will usually make a site visit. The scheme will then be presented
to the Committee on the basis of drawings, models, photographs
or other presentation materials, by the architect if there is
a formal presentation and otherwise by a member of CABE's staff.
The local planning authority's views are always sought at this
stage. It is usual to invite them to attend full presentations.
The views and advice of the Committee are made
known by letter to the interested parties. Except where a scheme
has been seen at an early stage on a confidential basis, the views
will also be made available publicly, via the CABE website and
in other ways.
Further information about CABE can be found
on its website at www.cabe.org.uk.
Development Control Policy Division