Major planning departments are set to dramatically increase recruitment of design and architecture-qualified experts following an imminent change to regulations.
The ODPM is understood to be on the verge of unveiling a new set of performance indicators, which will financially reward planning departments that employ design expertise.
The move would answer increasing criticism from architects and the RIBA over the ability of planners to assess design-led applications.
John Prescott's decision is set against an overall review of the methods used to assess how the ODPM distributes its Planning Performance Grants. It is expected to announce the full set of criteria later this year.
CABE has welcomed the move as a 'positive decision by the government', which should 'increase the number of designers and architects that are working within planning decision-making'.
'It is great that the government is promoting access to designers, ' planning policy adviser Esther Kurdland said. 'We believe the changes will be a big step forward for a design-driven planning system. But we do have some issues with the wording of the potential criteria documents.We are keen to see more detailed wording about design and architecture.'
However, an ODPM spokesman refused to confirm that the new regulations are in the pipeline. 'We are looking at the criteria at the moment and this is something we have considered. But I cannot confirm the changes are definitely being introduced, ' he said.