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Liverpool to give developers free design reviews

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Developers in Liverpool are being offered free design reviews until March next year

The programme has been set up by Steve Rotheram, the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor and former bricklayer, as part of his ’drive to champion high-quality design across the region’.

The initiative will be delivered by Places Matter and supported by the RIBA, with a focus on ‘design in housing growth and key economic assets’.

Paid for by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), through the Planning Delivery Fund awarded to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the design reviews will be carried out at no cost to the applicant. According to Places Matter’s website, applicants can normally expect to pay up to £3,450 plus VAT for a review.

Developers and local authorities with suitable projects anywhere in the six Liverpool City Region planning authorities can apply for reviews, which will be carried out through Places Matter’s established panel of 60 industry experts.

Rotheram said: ’The design of the places where we live, work and spend our leisure time plays a key role in our wellbeing, health and happiness.

’This initiative is part of my pledge to champion high-quality design across the city region and I would encourage developers and our colleagues in local authorities to take advantage of the free expertise available through Places Matter’s panel of industry experts.’

Richard Tracey, Places Matter’s design review manager, added: ’This is a tremendous opportunity for developers to bring forward schemes and gain the knowledge and expertise of Places Matter at no cost.

’The scale of the initiative allows us to look at a wide variety of projects, from whole new settlements and masterplans, down to individual city centre development plots.’

Maggie Mullan of Liverpool-based Maggie Mullan Architects said she was ’absolutely delighted and hugely encouraged’ by the move. She said: ’Its not only a validation of the value of Places Matter but also a massive endorsement of the value of widening the quality of debate and discussion around development in the Liverpool City Region.’

Former CABE chair Paul Finch said: ’The principle of public interest design reviews, funded from the public purse, were part and parcel of government policy and offered in a comprehensive way via CABE from 1999 until its abolition by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2011.

‘At that time, what was then the Department of Communities & Local Government continued CABE’s funding agreement for a further two years, in its new home as part of the Design Council.

This announcement is evidence that sensible second thoughts are taking place

’The renamed MHCLG department is re-starting the spirit of that agreement using a different funding mechanism, and it would be encouraging to think that this initiative might extend to national design review arrangements where appropriate, which can easily be delivered by Design Council CABE.’

Finch concluded: ’Abolishing CABE, which supported an extensive network of regional groups, including Places Matter, was a short-sighted decision. This announcement is evidence that sensible second thoughts are taking place.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Pre-application enquiries should include design review as part of the offer. The support of government is welcomed but it is robbing Peter to pay Paul - cuts to local authority budgets are having consequences to the quality of design advice.

    Paul Finch is right to point out that the abolition of CABE and the funding of regional panels has had a detrimental effect. If design is to be taken seriously as the recently re-issued NPPF claims it will be, then early inputs from panels to applicants and training for councillors will be needed not just as short term offers but long term commitments.

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  • Developers need to be encouraged to see the benefits to them in participating in this process , as there is an illusion good design is more expensive. if the design brief and design approach is supported by a design panel from the start the results can be highly cost effective and beautiful and take schemes through planning faster. Vital the review is not done just prior to planning however .

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