Today's entry is about the extent to which good design
should be a feature of nationally significant infrastructure
Everyone agrees that the built environment should be designed to
a high standard, but what does the Planning Act regime have to say
about this and to what extent does it require it? How much
might an independent review of a project's design cost?
On 31 May I attended a discussion convened by the Design Council CABE, and
there was an interesting discussion about incorporating design into
nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs). CABE
stands for the Commission on Architecture and the Built
Environment, and it recently merged with the Design Council as a
result of the government's quango-cutting. They are now a
charity promoting design in the public interest.
In fact there are some provisions about design in the Planning
Act, but they only apply to projects indirectly. The
provisions require National Policy Statements (NPSs) to address the
achievement of good design, and since decisions on applications
should conform to the relevant NPS, this in turn puts a requirement
for good design on projects, depending on the wording of the
I tabled a paper on behalf of the National Infrastructure
Planning Association (NIPA) on the legal position on design and how
the NPSs that exist deal with it. They are all very similar but
subtly different. Let me know if you would like to see the
paper - I expect it will appear on the NIPA website in due
Although design is mainly concerned with what things look like,
and that will be the principal concern of those who will have to
put up with looking at a project once it has been built, there is
of course much more to it than that. The materials used, how
efficient operation will be, and so on. Perhaps the ultimate
goal is to design infrastructure so that people actually want to
live near it - not impossible, take the Millau Viaduct in France, for
The Design Council CABE is mentioned in each NPS (except the
Ports one, for some reason - one of those 'subtle
differences') as a recommended consultant on design issues for
project promoters. I can put some more flesh on that
recommendation, since the costs they would charge for a design
review were set out at the seminar.
These have a caveat that they will always be under review, and
will vary for particular projects but should give you a reasonable
idea. For a first design review, attended by members of a
panel of experts togther with Design Council CABE staff, plus a
site visit, they will charge in the region of
£11,000-£18,000. For a subsequent design review
for the same project, to be held at their London office (in Covent
Garden but moving to Angel on 22 June) they will charge around
£5,000-£8,000. More details are going to be provided in
a forthcoming document of theirs 'Design Guidance for
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects' due later
I hope that makes the idea of reviewing the design of an
infrastructure project more concrete so that it might be
incorporated into the project programme (although the result may
mean less concrete).
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