Each year local authorities see thousands of new proposals which have the power to create better quality places. Design Review is a tried and tested method of achieving that potential, while also delivering a cost-effective and efficient way of improving the quality of proposals.

The importance of good design is recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which requires local authorities to establish sound, clear and easy to follow design policies and processes that can be followed by developers and local authorities.

The strength of a design review panel’s advice lies in its independence, objectivity and ability to analyse a scheme within the context of wider good practice.  


Why us?

Design Review is an independent and impartial process for evaluating the design quality of developments across England.

Since the service was set up in 1999, our team has delivered more than 3,500 Design Reviews across England and internationally. Proposals reviewed include significant developments, new buildings, public spaces and major infrastructure projects

Our service draws on the world-leading expertise of our multidisciplinary Built Environment Experts who assess the design quality of a proposal through constructive advice which identifies and communicates:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of the design
  • The next steps that should be taken to maximise the benefits that can be achieved through the development of its design.

Design Review is ideally carried out at the early design and planning stages, and reviews can be built into the project's timeline to support local authorities, developers and design teams in creating successful places throughout the development process. 

The process is managed to the high standard established in Design Review: Principles and Practice – co-authored by Design Council, Royal Town Planning Institute, Royal Institute of British Architects and the Landscape Institute.

Design Council's Design Review can be a powerful tool for bringing fresh eyes to important design aspects of large scale schemes.

Seema Manchanda, Former Assistant Director of Planning, LB Wandsworth

The 10 Principles of Design Review There are ten fundamental principles which set out the standards required for a successful Design Review. There are ten fundamental principles which set out the standards required for a successful Design Review.

Guide — 09/01/2017


Our Built Environment Experts (BEEs) are drawn from a range of sectors and together comprise a network of highly respected specialists. 

They provide multi-disciplinary support to local authorities, developers and communities. They advocate and champion the importance of good design in creating spaces and places that improve everyone’s quality of life.

Our work in practise

The tile of the main showcase

  1. Masterplans


    Kings Cross Central

    King’s Cross Central is one of Europe’s largest urban regeneration projects. The 24 hectare site is bordered by the new high-speed line to the Eurotunnel and bisected by Regent’s Canal.

    The masterplan sets out a framework for the incremental development of a diverse mix of uses, embedded in one of UK’s most significant industrial heritage sites. A network of public open spaces – streets, lanes, squares and parks permeate the urban blocks and make connections beyond the site.

    Cabe supported the work of the design team and client in the impressive development of this masterplan. 

    Download the Kings Cross Masterplan Design Review letter (.pdf)

     Image: Granary Square ©Allies and Morrison

    Battersea Power Station

    The masterplan for the Battersea Power Station – a Grade-II listed former electric power plant in London on the River Thames – aimed to create a mixed-use 38-acre sustainable development, offering commercial and retail functions as well as residential, cultural, and event spaces. These spaces would be interspersed with community facilities and a zero-carbon energy plant for the adaptive reuse of the power station itself.

    The historic structure of the power station functions as the focal point of the site’s regeneration, which aims to create a self-sufficient and vibrant new community, including 3,611 homes.

    Download the Battersea Power Station Masterplan Design Review letter (.pdf)

     Image: Battersea Power Station ©Rafael Viñoly Architects

    North-Bicester eco-town

    The development of an eco-town in North West Bicester sets ambitious goals for a new sustainable community. Design Council Cabe undertook Design Review from the early stages of the masterplan in 2010, supporting the raising of design ambitions and encouraging that the vision and execution of the project set an exemplary standard for a new kind of eco-development.

    “Design Review challenged the thinking and led to improvements to the emerging masterplan.”

    – Jenny Barker, Cherwell District Council, Client team

    Cabe concluded that the environmental aspirations appeared appropriate for an eco-town proposal, and encouraged the local authority to ensure that the proposed standards be achieved and delivered on time. 

    To find out more information about our involvement in Bicester’s eco-town please read our report.

    Download the North-Bicester eco-town Masterplan Design Review letter (.pdf)

     Image: North-Bicester eco-town ©Farrells Architects

    Fleet Marston, Aylesbury

    The new development at Fleet Marston will provide over 3,000 new homes, shops, a school, community space, doctors surgery, gym and recycling facilities.

    The designs reflect the local character of the area, express the multi-layered history of the site and provide a distinctive local character.

    Cabe believes this is a well-designed masterplan with the potential to create a successful new community. 

    Download the Fleet Marston, Aylesbury Masterplan Design Review letter (.pdf)

     Image: Fleet Marston, Aylesbury ©Adam Architecture

  2. Infrastructure


    Stockton-On-Tees biomass power plant

    Heatherwick Studio designed a biomass-fuelled power station to provide heat and electricity for new homes in Stockton and Middlesbrough. This project celebrates and connects with the area’s industrial heritage. In an area affected by the decline of the heavy industry, it also creates jobs and facilities for the local community.

    The proposed building is a structure to be proud of for people on both sides of the Tees, both for its exciting architecture and for the fact that it generates renewable energy. Cabe supported its creative approach to designing a piece of infrastructure and admired the way it raises above the brownfield landscape.

    Download the Teesside Power Station Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Stockton-On-Tees biomass power plant ©Heatherwick Studio

    Thames Tideway Tunnel

    The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a major new infrastructure project for London; its urgent need is required to protect the Thames river ways from pollution.

    The project builds upon the capital’s Victorian legacy of sewers and provides both a major improvement to the sewer system and new public spaces along the river. It will create more than 4000 direct jobs and around 5,000 more indirectly.

    Cabe helped identify the potential of the scheme, creating well-designed spaces for Londoners to enjoy the river.

    Read more about the advice we provided in the Thames Tideway Tunnel project in the report.

    Download the Thames Tideway Tunnel report (.pdf)

    Image: Thames Tideway Tunnel ©Thames Tideway Tunnel


    Crossrail is Europe’s largest infrastructure project. The new railway will cover over 100km of track including 21km of new twin-bore rail tunnels and ten new stations. Crossrail will, for the first time, deliver a direct connection between all of London’s main employment centres; linking Heathrow with Paddington, the West End, the City and Canary Wharf. The new railway will reduce journey times, ease congestion and improve connections. An estimated 200 million people will travel on Crossrail each year.

    Cabe provided design advice for the public space around the stations, the station buildings and the oversite developments, which have a significant impact on London’s key areas, the West End and the City.

    Read more about the advice we provided for Crossrail in the report.

    Download the Crossrail report (.pdf)

    Image: Crossrail ©Crossrail

  3. Tall buildings

    Tall buildings

    The Shard

    Few buildings affect quite as many Londoners as The Shard. Thousands will live and work inside it; millions more see it every day on the city’s skyline.

    The Shard is a 310-metre skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano on the south bank of the Thames, next to London Bridge railway station. The tallest building in Europe, this 95 storey ‘vertical town’  comprises of offices, homes, restaurants, a five star hotel and the capital’s highest viewing gallery. This building is earning its place in the hearts of Londoners, becoming a globally recognised symbol of the capital.

    Cabe admired the architecture of this building and suggested that its effect on the skyline would be a positive one.  However, we found that the treatment of its immediate urban context was inadequate for such an ambition.

    Download The Shard Design Review letter (.pdf)

     Image: The Shard ©Getty Images

    122 Leadenhall Street

    122 Leadenhall, colloquially known as the ‘Cheesegrater’ building, is a 222m tall tower in the City of London designed by Richard Rogers Partnership comprising of mainly office use, with retail and leisure accommodation on the lower levels.  

    Cabe offered our broad support for this proposal, which we felt to be an intelligently designed scheme with the potential to be an extraordinary addition to the City. 

    Download the 122 Leadenhall Street Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Leadenhall Building ©Rogers Stirk Harbour

    Beetham Tower, Hilton Hotel, Manchester

    The development, a 168.87m tall building designed by Ian Simpson in the heart of Manchester, is split into two easily identifiable elements: the tower containing the residential element and a lower “podium” element containing the hotel public areas, separated from the tower by a clear glazed atrium.

    Cabe supported this impressive proposal to create an iconic landmark tower. This was an opportunity to create visual connectivity with the city centre and attract activity to the south of the centre.

    Download the Beetham Tower Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Beetham Tower ©Simpson Haugh

  4. Housing


    Riverlight, Tideway Wharf

    Riverlight will transform an industrial estate – close to Battersea Power Station on the south bank of the River Thames, into a residential-led mixed use development.

    The scheme includes 806 homes, underground parking, a crèche, restaurants, bars, a food store and other retail spaces. It incorporates a river walk and landscaping to take full advantage of its location and create attractive public spaces for the local community.

    Cabe recognised the clarity of the scheme and the generous public space provided. The strength of the proposal lay in the strong layout of linear blocks alternating with private gardens.

    Download the Riverlight, Tideway Wharf Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Riverlight, Tideway Wharf ©Rodgers Stirk Harbour

    Hopwood Lane, Halifax

    The Hopwood Lane proposals designed by Glenn Howells Architects are for an £11 million mixed-use development, including ten new homes, office space, a cafe and restaurant.

    We warmly supported this scheme and the careful analysis of local characteristics which informed it. Its scale, quantum, materials and general architectural language fit successfully into this part of Halifax.

    Download the Hopwood Lane, Halifax Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Hopwood Lane, Halifax ©CABE

    Jericho Canalside, Oxford

    Having lain empty for many years, the site has been the subject of much local debate with residents keen for it to include facilities for the community including boaters on the canal.

    This mixed-use project, which comprises housing, community centre, boatyard and public space on a contentious canalside site, has involved an intense design and consultation process involving a number of local groups and stakeholders. 

    “The Design Review panel members took on board a complex site and brief and were able to give us constructive feedback that helped us to identify strengths and weaknesses in our scheme.”

    – Matt Watts, Haworth Tompkins,  Architect

    Cabe recognised that the scheme had the obvious potential to deliver a valuable mix of uses around what could be one of Oxford’s most important public spaces.

    Download the Jericho Canalside, Oxford Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Jericho Boatsyard, Oxford ©Haworth Tompkins

  5. Offices


    Bloomberg Place

    The Bloomberg Place project was an opportunity to create a new city block in a highly sought after location in the heart of the City of London. The aim was to provide an open and bright office space to suit the vibrancy of Bloomberg’s media corporation.

    Carefully designed to respect the protected view of St Paul’s, Bloomberg Place opens up a number of new public spaces, framing generous vistas towards the cathedral.

    Cabe acknowledged that the project was soundly integrated with its context, the façades were well considered and the proposal could deliver a calm and confident new headquarters for Bloomberg and make a valuable contribution to the City of London

    Download the Bloomberg Place Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Bloomberg Place ©Foster and Partners

    Staffordshire County Council Offices, Tipping Street

    This proposal was for new council offices covering 135,000 sq ft in one four- and one five-storey buildings, with retail at ground level.

    Sustainability issues crucially informed the design, from moderating energy consumption to ‘future proofing’ the offices. The offices consequently won Best Corporate Workplace at the 2012 BCO Regional Awards.

    Cabe acknowledged the proposal as a successful piece of architecture; it sits comfortably within the urban pattern of Stafford and provides a welcoming retail environment. 

    Download the Staffordshire County Council Offices, Tipping Street Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Staffordshire County Council Offices ©3DReid

    New Ludgate

    Consisting of two remarkable buildings arranged New Ludgate creates a piazzetta, at the heart of London’s financial, professional and media worlds.

    Cabe supported this compelling proposal, which possesses an admirably calm civic presence and skilfully reorganises this important site.

    “CABE’s support for this scheme was invaluable.”

    – Vanessa Shrimpton, Communications Manager, Fletcher Priest

    Download the New Ludgate Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: New Ludgate ©Fletcher Priest

    Elizabeth House

    The Elizabeth House proposal comprises two buildings: a large north building and a smaller south building. The north building is formed of a 12 storey office block raised two storeys above ground level and a residential tower a further 16 storeys tall, including a large scale public gallery space proposed along York Road providing a new cultural venue.

    Cabe supported the project and acknowledged its high quality in terms of composition, elevations and detailing.

    Image: Elizabeth House ©Imaging Atelier

  6. Civic buildings

    Civic buildings

    Mary Rose Museum

    This museum permanently houses the wreck of the Mary Rose – Henry VIII’s flagship. The hull requires highly specialist environmental conditions to enable conservation to continue. The new museum cradles the hull at the centre of the building. It offers a unique experience for visitors to experience the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

    Cabe commends its strong, simple form. It works well within the sensitive context of the Dockyard and provides a high quality environment for the ship and her visitors.

    Download the Mary Rose Museum Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Mary Rose ©Wilkinson Erye

    Alder Hey Children’s Health Park, Liverpool

    This unique concept for the new hospital combined state-of-the-art clinical functionality has a striking new identity and fulfils the Trust’s ambition to recast Alder Hey as the Children’s Health Park.

    “The panel was helpful in highlighting the essence of our design concept and encouraging the design and client teams to remain true to its essential features, above all the primacy of the landscape and the new hospital’s integration with the park.”

    – Benedict Zucchi, Director of Architecture, BDP

    Cabe ensured Alder Hey Children’s Hospital offers world-class design as well as a ‘next-generation’ medical experience.

    To find out more about our involvement in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, please read our case study.

    Download the Alder Hey Design Review letter (.pdf)

    Image: Alder Hey Children’s Health Park, Liverpool ©BDP

    Birmingham Library

    The Library of Birmingham (LoB) designed by Mecanoo is a People’s Palace, a centre for learning, information and culture that unites people of all ages and backgrounds, which makes it more than just a building. The design extends the space of the street indoors.

    Situated between the concrete Repertory Theatre (REP) from 1962 and the listed Baskerville House from 1936, the library transforms the largest public square in the heart of the city.

    Cabe supports the City’s ambition for this new Library of Birmingham to be a world-class facility and admire many aspects of the scheme.

    Download the Birmingham Library Design Review letter (.pdf)

     Image: Birmingham Library Mecanoo ©Architecten b.v