Writing a Design and Access statement
A Design and Access statement is a short report that accompanies and supports a planning application. It illustrates the process that has led to the development proposal and explains the design.
Design and Access statements help to ensure that development proposals are based on a thoughtful design process and a sustainable approach to access. They help us to better understand the analysis which has underpinned the design, which in turn helps negotiations and decision-making and should lead to an improvement in the quality, sustainability and inclusiveness of the development.
When is a Design and Access Statement required?
A Design and Access Statement is required for major development and developments in conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.
In major developments, a Design and Access Statement is required for:
- the provision of dwellinghouses where the number of dwellinghouses to be provided is 10 or more or the development is to be carried out on a site having an area of 0.5 hectares or more and it is not known whether the development relates to dwellinghouses
- the provision of a building or buildings where the floor space to be created by the development is 1,000 square metres or more
- development carried out on a site having an area of 1 hectare or more
In areas of historic value, smaller proposals may also have a significant impact on the character of an area. Therefore, Design and Access Statements will be required in conservation areas and World Heritage Sites where:
- the proposal includes the provision of one or more dwellinghouses
- the proposal includes the provision of a building or buildings where the floor space created by the development is 100 square metres or more
Developments of this scale can have a greater impact on the immediate surroundings and the wider area and a Design and Access Statement can perform a valuable function in helping the local planning authority and third parties to understand the analysis underpinning the design of a scheme.
In preparing the Design and Access statement, developers need to consider and explain the merit of the design and how it relates to the existing setting.
All Design and Access Statements must:
- explain the design principles and concepts that have been applied to the development
- demonstrate the steps taken to appraise the context of the development and how the design of the development takes that context into account in relation to the proposed use
- explain the policy adopted as to access and how policies relating to access in relevant local development documents have been taken into account
- state what, if any, consultation has been undertaken on issues relating to access to the development and what account has been taken of the outcome of any such consultation
- explain how any specific issues which might affect access to the development have been addressed
The following five sub-components may also need to be addressed in the design component.
The statement for both outline and detailed applications should explain the amount of development proposed for each use, how this will be distributed across the site, how the proposal relates to the site’s surroundings and what consideration is being given to ensure that accessibility for users to and between parts of the development is maximised. Where the application specifies a range of floorspace for a particular use, the reasons for this should be explained clearly in the Design and Access statement.
- For residential development, this means the number of proposed units for residential use.
- For all other development, this means the proposed floor space for each proposed use.
Amount cannot be reserved within an outline application, although it is common to express a maximum amount of floorspace for each use in the planning application and for this to be made the subject of a planning condition.
The layout is the way in which buildings, routes and open spaces (both private and public) are provided, placed and orientated in relation to each other and buildings and spaces surrounding the development.
The Design and Access statement accompanying an outline application should explain the principles behind the choice of development zones and blocks or building plots proposed and how these principles, including the need for appropriate access will inform the detailed layout.
If layout is reserved at the outline stage, the outline planning application should provide information on the approximate location of buildings, routes and open spaces proposed.
For detailed applications, and outline applications where layout is not reserved, the Design and Access statement should explain the proposed layout in terms of the relationship between buildings and public and private spaces within and around the site, and how these relationships will help to create safe, vibrant and successful places.
An indication should also be given of factors important to accessibility of the site for users, such as travel distances and gradients, and the orientation of blocks and units in relation to any site topography to afford optimum accessibility.
The layout of buildings can also have a profound impact on the energy consumption and thermal comfort during winter and summer and thus the building’s carbon emission performance. New developments should create safe and accessible environments where crime and disorder or fear of crime does not undermine quality of life or community cohesion.
Scale is the height, width and length of a building or buildings in relation to its surroundings.
If scale has been reserved at the outline stage, the application should still indicate the upper and lower limits of the height, width and length of each building, to establish a 3-dimensional building envelope within which the detailed design of buildings will be constructed. In such cases the design component of the statement should explain the principles behind these parameters and how these will inform the final scale of the buildings.
For detailed applications, and outline applications that do not reserve scale, the Design and Access statement should explain the scale of buildings proposed, including why particular heights have been settled upon, and how these relate to the site’s surroundings and the relevant skyline. The statement should also explain the size of building parts, particularly entrances and facades, with regard to how they will relate to the human scale.
Landscaping is the treatment of private and public spaces to enhance or protect the amenities of the site and the area in which it is situated through hard and soft landscaping measures.
Statements should explain the function of the landscaping, for instance for sustainable drainage purposes, providing shading or other climate change adaptation purposes, and explain how it will be maintained.
If landscaping is reserved at the outline stage, the outline application does not need to provide any specific landscaping information. However, the design and access statement should still explain the principles that will inform any future landscaping scheme for the site.
For detailed applications, and outline applications that do not reserve landscaping, the Design and Access statement should explain the proposed landscaping scheme, explaining the purpose of landscaping private and public spaces and its relationship to the surrounding area. Where possible, a schedule of planting and proposed hard landscaping materials to be used is recommended.
Some development proposals (for example, alterations to an existing building) may include no landscaping element. For such proposals, this section of the Design and Access statement would simply need to state why landscaping is not relevant to the application.
Appearance is the aspect of a place or building that determines the visual impression it makes, including the external built form of the development, its architecture, materials, decoration, lighting, colour and texture.
If appearance is reserved at the outline stage, the outline application does not need to provide any specific information on the issue. In such cases the design and access statement should explain the principles behind the intended appearance and how these will inform the final design of the development.
For detailed applications, and outline applications that do not reserve appearance, the design and access statement should explain the appearance of the place or buildings proposed including how this will relate to the appearance and character of the development’s surroundings. It should explain how the decisions taken about appearance have considered accessibility. The choice of particular materials and textures will have a significant impact upon a development’s accessibility. Judicious use of materials that contrast in tone and colour to define important features such as entrances, circulation routes or seating for example will greatly enhance access for everyone. Similarly early consideration of the location and levels of lighting will be critical to the standard of accessibility ultimately achieved.
An important part of a Design and Access statement is the explanation of how local context has influenced the design. Context should be discussed in relation to the scheme as a whole, rather than specifically in relation to the five sub-components of amount, layout, scale, landscaping and appearance.
A Design and Access statement should demonstrate the steps taken to appraise the context of the proposed development. It is important that an applicant should understand the context in which their proposal will sit and use this understanding to draw up the application.
A good understanding of context includes:
- Assessment of the site’s immediate and wider context in terms of physical, social and economic characteristics and relevant planning policies. This may include both a desk survey and on-site observations and access audit. The extent of the area to be surveyed will depend on the nature, scale and sensitivity of the development.
- Involvement of both community members and professionals. Depending on the scale, nature and sensitivity of the proposed development, this might include consultation with local community and access groups and planning, building control, conservation, design and access officers. The statement should indicate how the findings of any consultation have been taken into account for the proposed development and how this has affected the proposal.
- Evaluation of the information collected on the site’s immediate and wider context, identifying opportunities and constraints and formulating design and access principles for the development. Evaluation may involve balancing any potentially conflicting issues that have been identified.
- Design of the scheme using the assessment, involvement, and evaluation information collected. Understanding a development’s context is vital to producing good design and inclusive access and applicants should avoid working retrospectively, trying to justify a predetermined design through subsequent site assessment and evaluation.
A Design and Access statement should explain how this understanding of the context has been considered in relation to its proposed use. The use is the use or mix of uses proposed for land and buildings. Use cannot be reserved within an outline application. Design and Access statements for both outline and detailed applications should explain the proposed use or uses, their distribution across the site, the appropriateness of the accessibility to and between them and their relationship to uses surrounding the site.
The access component should explain how you plan to ensure that all users will have equal and convenient access to buildings and spaces and the public transport network.
For outline applications, where access is reserved, the application should still indicate the location of points of access to the site. Statements accompanying such applications should, however, clearly explain the principles which will be used to inform the access arrangements for the final development at all scales, from neighbourhood movement patterns where appropriate to the treatment of individual access points to buildings.
The level of detail provided in the access component of the statement should be proportionate to the nature and scale of the access that will be required to the site. For proposals which will have no public access and only limited maintenance or operational access, the access component need not be long.
The access component should:
- Address the need for flexibility of the development and how it may adapt to changing needs.
- Explain the policy adopted and how relevant policies in local development documents have been taken into account.
- Provide information on any consultation undertaken in relation to issues of access and how the outcome of this consultation has informed the development proposals. This should include, for example, a brief explanation of the applicant’s policy and approach to access, with particular reference to the inclusion of disabled people, and a description of how the sources of advice on design and accessibility and technical issues will be, or have been, followed. Access for the emergency services should also be explained where relevant. Such information may include circulation routes round the site and egress from buildings in the event of emergency evacuation.
Matters for consideration in relation to access include:
- Transport links
- Disabled parking provision or setting down points or garaging
- Approach routes to building – wayfinding signage, gradient, width, surface finish
- External hazards/features – hard landscaping, projections, furniture
- External steps/ramps – gradient, width, guarding and heights
- Entrances – primary and secondary 25 June 2013 6
- Doors – operation, size, level threshold, automatic
- Visibility of external signage – size and contrast for people with impaired vision
- Spectator seating - number of spaces, choice of viewing point, facilities
Special consideration needs to be given to Listed Buildings, development in Conservation Areas and other buildings or spaces of special interest.
The access component should be amended to reflect any decisions reached on site so that any new owner or occupier can be aware of the rationale used in making decisions which impact on accessibility and their ongoing obligations under the Equality Act.