Issue - meetings

Issue - meetings

Oxford Design Review Panel

Meeting: 07/09/2017 - Scrutiny Committee (Item 29)

29 Oxford Design Review Panel pdf icon PDF 147 KB


Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee commissioned a report from the Head of Planning, Sustainable Development and Regulatory Services on the work of the Oxford Design Review Panel.

Why is it on the agenda?

The Committee is asked to note and comment on the report. The Committee may also wish to agree one or more recommendations to put to the City Executive Board in October.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning & Regulatory Services;

·         Patsy Dell, Head of Planning, Sustainable Development and Regulatory Services;





The Scrutiny Committee commissioned a report from the Head of Planning, Sustainable Development and Regulatory Services on the work of the Oxford Design Review Panel.


Debbie Dance, speaking as a representative of  the Oxford Preservation Trust       welcomed the report and thanked the Committee for the opportunity to speak to it.  She noted the desirability of introducing some means of weighting the projects coming before the ODRP. Consistency of approach/panel membership was important; there was evidence that both of these were lacking. The lack of heritage expertise on the panel was a concern; it was frequently regarded as an afterthought and should be played into panel discussions at an earlier stage.


Kevin Minns, speaking as a developer from an applicant’s point of view welcomed the ODRP as a constructive mechanism for peer review. He noted the importance of challenging misunderstandings at panel hearings and not waiting until after the event. Given the complexity of many schemes it was important that panel members received papers in good time to ensure informed discussion which was not possible if only seen on the day of the hearing.  He echoed the point previously made about the importance of consistency. There needed to be clarity to all concerned that the ODRP was an advisory and not a decision making body.


Ian Green speaking on behalf of the Oxford Civic Society said that he wanted the built environment to improve. The ODRP was a relevant and appropriate mechanism for contributing to that. He suggested that it would be helpful to start to put in place a means of evaluating the Panel’s effectiveness and to see if it had made a positive contribution to the built environment. He was concerned that the Panel’s awareness of a project’s context was not always as great as it should be, particularly when not in a conservation area. Site visits were always important. Continuity for repeat reviews were essential. He also noted the importance of the advisory nature of Panel being clear. In his view panel meetings should be open and texts of decisions made public as soon as possible.


In discussion the following points emerged

·         The process was cost neutral to OCC. Applications were currently  subject to a £5k charge, regarded as  the ‘industry standard’

·         Most cities comparable to Oxford have their equivalent of the ODRP

·         The importance of consistency of membership was recognised with a requirement for the same chair for repeat reviews and other members being the same as far as possible

·         The ODRP’s greatest benefit was its independence

·         There was no consensus about the merits of requiring the Panel’s meetings to be open but, on balance, a view that they should not, not least because to require it might discourage developers to engage

·         The ODRP was not just concerned with ‘high end’ projects but a whole range of schemes

·         Councillors may submit suggestions for review, this was not widely known. Similarly there was no obvious mechanism for ensuring that Councillors were aware of pre-application proposals in their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29