The Devon and Somerset Design Review Panel has received the below feedback from an applicant who obtained planning permission in March 2016 for a Paragraph 55 house in the countryside having engaged with the Design Review Panel as part of their pre-application discussions with East Devon District Council (EDDC):-
"As required by our local planning authority we attended the Devon Design Review Panel with our architect and jointly presented our proposed house as a potential NPPF Paragraph 55 exceptional dwelling.
We understood that it was unusual for applicants to present their project themselves, rather than using an agent, but we found it to be a very straightforward, efficient and helpful process.
The Panel had clearly studied the documents that we had sent in advance, leading to a valuable question and answer session, followed by an excellent summing up. The subsequent DRP report was very positive about our proposal, stating that the Panel believed that it fully met the criteria for Paragraph 55. However, the Planning Officers disagreed with the DRP's findings, and recommended refusal on that basis. When it went to the Development Committee, the members approved the application almost unanimously as they felt that due weight should be given to their appointed Design Review Panel who were, after all, professional practitioners trained in design review.
During the planning process we found that the type of project under consideration here is outside the usual experience of the Planning Officers, so obtaining the opinions and support of experts in the field who could appreciate the merits of such a proposal was critical to its success. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the whole point of an application under Paragraph 55 is that it is intended to be truly exceptional and so is very infrequently encountered by planning departments."
It is wonderful to see in action the importance of, applicants and local authorities, having access to a local, independent, expert and affordable design review panel service in the south west.