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How to Write a Design Statement

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Proposed developments require planning permission. Local governments request detailed information because they need to understand the probable effects of the proposed development to guide them in deciding whether it would benefit the public. Design statements, which explain the thinking behind a planning application, provide much essential information.

Before the Design

Show that you have thought about the context of the site and the surrounding area. The physical context includes what the site looks like and the ambiance created by the existing buildings and other features. The social context is concerned with how people in the area will be affected by the development. The economic context reflects how the development would contribute to the local economy.

Indicate what groups and parties will be involved in discussing the development. Professional consultation and community involvement help avoid potential pitfalls. The statement should explore the findings of any consultations and explain how they have directed the decisions made by the applicant.

Evaluate the information to determine opportunities and limitations that could influence the development. An opportunity for a new shopping mall may be that there is no similar facility within a certain distance; a limitation might be a lack of public transportation. Clearly explain what decisions have been made and why. The design statement should make readers aware of why any elements they may not agree with or understand have been included.

Design the scheme according to the information and your evaluation of it. The statement is effectively the story behind the development and is a chance to show that the decisions you have made are based on a deep understanding of the location.

Things to Include in the Plan

Explain what the development will be used for and how it will complement the area. Also indicate how it would support local desires and aspirations. For example, a shopping development should acknowledge the potential effects on existing shopping areas while indicating how it would offer something new.

Explain why the size of the development is appropriate. In small developments such as a single house, the proposed size may be obvious because it is all that would fit on the site, but more detail is appropriate for larger projects.

Illustrate the layout of the site. The statement must explain why the layout has been chosen and how it fits with its surroundings. For small developments, this may mean indicating that the development faces an existing road, for example. For larger projects, the layout may need to consider how design features such as accessibility or the use of solar panels have been incorporated.

Indicate the scale of the buildings and surrounding spaces. Suggest the maximum and minimum sizes and why those sizes are appropriate. For example, the statement should indicate how the size of the proposed development relates to the size of neighboring buildings.

Describe the appearance of the development, the visual representation of the decisions that went into the design. In addition to the layout or the architectural features, the appearance includes details about landscaping. The statement should explain why the applicant seeks this appearance and how it will be maintained.


Adam Simpson is an author and blogger who started writing professionally in 2006 and has written for OneStopEnglish and other Web sites. He has chapters in the volumes "Teaching and learning vocabulary in another language" and "Educational technology in the Arabian gulf," among others. Simpson attended the University of Central Lancashire where he earned a B.A. in international management.

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