How to Write a Design and Access Statement

How to write a Design & Access Statement

In this post we share information about Design and Access statements including useful resources, where to find Design and Access Statement examples, and share our own Design and Access Statement template for you to download. 

What is a Design and Access Statement?

A Design and Access Statement (DAS) is a short report that accompanies a planning application. The DAS sets out your design principles and the concepts, which are separated into categories – amount, layout, scale, landscaping, access and appearance. For smaller schemes the DAS is sometimes only a page or so, however, on large urban planning schemes the DAS can be a large illustrated document that includes a wealth of information about the design.

Some examples of a Design and Access Statement

Some councils give examples on their websites of Design and Access Statements – you can find them here:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning-applications/design-and-access-statements/design-and-access

https://www.horsham.gov.uk/planning/planning-applications/guidance-for-preparing-a-planning-application/writing-a-design-and-access-statement

https://www.cotswold.gov.uk/planning-and-building/cotswold-design-guidance/design-and-access-statement/

CABE do a very useful and informative guide which you can find here:

https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110118100309/http://www.cabe.org.uk/publications/design-and-access-statements https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/design-and-access-statements.pdf

The local council often gives detailed advice to assist with your planning application and you can often find useful guides on their websites.

Design Buildings Wiki also provide some useful information on Design and Access Statements:

https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Design_and_access_statement

What to include in the Design and Access Statement

 

Title and Intro

Include the title of your project with a summary of the proposal. For example, single storey extension, or proposed new development of two dwellings. 

This introductory section will also include information such as the address of the proposal, date, name of applicant. 

Existing Site

This section explores the existing site, looking at any existing features, buildings, landscaping and so on. It describes the surrounding context, and any relevant historical planning information. This will help to demonstrate your understanding of the local character of the site and how your design has responded to this.

Use

This section explores the use of your proposal. What is the development for and how will it fit into the local area. How does the use of your proposed project complement the existing amenities in the area? Depending on the use class of your scheme and size of proposal, this section can be quite detailed. 

Scale

The Scale part of the Design and Access Statement explores the size of the proposed buildings. Here we describe the dimensions of the building or buildings and how they relate to the surroundings. We justify whey they are suitable for the context of the site and why the scale and proportions have been designed as such. Diagrams to show the relationship between your proposal and the existing buildings can be useful here. 

You can also describe how the design of the building has considered scale. Is the design balanced?

Amount

Amount looks at how much is going to be built on the site. The statement should describe the proposed units, the floor space, area for each proposed use. Beyond this, it is important to explain why the amount is appropriate for the site and what considerations have been taken during the design process. Larger developments will have more information to add to this section, whereas a smaller project may be pretty straightforward. 

Again, diagrams can help describe this section. Depending on the project, this section can be combined with Scale. 

Appearance

As the title suggests, this section explains what the proposed building will look like. How does this appearance relate to the surrounding context of the site? This is a good opportunity to describe the use of surface materials, textures, colour, contrast and tone that will be incorporated into the new project and how these have been considered throughout the design. 

It is important that any images included in this section are a true representation of the design proposal. Any precedent images or suggestions of how it ‘might look’ can be misleading and lead to issues later on. Keep it clear, and accurate. 

Layout

This section details how the layout of the site has been designed. How are the proposed buildings, public and private spaces arranged on the site? The layout section gives you the opportunity to explain the relationship between the buildings within and around the site. For larger developments this will need to be a comprehensive section looking at accessibility to the site for users, safety, and so on. Why has the layout been designed as such and what factors informed this design.

Access

Two key elements need to be addressed in this section – inclusive access and vehicular/transport access. 

Inclusive access will look at how everyone can get to and move through the space on equal terms, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity or social grouping. 

Explain the approaches to and around the site, and what transport links there are. Consider any aspect of access to the site, cars, emergency services, people, entrances, visibility and so on. 

Landscaping and Sustainability

It is important landscaping and sustainability is considered in early stages of the design. The Design and Access Statement is an opportunity to explain the principles behind the landscaping design and any sustainability features that have been incorporated. 

How does the landscaping design of your scheme relate to the surrounding area? Describe the proposed planting and landscaping materials, and how these vary between public and private spaces. 

Sustainability features include elements such as solar panels, green roofs, rainwater attenuation etc, and can be described in this section. 

Heritage Assets

This section explores the historical value of the site and surrounding areas and how this has been considered in your design. Will any local heritage assets be affected by your project, and how has this been addressed? Heritage assets include listed buildings, conservation areas, archaeology and so on. If your site is in an area of historical interest it is important to explore this section fully and provide a detailed response. Check out our template for more pointers on this. 

Some key points to remember

Make sure your Design and Access statement is crystal clear. Remember that a planning officer is seeing your design for the first time, so you need to take them through it step by step. Having a concise and clear approach will help. 

Pictures, diagrams and photographs can help to communicate certain aspects of the statement. Be careful not to overuse them. Every image you include should be communicating something to the reader, no fillers. 

Make sure all of your drawings that you submit with your planning application are numbered and labelled – be sure to refer to these in your D&A statement. 

Some of the points we have mentioned in this post may not be relevant to all projects. Make sure you adjust the order, omit sections and amend according to your own project requirements. 

Design and Access Statement Template

We have put together a Design and Access Statement Template for you to download and use for your own projects. The template is a great starting point for your own statements and is ready to be filled in with information about your own scheme. 

 

We have also put together an InDesign Design and Access Template that can be purchased from the First In Architecture Shop. The Design and Access Template allows you to easily insert images into the file, adjust the text, and make sure you don’t miss anything out. 

 

Design and Access Statement Template

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2 Comments

  1. Hello
    I was pleased to find your ‘How to Write a Design & Access Statement’ (DAS). Although DAS has been a very important requirement for more than a decade I get the feeling it is not well enough understood. For example, not all councils including mine provide a DAS Guidance – and I’m not sure that those who do actually get it right. It seems that a DAS is generally thought to be a ‘short document’ – and I think ‘no wonder!’ when, for example, the first line of Horsham District Council’s Guidance reads “A Design and Access statement is a short report that accompanies and supports a planning application”.

    I’m aware of an 88 page DAS registered for a development permitted by my council. In recent correspondence to me, however, a Senior Planning Officer states “There is no minimum standard for the quality of a DAS”. What is that supposed to mean? The best meaning for “no minimum standard” I can find on Google is:- “The term minimum standard is often used to describe the least permissible condition or procedure required to demonstrate a basic level of performance”. That doesn’t help much.

    The reason I was pleased to find your DAS guidance is the part in the second paragraph that reads:- “however, on large urban planning schemes the DAS can be a large illustrated document that includes a wealth of information about the design.”

    As for my own recent experience, I pointed out to my council that a Key Issue in the 26 page DAS for a sizable development was completely overlooked and not carried forward to any of the planning documents that followed – without any justification of the absence being documented. The consequence of completely missing the Key Issue which recommended “sensitive treatment of these boundaries should be considered” led to my neighbours ending up with a gable end wall on footings about 2 metres higher and 12m from their living room and kitchen windows – and the development was on a large completely greenfield site (a blank canvas). All other existing properties on the boundary and all new build properties have back gardens that backed onto back gardens or open space – and the house with the gable end wall could easily have been planned to be built elsewhere – there’s lots of open space left for new build residents to enjoy.
    [ ‘WHY SHOULD EXISTING PROPERTIES COME OFF WORST?’ This could have been a subtitle for this document – or better still an aide memoire written into all DAS guidance.
    And it might be beneficial to give more emphasis to boundaries in guidance and templates.]

    I would now like to explore the following. It looks to me that the DAS is equivalent to the Feasibility Study in Project Management. The Feasibility Study determines whether the Project is likely to succeed in the first place. It is typically conducted before any initial steps are taken with a project, including planning. It is one of – if not the – most important factors in determining whether the project can move forward.
    [I wonder might I discover “There is no minimum standard for the quality of a Feasibility Study”?]

    I would be grateful to know your thoughts and for any help and advice you might be able to offer.

    Reply
    • Hello Joe,
      Thank you for your comments. A design and access statement (DAS) is not really a feasibility study. A DAS is about how the design has evolved to fit the site considering the national policy framework and local development framework whilst these may not be described explicitly. A feasibility study looks more at the amount of development on a site vs the cost to see if it is financially viable for the purchaser or that land. There is no minimum requirement for a DAS as every council has different requirements and every planner may require more or less information throughout the planning process. Sometimes this can be a big graphics file and will be split up into more than one upload onto the council’s website.

      I would recommend speaking to a planning consultant who may be able to advise you further on this matter.
      Wishing you all the best.

      Reply

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