Design Review Guide

A framework for objective, independent advice on design quality.

As part of the introduction of State Planning Policy 7.0 Design of the Built Environment, the Design Review Guide was released to assist local governments with the establishment and operation of design review panels. This will support consistency in the design review processes already in operation across the State and provide a framework for the operation of the State Design Review Panel.

Frequently asked questions

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What is design review and why is it important?

Design review is the process of independently evaluating the design quality of a built environment proposal. It has been shown to improve the design quality of built outcomes and reduce project costs via shortened design development stages and expedited development application approvals. Design review is undertaken by local government Design Review Panels, consisting of built environment professionals experienced in offering design advice to guide the improvement of proposals (they do not redesign proposals). Design review is guided by the 10 Design Principles outlined in SPP 7.0.

Is it mandatory for a local government to establish a Design Review Panel?

No. Design Review Panels are not mandatory but highly recommended. The Design Review Guide was prepared in close collaboration with the Office of the Government Architect (OGA) and provides models in which local governments can set up Design Review Panels to provide expert design advice when considering development proposals. It is anticipated that local governments who already operate a Design Review Panel will review their model for consistency with the Design Review Guide, where appropriate. There are a few local governments where the local planning scheme provides for design review through provisions which may differ to the Design Review Guide. In these circumstances, the local planning scheme provisions will continue to determine the establishment and operation of the Design Review Panel.

Local governments without a Design Review Panel are strongly encouraged to contact the OGA about the merits of establishing their own panel or sharing resources with a similar local government.

Please contact the Office of the Government Architect if you are a local government seeking information on establishing a Design Review Panel, via

What proposal should be considered by a Design Review Panel?

This is a matter for each local government to determine through the Terms of Reference established for their own Design Review Panel. The process of design review is typically applied to proposals that are significant in terms of size, use, location and/or community impact. Suggested thresholds for when and where design review should occur are outlined in section 7 of the Design Review Guide and can be adapted to suit local needs in local planning schemes and policies.

How much weight should be given to a Design Review Panel assessment?

Design review panels are advisory and do not have a decision-making function. The panels are comprised of experts appointed from a variety of built environment professions who advise on the design quality of proposals with reference to the Design Principles and supporting State Planning Policies as well as local planning schemes and policies. Decision makers should give regard to the design review advice and recommendations in their deliberations, however design review is only one of many aspects decision makers need to consider.

Can local government refuse to accept a development application if it hasn’t been considered by a Design Review Panel?

No. Because Design Review Panels are not mandatory, local government cannot refuse to accept a development application that has not been through a design review process.

Are design statements required for all buildings, such as apartments, commercial, industrial, etc?

No. A design statement is not a requirement for an application but may be beneficial for many projects particularly for complex proposals. SPP7.0 deals with design statements (see section 6) and outlines the matters to be covered in a design statement should one be submitted. A design statement may be particularly useful where another form of design review is not available. In all cases, the onus is on the proponent to justify / demonstrate that the proposal is meeting the Design Principles in SPP7.0. It is all about achieving better design outcomes.

Are there any templates to help with Design Review?

Yes. A range of support materials has been made available to stakeholders undertaking design review.

The Appendices within the Design Review Guide are also available for download as Microsoft Word documents as found in the Additional Resources section on this page.

The templates have been prepared to enhance consistency across local governments and provide greater certainty to proponents. They may be adapted where this is necessary to suit specific requirements contained in a local planning scheme or Design Review Panel Terms of Reference.

How do I write useful Design Review Panel notes?

The Design Review Guide outlines how to run a successful Design Review Panel, including tips on writing meeting notes at section 6.6. Templates in Microsoft Word format are also available for design review reporting and recommendations, design quality evaluation and design review progress (see ‘DR3’).

Please contact the Office of the Government Architect for further assistance via or (08) 6551 9483.



Page reviewed 7 December 2021