Planning application design and access statement

Reviewed January 2020


Guidance for applicants


Oxfordshire County Council is committed to achieving the highest quality design, adherence to sustainability principles and good and inclusive access for all its development. Section 42 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004) contains the requirement for design and access statements to be submitted with most planning applications. There is no requirement for a statement with applications for engineering or mining operations, or for changes in the use of land or buildings.

The decisions made at the design stage have a fundamental effect on the way buildings and their surroundings can be used now and in the future. It is therefore important that the scheme is well thought through and the rational explained. This guidance note sets out what the statement is and what it should include.

What is a design and access statement?

A statement ensures that good design in its broadest sense is achieved in new development. It explains the rationale behind development proposals and justifies the solutions put forward.

The statement should explain how the proposal complies with relevant design, sustainability and access policies and principles contained in:

  • relevant national planning policy guidance notes and statements;
  • district local plans and local development frameworks; and
  • supplementary planning documents relating to design, sustainability and access.

The level of detail in a statement should be proportional to the complexity and scale of the development proposed. Further information can be requested from applicants if necessary. To avoid delays it will be helpful to talk to the OCC Development Management Team dealing with county council planning applications in advance about the level of detail required in individual cases. A list of contacts is included at the end of this note.

Statements constitute supporting information accompanying the planning application and are a material consideration in its determination. Statements are relevant for both outline and detailed applications.

The contents of a design and access statement

The statement should address issues relating to design, sustainability, inclusive access and accessibility more generally. These are explained in more detail below. For the purposes of this note, accessibility means how the development performs in sustainability terms, for example in relation to the locational principles set out in the Government's Planning Policy Guidance Note 13. Inclusive access is about ensuring that access is provided for all, including those with mobility, sensory, learning or mental health difficulties.


The design element of the statement should consider site appraisal, the design rationale and the design solution.

(a) Site appraisal

This is factual account of the site, either in writing and/ or with drawings. It should explain how the design responds to site constraints and opportunities and site context. In particular it will consider the character of the area, including local building styles, street patterns, the spaces between buildings, topography, landscape biodiversity, important views, historical features, features which are detrimental and need to be addressed, and physical features such as underground services and drainage systems.

(b) Design rationale

This should describe the rationale or justification for the design approach, explaining the aims the design seeks to achieve, how the site appraisal has been taken into account and how the development affects the quality of the public realm. It should establish a clear design concept.

(c) Design solution

This should explain the proposed layout of buildings, routes and open spaces within the development and consider how the site will be used; matters such as the scale and appearance of the development (roofscape, windows, materials - colour, texture, variety); how it will enhance local character; the treatment of the hard and soft landscaping on the site; and the enhancement or protection of the amenities of the site and the area in which it is situated, including screening and planting.

There may be more than one design solution and planning officers will be happy to discuss the options before the application is submitted.


The sustainability element of the statement will set out in general terms what sustainable design elements have been incorporated into the scheme. The council has policies which actively encourage private developers to achieve high sustainability standards and must therefore set exemplar standards in its own developments. The incorporation of a wide range of sustainability features will therefore be sought. Sustainability issues are considered in detail in the development of schemes. It will therefore be sufficient for a short statement to be included about how the following sustainability issues have been addressed:

  • energy conservation including layout, orientation and insulation of buildings (Include summary of BREEAM rating scores for each general category);
  • the embodied energy and transport costs of materials including proposals for the use of local materials;
  • the use of renewable energy;
  • materials (e.g.. consideration of wider environmental impact of wood, steel, plastics, other metals etc. Choices that are available and decisions taken;
  • the feasibility of using community heating in conjunction with combined heat and power where appropriate;
  • how opportunities for walking, cycling and ease of access to public transport are to be provided and made convenient and attractive. This should take into account ease of access/ egress for all users;
  • the 'health' of the building through utilisation of natural light and ventilation, sound insulation and non-toxic materials;
  • water conservation through rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling, low use fittings and permeable storm water drainage systems;
  • the minimisation of waste through the use of recycled material and the recycling of demolition waste;
  • how the design features help future users to manage waste recycling and disposal during the lifetime of the building; and
  • how biodiversity can be maximised and designed into new development;
  • what will be produced in terms of user guidance (e.g.. log books).

Accessibility and travel plans

The accessibility part of the statement is concerned with how the site might be accessed in a sustainable way. (Inclusive access is considered below.) The following issues should be considered and explained in a travel plan for the site:

  • how the development meets the locational criteria in PPG13 in principle. If appropriate, this should also explain why the site has been chosen over other potential sites;
  • the choice and suitability of the site for pedestrians, cycling, public transport and the road network. For example,
    • how the design incorporates safe pedestrian and cycle routes around the site and to local facilities;
    • the distance from bus stops or other major public transport modes providing a regular service and how prospective users will be able to access the development from the existing transport network. The frequency and destinations of all public transport services to the site should be investigated;
    • the balance achieved between parking/ drop-off provision and adequate public transport;
    • whether appropriate bicycle storage provision has been made;
    • how features which ensure access to the development will be maintained over time;
    • why the main points of access to the site and the layout of access routes within the site have been chosen

Care must be taken to ensure that any separate transport assessment or statement provided with the planning application is consistent with the information submitted in the design and access statement.

Inclusive access

This part of the statement covers inclusive access to buildings. In broad terms this means how the scheme provides a single solution for all users of a building, whatever their mobility needs. The statement should set out how the design addresses issues faced specifically by people with mobility, sensory, learning or mental health disabilities.

Access within buildings is a separate procedure dealt with under Part M of the Building Regulations 2010. See the manual note Equality and inclusive design.

What should the design statement look like?

The applicant should choose the most effective form of presentation but it should be supported by good graphics. Depending on the scale of the proposals, photographs of the site and its surroundings, explanatory plans and elevations, perspective drawings and annotated sketches will be helpful. If the site is particularly large or complex then it may be helpful to produce three dimensional drawings or an architectural model.

Contact details

Contact details for the Development Management Team

David Periam  01865 895151
Kevin Broughton  07979 704458
Mary Thompson  01865 815901
Naomi Woodcock 07554 103464
The team have regular planning surgeries at Cuffas Lea House and are arranged by Marina Ntoupi, if you want to speak to them please let Marina know. The surgeries are for preliminary discussions, and it might be necessary to request formal pre-application advice following the surgery.

Information sources

Local plans, local development frameworks and supplementary planning documents:

Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE) - Design and access statements (How to write, read and use them) (archived website). CABE has been incorporated into the Design Council. The statements do not appear on the Design Council website.

Planning policy guidance and statements at the Department for Communities and Local Government website: