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Built Environment

Housing affordability: Taking a more creative approach to new homes

“Design for Liveability”- Leading international experts explore ways to make cities liveable during Knowledge of Design Week 2018


How Local Communities Can Transition to Sustainable Energy Systems


Noise pollution is one of the biggest health risks in city life


Analyzing What Dallas Can Do To Address Pedestrian Deaths

Electric Cars Don’t Solve Many Of Our Transportation Problems

Natural Environment

The public realm can be at the forefront of tackling climate change

Urban design gone wrong: Parks

Limiting global warming levels can reduce dengue fever cases


Prehistoric people also likely disrupted by environmental change


Oxytocin, vasopressin flatten social hierarchy and synchronize behaviours

What makes us happy about where we live?

Why it is worth rethinking age boundaries

PLOS ONE study shows impact of aggressive conversations taking place nearby on personal space boundaries

Social media posts may signal whether a protest will become violent


Urban Design
Around the World



How to fix Parliament House - what about some neighbours?


Indigenous communities moving away from government energy utilities


How 20th century Cypriot buildings reflected a desire to be European


Paris is building the eco-community of the future right now. Here’s how.


How Indian Cities are Squeezing the People out of Public Spaces

Mumbai’s neglected drinking fountains are getting facelifts


The largest mall in the US is coming to Miami, and it will have a massive indoor water park and ice rink

Opinion: Alexandria gets housing affordability wrong












Make Manual for Streets Mandatory

Manual for Streets - 60 second summary



National Urban Design Awards 2018 - Results

View the shortlisted entries


Winner - Altstadtquartier Buchel, Aachen, Chapman Taylor 

Southall Waterside, London, JTP

Portobello Square, London, PRP

Northstowe Phase 2 Design Code, Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design


Winner - Aldgate, City of London Corporation

Commendation - Sharing Bolsover, Bolsover District Council

Hackney Wick Central Masterplan, London Legacy Development Corporation

View the full results






UCL – UDG – Place Alliance – Urban Design Skills Survey – Report Released

Housingdelivery under threat through a lack of design skills in planning departments

The UK Government, both in its manifesto and in the recent Housing Green Paper, committed itself to a step change in the delivery of high quality new homes across the country.  Research published today puts those aspirations in doubt because of worsening design skills gaps in English local planning authorities.

Urban design skills in local authorities…woefully low

This report summarises the findings of a freedom of information survey of urban design skills within local planning authorities, and how they have changed over the last five years. It demonstrates that urban design skills and capacity within local planning authorities are woefully low and declining and that these gaps are not being filled by the patchy, albeit increasing, use of design review. Critical gaps exist within local planning authorities, including the ability to produce proactive design guidance in-house in order to positively shape the future of new housing developments.


Key findings 

Local authority in-house design capacity is low

Almost half of local planning authorities have no dedicated in-house design capacity at all

Of those that do, most have only a single officer often covering design as one part of a larger

Only around 10% have what might be referred to as an urban design / place-making team

Capacity has been falling over time

There has been a significant move to role sharing, with urban design now a typically only a fractional responsibility within a larger role, e.g. conservation and design, and no longer conducted by an officer or team with specialist design expertise.

Design Review – limited use

Only 19% of local planning authorities are regular (ie monthly or quarterly) users of design review.  This is despite the National Planning Policy Framework stating: “Local planning authorities should have local design review arrangements in place to provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design“(para.62).

Wide variation in use of guidance

The use of design guidance beyond that available in the local plan varies tremendously.  Over half of local planning authorities still favouring their own internally produced supplementary design guidance

The Government’s National Planning Practice Guidance is little used

Resources for the production of new proactive local design guidance for sites or areas has now largely disappeared

Urban design training widespread but shallow

Urban design related training is still available for three quarters of planning officers and half of councillors, but typically this is minimal and focused on raising awareness rather than on developing design skills.

Risk of a new generation of substandard developments

A very real danger now exists that as we gear up to deliver a greater number of homes nationally, the absence of design expertise locally will result in a new generation of substandard developments. This, for example, includes new housing estates that are dominated by roads and tarmac, lacking any greenery or character, and which are disconnected from public transport and local amenities. These, moreover, will be with us for generations to come.

The research was conducted by Professor Matthew Carmona and Dr Valentina Giordano at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning with financial support from the Urban Design Group and the Place Alliance. 


Download the full report


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About the Urban Design Group 

Founded in 1978, the Urban Design Group (UDG) is a campaigning membership organisation with over 1000 members who care about the quality of life in our cities, towns and villages, and believe that raising standards of urban design is central to its improvement.

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Urban Update - The Latest from the UDG Blog

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Urban Update Latest News and Research Built Environment Housing affordability: Taking a more creative approach to new homes “Design for Liveability”- Leading international experts...