National Urban Design Conference 2019


The National Urban Design Conference 2019

Making People Friendly Places

Millenium Point, Birmingham  26-27-28 September




   Why Making People Friendly Places?

‘The need to care about the urban environment has never been greater’ was the opening sentence of Francis Tibbalds' seminal work 'Making People Friendly Towns' written over quarter of a century ago. Try as people have since then, with many reports and publications covering the full range of subjects from environmental pollution, guidance on streets, density, transport and the built environment, through to social inclusion and human rights, it has clearly not been enough. Places are still not people friendly. The Planet is not people friendly.

We have a climate change emergency, grave concern over collapsing ecosystems and security of food supplies to support the rapidly increasing urban population, and worries over human health ranging from anxiety and depression through to obesity, diabetes, and faltering increases in life expectancy. We are seeing changes to the urban economy, with high streets locked in a downward spiral in the face of competition from low-tax gig-economy internet retail, and robotization progressively eliminating jobs. As the Baby Boom generation enters old-age and care, generation X, Y, and Z face an uncertain future. 

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   Why you should attend?

With a job essential conference theme and over 40 presenters sharing best practice and their experience in proving the commercial vaiblilty of people-first design we look forward to a stimulating conference in a state of the art venue.

With the continuing generous support of our sponsors we can again offer ultra-low cost tickets for Local Authorities and Public Bodies.

Thursday 26 September

  • Design Quality Summit - £20
  • Urban DesignFest - £15

Main Conference Friday 27 September

  • UDG members - £95
  • Non-members early bird (until 25 August)  - £95 
  • Non-members Standard - £145 
  • Local Authorities - £35

With huge thanks to our sponsors

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   What have we got planned?

Loads of stuff. Come along and share your concerns, ideas, vision, solutions, with colleagues; our mission, to demonstrate that the National Urban Design Conference is the UK’s friendliest and most relevant conference for anyone involved in making places for people. You can download programme for Friday's main confernce here.




THIS EVENT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED - please contact to go on the wait list.

An afternoon workshop chaired by Luke Hillson (Barton Willmore) at the Digbeth studio of Glenn Howells Architects. This will begin with presentations on current leading Design Guidance, Codes and Assessment Systems; followed by workshop discussion on their effectiveness and impact, concluding with the steps that need to be undertaken to improve design quality. Places are limited so do book soon.

  • Convenor  Luke Hillson, Barton Willmore; West Midlands Urban Design Forum
  • The Ladder of Place Quality  Valentina Giordano, UCL; Place Alliance
  • Nottingham Design Quality Framework  Laura Alvarez & Nigel Turpin, Nottingham City Council
  • Redrow 8  Kevin Parker, Redrow Homes
  • West MIdland Design Charter  Louise Wyman, West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Great Places  Nigel Longstaff, Group Urban design Director, Barratt PLC

Then stay around for Urban DesignFest...




Our traditional conference warm up, Urban DesignFest. An informal evening designed to inspire, create sparks, entertain - spend the evening with colleagues from all disciplines, in this fun and fast moving event with presentations offering solutions to current problems, visionary and potentially wild ideas to improve towns and cities, plus a unique urban quiz, good food, and local brews.

Kindly hosted by Glenn Howells Architects and sponsored by LI Midlands and RIBA West Midlands.




For main conference we have a line up of 20 presenters drawn from across the sector with latest ideas, and practical and profitable ways to make people friendly places. There will also be a parallel masterclasses in inclusive design, and drawing. Four themed sessions focusing on:

  • Making People Friendly Towns and Cities
  • Frameworks and Strategies for People Friendly Places
  • Designing with and for People: Human Need and Behaviour
  • Designing with and for People: Towards Urban Environments that Work
  • Paying for and Profiting from People Friendly Places




Big Ideas Love Fat Pens with Hannah Smart, Edge Urban Design



Conference Dinner will be held at the Old Library at Zellig, near the Custard Factory. Join Joe Holyoak on his guided walk from Millennium Point to the venue and work up an appetite. As always, tickets to dinner are offered at cost - £69.



And as usual a selection of walks and tours giving some unique perspectives on our host city, Birmingham. All walks are free but should be booked via Eventbrite

Friday 5.30pm : Millennium Point to Digbeth with Joe Holyoak

Saturday 10am : Central Birmingham with Joe Holyoak

Saturday 10am : Guided Walk and Sketching with Mark Kelly

The Bohemian from Balsall Heath: one of the many murals under the railway viaduct, Digbeth

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   What do we hope to achieve?

Let's apply our collective knowledge, skill and experience to addressing how we can plan, design, make and pay for:

A People Friendly Society which enables or provides Health; Wellbeing; Happiness; Community. Friends, Neighbours and Neighbourhoods; Humanity

A People Friendly Economy which provides work; Progress and Stability; Viability

A People Friendly Planet which properly understands and protects the finite nature of our natural resources and which is reflected in the management of Land and Water; Resources and Recycling; Food Production; Ecosystems, and in the sustainability of towns and cities.

What have we achieved in the last 30 years? Where are we today? What needs to be done to secure our future, our aims and objectives? What are our calls to action?

We run the conference on a non-profit making basis, to provide an opportunity for all professionals, politicians and decision makers involved in the design of villages, towns and cities to meet, exchange latest best practice, and share their concerns, views, ideas and insight.

Our aim is to support and encourage anyone in the public or private sector who is trying to improve the quality of urban design.


 Making People Friendly Places - our year long theme

Making People-Friendly Places has been the underlying theme of much of Urban Design Group thinking this year, reflected in many of the events and mini-conferences we have organised with forward-thinking input from urban design professionals and other experts on the topics we have so far explored: Crossing the StreetFuture High StreetsCreating Neighbourhoods not Housing EstatesLow Traffic NeighbourhoodsPeople-Friendly Big Streets.

Conference gives us the opportunity to build on the dialogue and ideas that have come out of these events and really interrogate what we mean by Making People-Friendly Places, forensically, word by word. MAKING. PEOPLE. FRIENDLY. PLACES.



The conference is about making things happen; and translating ideas into part of our daily work. 

How can we change the environment in which we work so that we can plan design, build and manage our towns and cities for a truly sustainable future? 

How can we take an integrated interdisciplinary or systems approach to towns and cities?

What resources, skills and financial models do we need to enable this all to happen?



How do we create places fairly for everyone: for children, for elderly people, for blind and disabled people? Streets for six-year olds, neighbourhoods for nine-year olds, towns for twelve-year olds?

How can we discontinue design practices that put cars before people? The UDG’s own surveys show that 80 percent of highway authorities in the UK continue to use vehicle dominated street design practices that date from the 1960s and before.



The Brundtland Report (1987) defined sustainable development as: development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  

Do we understand people’s needs? Their needs for safety, health, comfort?  For companionship, fulfilment, and meaning?

How do we measure these needs? Not just basic needs but higher order needs including, fairness? well-being? beauty?

What data should we obtain and how should we use this data? 

How can the work of neuroscientists, environmental psychologists, medics, and sociologists be used to inform professional practice?



How do we ensure that good design is applied at every relevant scale, not just the 100-1000 metre scale of the typical masterplan, but from the microscopic, including soil structure and ecosystems, the detailed scale of the design of streets and buildings and critical infrastructure, but right through to the strategic urban design of town and city regions?

How should the design of buildings, and the built environment help to prevent climate change by minimising energy use, while being prepared for what may come, including heat waves, drought, and intense storms and rainfall.

Can we change housing densities? Or are we locked into an impregnable model of low-density housing that will never achieve sufficient patronage to make public transport viable?


And finally.... conference takes place in Birmingham, which, at 100 metres above sea level, is one of the few cities in Europe that is free from the direct threat of rising sea levels.... 

 Tickets available on Eventbrite