Strategic Urban Design Initiative

Achieving good urban form through the local plan process


The Urban Design Group is launching a service to advise local authorities on strategic urban design issues in the local plan process. The ‘Vision for Growth’ initiative is modelled on the design review process. The service will provide support at critical stages of the plan making process to ensure that there is a strong design input into shaping towns or city quarters.

This will be of interest to local authorities who are planning for growth and who would welcome additional support for in-house teams from experienced practitioners in developing a vision for the future form of a settlement. Each project will show the council what work needs to be done, how to approach it, and will help build the council’s capacity to carry it out.



The pressures to identify and allocate sites can sometimes be at the expense of nurturing good urban form for the whole town. However, it is the evolving shape and structure of a settlement thatwill determine its efficient functioning and environmental quality for generations, if not centuries, to come.

At least half of urban design decisions are made, sometimes inadvertently, at an early stage of local plan preparation. Urban design needs to be a thread that runs through the plan-making process, from town-wide strategies to site-planning.

Planning for growth is one of the main concerns of many local planning authorities, wherever the council may be in the plan-making process. Even a council that has recently adopted a new local plan and completed the site allocation process will be starting to think about future locations for growth.


The UDG will run workshops for council officers and members to explore working methods that the council can later use by itself. The UDG’s team, provided for no charge, will be matched by an equivalent input from the council’s officers.

The workshops will produce diagrams and descriptions of how the town evolved, showing the movement structure, landscape and topography, and will show how the street pattern could expand. This can become the basis for the council to identify sites for development, creating the pattern of districts, neighbourhoods, land-uses and open spaces that make up a successful village, town or city.


We recognize that resources in local authorities are scarce and that the pressure to deliver housing is immense. Expanding the strategic spatial planning dimension to local plans and site allocation policies should help to raise the quality of the built environment, reduce opposition to new development, and speed up the planning and development process.


If you would like to discuss further, contact Robert Huxford, Director UDG:



The Urban Design Group, a registered charity, has been campaigning for urban design for over 40 years.

Members of the UDG panel, all of them experienced practitioners, are available to guide and complement in-house local authority teams needing to deal with urban design at a strategic level. The service is not an alternative to staff recruitment or the commissioning of work.