National Urban Design Conference 2019

Millenium Point, Curzon Street, B4 7AP, Birmingham
Fri, 27/09/2019 - 9:30am - 5:00pm

This year we went BIG - big screen, big turnout and big events.

A massive thank you to our 20 Conference Speakers, 220 delegates, all our sponsors and to everyone else who helped to make this one of our most successful Conferences yet!

With many thanks to the ongoing support of our generous sponsors


‘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.

If there is one conclusion that can be drawn from the conference, it is this: that in a world blighted by cynicism, short sightedness and self-interest, there are many people who have a vision for a better world, and given the chance, will try to bring it into being.

You can read the full conference report here and the full list of speakers here


  • Leo Hammond  Lambert Smith Hampton, UDG Chair
  • Howard Gray  GreenBlue Urban
    Opening: Great Tree Planting Leads to Great Cities
  • Neil McInroy  Centre for Local Economic Strategies
    People Friendly Economies
  • Wendy Maden  Bath and North East Somerset Council
    The Death of 'Clone Towns': designing and delivering projects to transform high streets
  • Damon Smith  Homes England
    Northstowe: delivering a new town centre in uncertain times
  • Ben Van Bruggen  Auckland Council
    Access for Everyone: transforming central Auckland from a go-through to a go-to place




  • Katja Stille  Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design
    Framework for People Friendly Places
  • Paul Reynolds  Urban Studio, Jas Bhalla  Jas Bhalla Architects
    Strategic Urban Design: National - Regional - Local
  • Stephen Bate  Derby City Council
    Why Don't we Make People Friendly Places?
  • Mike Fox  Nash Partnership, Lindy Morgan  Southmead Development Trust
    The Challenges and Opportunities of Community Led Development 
  • Neil Murphy  Town, Lora Brill  JLL
    Delivering a People Friendly Neighbourhood at Marmalade Lane













  • Christopher Martin  Urban Movement
    Behavioural Urbanism
  • Emma Spierin  Conroy Crowe Kelly Architects & Urban Designers
    Applying the Sustainable Development Goals in Urban Design Practice
  • Neil Davidson  Urban Mind, J & L Gibbons
    What Big Data Can Tell Us About Mental Health in Cities
  • Katie Christou  David Lock Associates
    Design for Health
  • Mark Andrew Kelly  Consultant Senior Architect
    Urban Design and Cycling: global approaches to people friendly transportation, health and wellbing?
  • Lukas Schaefer  BuroHappold Engineering
    Recycling is Not Enough: how can buildings encourage waste prevention?


  • Amanda Reynolds  AR Urbanism
  • Andrew Raven  Savills
    The Value of Communities
  • Paul Quinn  Clarion Housing Group
    The Merton Regeneration Project: acase study in financial viability, design quality and social justice
  • Martin Ellerby  Placefirst
    How Build to Rent can Unlock Challenging Regeneration Projects
  • Kevin Parker  Redrow Homes Limited
    Designing a Better Way to Live




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?