Urban Update 25 October 2019


25 October 2019

  • Report on the National Urban Design Conference 2019 – Making People-friendly Places
  • Next Event – Urban Design and Neuroscience – understanding navigation, mental maps, and sense of place
  • 8 plus career opportunities
  • October – November – December event list:

Events in Nottingham, York, Leicester, Manchester and more


National Urban Design Conference 2019

Making People Friendly Places

This year’s conference was attended by 250 people in a succession of events and walking tours.  The conference is nothing more and nothing less than a reflection of the character and vision of individuals within the urban design community.   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.

Thanks go to the sponsors for their support of the conference, enabling the Urban Design Group to offer ultra low-cost tickets for local authorities.  

Reports, presentations and photos from the Urban DesignFest, and the poster competition are available on this link.


  • Lit vs Unlit – Mark Woodgate
  • A framework for diversifying activity in public space – Hatem Nabih
  • The Cow in the Room – Jack Pritchard
  • The Oxford Cambridge Sausage – Hannah Smart and Sarah Murray



Key messages from the Friday Session

Opening address – Leo Hammond, Chair UDG, Lambert Smith Hampton

View Online

The Conference marks a quarter century following the publication of Francis Tibbald’s Making People Friendly Towns.  It comes at a time when climate change is no longer being dismissed, when the need for sustainability cannot be waived away, and health and wellbeing are right to the fore.  It is a time when making people friendly places makes financial sense.  There is a lot of good practice, but much more needs to be done.

  1. We need to build in the right locations where people can walk, cycle or use public transport for most journeys – we are building too many developments in the middle of nowhere, where there is no alternative to the car.   This model of greenfield development is concreting us into high energy, high carbon lifestyles – and in the words of the NPPF, is not “achieving urban development”,  Roger Evans launched the UDG’s Strategic Urban Design initiative last year, and Paul Reynolds and Jas Bhalla will be talking about the latest developments. 
  2. We think everyone in the built environment should be thoroughly trained in urban design: architects, planners, landscape architects, highway engineers, and even the general public.  Some of the best ideas come from primary school children.   We need to harness that urban design energy/
  3. We should design streets around people – of all ages and abilities – its what Manual for Streets says, it is what the Planning Practice Guidance says; it is what the Equality Act demands.   But the UDG’s Street Design Survey found that 80 percent of highway authorities were still using old street design guidance and adoption policies.  We need a Design Bulletin 32 Amnesty – we invite people to hand in their copies of Design Bulletin 32 for burning.  We need to get rid of this old guidance. 
  4. We need to be building towns and neighbourhoods; places where people live, work, play, trade – where people can come together to form true communities. We should not be talking about housebuilding; we should be talking about town building: joyous places to live, with space, life and vitality. 

We should be able to work as a team towards common goals: sustainable development, health, wellbeing and happiness.  There should be a golden thread that should run from these goals, right through to what actually happens on the ground. Katja Stille will be talking about the need for a Framework for Towns and Cities to ensure that this happens.

It is time for action. By the end of the day I hope we will emerge energised and determined to bring about changes in the days and years ahead.

Howard Gray, Green Blue Urban

  • Benefits of well-planted trees in urban areas include: decreasing heat island effect, control of flood water when part of SuDS, pollution control, increased customer spending in nearby shops, aesthetics and placemaking and improved mental health and wellbeing.
  • Compromised growth and higher rate of tree death is the consequence of improper planting and inadequate space for root systems

View online

Neil McInroy, Centre for Local Economic Strategies

  • There is a problem with wealth being extracted from local communities, towns and cities, when it should be circulated within the local economy where it can create new jobs and improve the local standard of living.
  • Prioritising economic growth alone is not enough.  Increased GDP has not decreased the poverty rate.
  • Key recommendations
  • Localise – Socialise - Democratise
  • Strengthen flows of wealth to people, places and communities e.g. in Preston
  • Ownership often determines how much wealth is reinvested into the local economy.  National and international owned business – lead to wealth leaving the local economy.

Wendy Maden, Bath and North East Somerset Council

View online

  • Put into place strategies for re-animation of high streets, such as: car-free weekend, parklets, street dining, community planting, overhead installations, new street furniture.
  • Case Study: Twerton High Street: short-term interventions prior to redevelopment e.g. pop-up shop used by Bath Carnival, co-design process with local community and key stakeholders.
  • Use a “vitality health check” based on: quality of historic and built environment, wayfinding, active travel, vacancy rates, public space, mix of land uses, accessibility, streetscape quality, street furniture, events and animation.

Damon Smith, Homes England

  • Case Study: -plans for building place and community in Northstowe new town development: mews streets in high street area, widened high street, linked green spaces (small town parks and gardens), market hall.

Ben Van Bruggen, Auckland Council

View online

  • Case Study: Managing Auckland’s transport system to enable pedestrian-friendly streets and quarters interconnected by public transport, addressing poor air quality and car-dominance.
  • Important to think at both the strategic scale and local scale – and to take the community with you.

Katja Stille, Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

View online

  • Policies and high-level objectives must be reflected in what is finally built. 
  • Quality can be eroded as masterplans move into detailed design, construction and adoption.
  • An overall Framework for Towns and Cities is needed to stop the intent in policies, statutory duties being eroded by silo-based design guidance and standards and inadequate or underfunded maintenance.  We need robust legislation and policies that can be implemented and enabled by up to date technical guidance and standards, which are informed by research.
  • Collaboration and people-centred design are the core driving principles.
  • Useful publications providing research and evidence: Place Alliance’s Ladder of Quality Place, NHS’s Putting Health into Place, Bioregional’s One Planet Living Framework.
  • Child-friendliness should be a key design objective: for all planning, engineering and design decisions.  If we designed for children, would we not design for everyone?
  • Streets for Seven-year olds;
  • Neighbourhoods for Nine-year olds;
  • Towns for Twelve-year olds.

Paul Reynolds, Urben Studio and Jas Bhalla, Jas Bhalla Architects

  • A major problem exists with new development sites being chosen in sub-optimal locations, including sites that are isolated and where there is no alternative to car use, or in poor quality environments (eg next to major road infrastructure with high noise levels etc.).
  • Improve planning policy: plan making at a local level should be integrated with national priorities on growth and development.
  • Improve development management: improve the links between development control and building control, conservation, enforcement and the discharge of planning conditions.
  • Local authorities need to be directed to think beyond their boundaries; about national strategy and infrastructure change e.g. seeking out and CPO’ing sites of regional importance.

Stephen Bate, Derby City Council

  • Too many town centres and housing schemes end up as  “clone towns” with little innovation and local distinctiveness, little enhancement of community activity.
  • Excess of information gets in the way of overarching NPPF objective of “a well-designed and safe built environment”: need more clarity, co-ordination and collaboration between bodies.
  • Pulling in different directions: Government prioritises housing delivery, volume housebuilders have standard design templates, local government imposes mechanical solutions, highways and drainage authorities dilute good urban design proposals.
  • Lack of resources and poor delivery of proactive design guidance, with shortage of staff resources is perhaps most critical problem.
  • See Nottingham City Council’s approach to see what can be achieved.

Mike Fox, Nash Partnership and Lindy Morgan, Southmead Development Trust

View online

  • Case Study: Making a people led masterplan for 300 homes and new community uses in a low value area.
  • Key points: working with local politics and multiple stakeholders, and breaking new ground in decision making.

Lora Brill, JLL and Neil Murphy, TOWN

Lora Brill – View online

Neil Murphy - View online

  • Case Study: Marmalade Lane cohousing project: key features 
  • “common house” with shared catering facility, games room, lounge etc, and  three bedrooms for resident’s guests, 1 parking space per house - pr
  • dwellings  - customisable, modern methods of construction
  • shared space.
  • A great deal of organisation goes on in running the common house, maintaining the gardens and allotments, and other activities.  Continuous energy and enthusiasm is needed: perhaps this is the key lesson. 
  • Enabled by: South Cambridgeshire being a Right to Build Vanguard Council; committed membership from inception to occupation.
  • Lessons from Marmalade Lane are being applied in non-cohousing context in Wolverton.

Chris Martin, Urban Movement

  • Why shape cities around the car instead of around people?
  • Current behaviour is unsustainable, unhealthy and contributes to unhappiness – but it is not set in stone – it can change.
  •  “Large differences in the speed and mass of road users in the same space must be eliminated where possible; vehicles can be forced to travel at lower speeds by design; where speed differences can’t be eliminated, traffic types must be separated”.
  • Make the sustainable option the most enjoyable one.

Emma Spierin, Conroy, Crowe, Kelly Architects and Urban Designers  - Applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Urban Design Practice

  • Emma congratulated for cycling to the conference from Dublin.
  • Paris Agreement – Limit Global Warming to 2 degrees centigrade by 2030.
  • We need to use all the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a template to work with.  Our governments have signed up to them.

1 No poverty, 2 Zero hunger, 3 Good health and well-being, 4 Good education, 5 Gender Equality, 6 Clean water and sanitation, 7 Affordable and clean energy, 8 Decent work and economic growth, 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, 10 Reduced inequalities, 11 Sustainable cities and communities, 12 Responsible consumption and production, 13 Climate action, 14 Life below water, 15 Life on land, 16 Peace and justice – strong institutions, 17 Partnerships for the goals

  • Don’t cherry pick - trying to comply with one may compromise another e.g. a proposal in Dublin to improve public transport will involve widening roads and could entail the loss of more than 4,700 trees.

Katie Christou, David Lock Associates

  • NHS “Putting Health into Place” and Sport England “Active Design” guidance:
  • create compact neighbourhoods that maximise active travel
  • provide amenities within 10-minute walk, safe and accessible walking and cycling routes, co-located facilities for linked trips, higher densities, busier streets, attractive routes, overlooked by buildings, well-lit and well-marked, separating footpaths and cycling routes.
  • To create a place where active travel is an easy option for most, it should be embedded from the very earliest stages of planning.

Mark Kelly, Consultant Senior Architect

  • Cycling has the potential to reduce the £900 million annual cost of obesity, as well as cut air pollution.
  • Copenhagen Index of Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities – used to rate and rank cities.  Key features
  • High level commitment to active travel: pedestrianised city centres, segregated routes for cyclists, bicycle-friendly ring roads (e.g. Bologna); separation of cyclists, pedestrians and cars, using trees for screening; bringing bikes on public transport, providing car parks, cargo bicycles
  • Birmingham Bicycle Boulevards
  • Examples given from Delft, Lucca, Upsala, San Francisco, Bologna, and Sendai.

Lukas Schaefer, BuroHappold Engineering

  • Recycling is not enough: How can buildings encourage waste prevention?
  • Design for sharing: laundrettes, tool sheds, not prioritising storage space
  • Think about consumption rather than bins. Minimise use first.
  • Monitor what you manage.

Andrew Raven, Savills

  • Better designed residential development increases sale value, resale values, and provides resilience to market cycles.
  • Comparing Fairford Leys (“sustainable urbanism” developments) with Berryfields (typical new build development): higher residential values per hectare, retained value over time with little or no erosion of new build premium, more resilient house prices and transactional activity.  Residential development value between 24 and 96 percent higher.
  • Poundbury – residential development value in Poundbury is 46% higher than Dorchester.

Paul Quinn, Clarion Housing Group

View online

  • Case Study: Merton Regeneration Project: Eastfields, Ravensbury and High Path estates – not-for-profit redevelopment (High Path subsidises the other two), with around 2,800 new homes.
  • Every affordable home replaced (780) representing 31% of the total number of homes, plus a further 10% replacement homes for homeowners.  Existing communities are kept together and in situ.
  • Using Circular Economy strategy of reducing waste generation, maximising social value creation and generating economic return on investment.

Martin Ellerby, Placefirst

View online

  • How Build to Rent can unlock challenging regeneration projects
  • Case Study: Woodnock, Accrington; repurposing existing houses.   Cost of quality refurbishment made viable under Build to Rent. Stone built terraced houses, gutted – taken back to brick.  Refitted to a high standard.  Pairs of terraced houses combined to create family houses. 
  • Case Study: West End, Morecambe terraced housing with back yards enclosed by 6 ft walls and fences: the yards have been remodelled to create sociable spaces, a sense of security and community.  This is very important for reducing transience associated with renting.
  • Case Study: The Welsh Streets, Liverpool: terraced housing where the small front gardens have been remodelled to provided widened footpath, trees, planters with encouragement given to the residents to look after them.

Kevin Parker, Redrow Homes Limited

  • Objective of responding to customer aspirations including: being close to green space and routes, being part of a community, access to nearby cafes shops, school and facilities.
  • Redrow has produced a Design Manual for internal use, with 8 principles including a framework for appraising layouts and completed schemes, with two measures for each principle, enabling development to be scored.  Also includes additional “stretch” measure. 

Reflections based on comments received by delegates

We need to tackle the underlying difficulties e.g. strategic planning and design and how new development sites are decided upon; overstretched local authority planning and urban design teams; inadequate local authority funding, and how to tackle all the UN sustainability goals, not just a few. 


We need a good range of genuine exemplar schemes and success stories that can show politicians and the public that there are alternative and better ways of doing things.   Unfortunately, new developments are routinely being badged as exemplars or as being sustainable when they are not.  Words and glossy illustrations won’t cut carbon emissions, stop a storm surge, a heat wave, or prevent flooding from extreme rainfall.   Nature cannot be fooled.

We should think about the fun and happiness approach to bringing about change.  A sustainable society does not have to be a miserable one.   There are so many positives that are on offer from high quality urban design, such as encouraging a joyful approach to cycling, opportunities for interpersonal connection, companionship, friendship; better health and wellbeing on offer from more active travel-styles; better mental health following on from more attractive and greener streets and neighbourhoods. 

Next UDG London Events


Kevin Lynch Memorial Lecture

Urban Design and Neuroscience

Professor Kate Jeffery

14 November 2019 – 6.15-8.00 @ UCL  (Not Cowcross Street!)

A profoundly practical and entertaining lecture from one of the world’s leading neuroscientists that will help you understand why we get lost in some environments (such as loop and culs de sac housing estates, or neighbourhoods with long curving streets), while others are easy to navigate.

Kate has much to say on:

  • the importance of landmarks – near landmarks – distant landmarks,
  • the confusing effect of rotational symmetry – and why people using Birmingham New Street Station to get to this year’s National Urban Design Conference, had difficulty finding their way.
  • the mental maps that lie in our brains, from fine grain to landscape scale,
  • how we tend to navigate on the basis of 90 degree turns, and how we can get confused,
  • How some people have a great sense of direction or an ability to read maps and plans, while others don’t.

You will be able to judge how much Kevin Lynch’s approach to analysis is reflected in neuroscience, and how much isn’t.


Big Meet 10

Launch of the findings of a Housing Design Audit for England

13th November @ UCL

Big Meet 10 will focus on the critical question of housing design quality – what sort of housing environments are we creating today, and how can we strive to do better in the future?

The conference will be structured around the launch, discussion and reflection on “A Housing Design Audit for England. This is the first national housing design audit and the first large scale audit for over 12 years. It covers 142 schemes across all regions of England. The conference intends to be both honest and constructive.

Ultimately it will challenge attendees to identify what tangible actions we can take together to improve the design of the new residential environments that the nation so clearly needs.


London Central Walking Networks

Lessons and insight for anyone interested in practical measures to promote walking

28 November – ½ day Conference organised by London Living Streets and the Urban Design Group

Speakers include leading politicians and practitioners:

Tim Mitchell Deputy Leader (Delivery) and Cabinet Member for Environment and City Management, including transport (Westminster)

Will Norman Mayor of London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner

Adam Harrison Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden (including Transport)

Oliver Sells QC Chairman, Streets and Walkways Sub (Planning and Transportation) Committee (City of London)

John Dales Urban Movement

Jodie Eastwood Chief Executive, The Knowledge Quarter

Emily Candler Director, Exhibition Road Cultural Group

Katja Stille Tibbalds, Urban Design Group


Making Places - Strategies for Managing Major Traffic Routes through Historic Towns and Villages

Monday 2nd & Tuesday 3rd December 2019

County Hall, Pegs Lane, Hertford SG13 8DP

A two-day event with presentations from the UK’s leading authorities with workshops to cover how an urban area blighted by heavy road infrastructure and car dominated design can be transformed into a people-friendly place that will stand a better chance of meeting the 2050 Zero Carbon deadline.

Speakers include:

Learning from Elsewhere – Making Radical Changes to Traffic Networks

Stephen O’Malley, Civic Engineers

Ring Roads and Bypasses: Managing Traffic Speed and Volume in Urban Centres

Phil Jones, Phil Jones Associates

Guided Busways – Cambridgeshire’s Success Story

Graham Hughes, Executive Director, Cambridgeshire County Council

Making Connections and Restoring Links in Historic Towns

Duncan Berntsen, Medway Council

The Opportunities to Make Better Places from Spaces

Tim Hagyard, former Planning Team Leader and Urban Designer, East Hertfordshire District Council

Streets for People - Why Making Better Places For People Matters

Nicholas Boys Smith, David Milner, Robert Kwolek, Create Streets

Managing Traffic Networks and Encouraging Other Forms of Transport

Lynda Addison, independent transport consultant and past chair of the Transport Planning Society

The Climate Change Imperative

John Duncan, Extinction Rebellion East Herts

Further information:



And diary date –

Mr Reynold’s Urban Design Film Night

9 Jan 2020 - 6:15pm - 8:30pm 

A title to inspire, educate and delight, chosen by the UDG’s own film impresario and Honorary Secretary Paul Reynolds


Urban Nous videos



11 presentations from the National Urban Design Conference 2019


The Buildings of London Bridge


Improving the Process used to identify land for development

Paul Reynolds, Urben


Why are well conceived urban design masterplans so rarely realised?

Katja Stille, Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design



Scores of recorded urban design lectures kindly provided by Fergus Carnegie


2019 Events

UDG - London


Kevin Lynch Memorial Lecture

Mental Maps, Sense of Place, Navigation and Neuroscience

Professor Kate Jeffery, UCL

14 November

Central London Walking Networks

28 Nov 2019 - 1:30pm - 5:00pm

Annual UDG Film Night

9 Jan 2020 - 6:15pm - 8:30pm


Transport for New Homes



Historic Towns and Villages Forum



York: Keyhole Surgery - Increasing the Capacity and Performance of Historic Centres

Thursday 21st November 2019


Autumn School: Making Places

Strategies for Managing Major Traffic Routes through Historic Towns and Villages

Monday 2nd & Tuesday 3rd December 2019,

County Hall, Pegs Lane, Hertford SG13 8DP


Booking on….





Climate Heritage Network – Global Launch

24 October - 25 October


Urban Design London



Understanding Good Design and How it can Help

30 October


Understanding housing typologies

7 November


Public Space and Street Design

3 December


Assessing the Design Quality of Housing Applications

10 December


Trees, Planning and Development

12 December


Academy of Urbanism

Design for Living conference – Watch online



4x4 Manchester

29 October


Urbanism Awards

27 November


Centre for Cities


Buses in Urban Transport

13 November


City Horizons and the rise of the intangible economy

20 November


Civic Voice



Book Launch – David Rudlin


York Design week
Tuesday 29 October


Future of London


Report launch: Foundation for Community-Led Housing

3 December


City Makers Forum: Net Zero – Responding to a Climate Emergency
29 January, 6:15-8:30 pm
Registration opens soon


Good Homes Alliance


Delivering Net Zero and Future Homes

19 November – London


Kent Design


Introduction to Urban Design

29 October


Roundtable: Beyond Peak Car

8 November


Understanding Buildings

21 November


Knowledge Exchange Network: Town Centres

5 December


Introduction to Water Sensitive Design

15 January



Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire Berkshire Milton Keynes


Oxford Brookes


Landscape Institute



The NPPF – Landscape-led planning in practice

Jellicoe Lecture : Landscape in Crisis

7 November, Leicester


London Living Streets

Central London Walking Network

28 November


Nottingham Urban Room



Understanding the Planning Process in Nottingham

14 November



The Developer and the Planning System

25 November



Association of Regional Urban Design Officers


Place Alliance



Housing Design Quality &

Launch of “A Housing Design Audit for England“

13 November  )

UCL – London



Royal Town Planning Institute

Urban Design NW – Promoting Design Quality

30 October


Is Good design a matter of opinion?

13 November – East Midlands


Urban Design and Master planning for Planners

27 November - Birmingham


Transport Planning Society


Transport Planning Camp 2019


Thursday 7 November 09:00 to 17:00



Transport Planning Network Annual Conference


Monday 18 November 2019   10:00 to 17:00



Transport Planning Day

20 November



World town planning day

8 November



Museum of Walking


Walks continue through October and November


Healthy City Design 2019

Designing for utopia or dystopia?

People and planetary health at a crossroads

Selection of presentations available to download





Urban Design Studio Graduate Scheme - Savills

Experienced Layout Urban Designers - Pegasus Group

Cambridge - Birmingham - Leeds

Graduate Surveyor / Planner / Heritage - Montagu Evans


Urban Designer - JTP


Director of Masterplanning and Urban Design - Tyrens UK


Urban Designer - Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council


Infrastructure Manager, Places for Everyone - Sustrans




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