Urban Update 6 January 2020



6 January 2020


  • Fully updated events listing for the New Year
  • Next Events
  • Urban Climates – 9 January – fully booked with long waiting list – sorry
  • Film Night 9 January – City Dreamers
  • Housing Design Quality & Launch of “A Housing Design Audit for England“ 21 January – Place Alliance
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • National Design Guidance @ Nottingham Urban Room 25 Feb
  • Career Opportunities – Derbyshire – Solent – Bournemouth – London + Merton Design Review Panel


Sheffield City Council may lose in house team that brought about some of the UK’s finest public realm improvements

Reports have been received of potential staff cuts at Sheffield City Council’s planning department.  The jobs thought to be under threat include access officers, and landscape architects, conservation officers and the urban design team.

Successful cities require a balance between local authority and private sector.  In particular the local authority must be able to act as a competent client, having a vision, setting standards, creating briefs, letting contracts, supervising contract quality, and maintaining a watch over long-term management and maintenance, furthering the interests of local citizens, and ensuring best value.    

A local authority that loses its ability to act as a competent client risks:

  • Being unable to procure or use the output of private sector providers effectively, plus risking costs going out of control.
  • Losing its corporate memory, which can mean studies that have already been done are needlessly repeated.
  • Long term damage to the future of the area, as the vision, drive and common sense of purpose is lost. 



How to pay for critical infrastructure in new development – “Rent Charges” – an emerging scandal or a sensible option?

The Barnet Graph of Doom published by Barnet Council some 5 years ago forecast that by around 2020 the entire local authority budget would be used up in funding adult social care, and child social care: there would be no funds for anything else.  This, for the moment, has not come true; but the UK has seen local authorities reduced to near bankruptcy: Northamptonshire County Council being the notable example.   The impact has been seen in the urban design sector in the unwillingness of local authorities to adopt highways, street trees, lighting and landscape areas to anything other than the most basic specifications, if at all.  Housebuilders have sought to circumvent this by declining to have the streets adopted, and creating management companies to oversee them.  Such management companies need to be funded, and some of the funding arrangements are now causing concern: specifically “Rent Charges”.

The BBC Programme Money Box has highlighted concerns over housebuilders selling new homes and locking purchasers into paying management companies through “rent charges” registered on the freehold.    Rent Charges are a legal instrument dating back to feudal times.  They are an agreement under which a regular payment must be made by one party to another.  Homes can be repossessed by the beneficiary of the rent charge if freeholders fall more than 40 days behind in payments.  The issue raised by the programme is that if a house is subject to a Rent Charge, mortgage lenders may take the view that there is inadequate security on which to lend the money, and withdraw mortgage offers made to prospective purchasers.  Property covered by Rent Charges difficult or impossible to sell.  There are an estimated 21,000 new build freeholds registered with estate Rent Charges

A repeat of the “Pitch Fibre Drains” crisis?

Issues over the funding of critical infrastructure are long standing, even going back to the time of the Roman Empire.  More recently was the use of “Pitch Fibre” drains commonplace in some areas in the 1950s,60s etc.   Most drains around this time were the property of the local authority, and when water privatisation took place, these adopted drains transferred to private water companies; but drains that had not been adopted remained the responsibility of the householders. This tended to be the case with housing built on sloping sites where fall of the land meant that the drains had to run to the rear of the properties, rather than direct into the highway sewers in front of each house. After several decades, the Pitch Fibre drains began to fail, and where housing estate drains had never been adopted individual householders were faced with bills of perhaps £10-15,000; an amount that was hugely challenging for people on pensions etc.   

The situation was resolved in 2011 when water and sewerage companies in England and Wales became responsible for private sewers, which were previously the responsibility of property owners.  Private property owners remain responsible for maintaining sewer pipes within their property boundaries, as long as they only serve their property. But once the pipe leaves their property, it is the responsibility of the local water company to maintain it.

There is the prospect of repeats of the pitch fibre drain crisis as the century progresses.  The time will come when estate management companies need to undertake capital works or major replacements and renewals.  There will once again be the possibility of residents facing very large bills.  It is in the interests of everyone that the system for funding critical infrastructure should be transparent, fair and equitable, as well as supporting the creation of high-quality development.

Events update – January – February


Mr Reynold’s Urban Design Film Night

City Dreamers

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

Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Denise Scott Brown – four trailblazers who became accustomed to being the only woman in the room. Each has an extensive list of accomplishments in architecture, planning and landscape architecture dating back 60+ years and has taught, mentored and inspired generations of professionals. How have they envisioned our cities?

Through original interviews, archival material and stunning cinematography, documentary filmmaker Joseph Hillel uncovers how each of these strong, independent thinkers has shaped the cities we live and work in. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, the insights of these forward-looking women who have built social and environmental values into their work seem more relevant now than ever.

Book now:



UN Sustainable Development Goals

The Gallery, 70 Cowcross St., London EC1M 6EJ  

Wed, 05/02/2020 - 6:15pm - 8:15pm

Our towns, cities, and settlements are shaped by a variety of local forces, design guides, and political aspirations. This can lead to a disparate response to the urban crises we face, and development that at its heart is not contributing to the quality of life of future generations.

This event will explore the role - success and failures - of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in shaping places globally. A role that aims to give authorities a clear and unified mandate and ability to shape places firstly as a catalyst for improved quality of life and a shared and equable future.

You can read more about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals here.


The National Design Guide (England)

Urban Room, 38 Carrington St, NG1 7FG Nottingham

Tue, 25/02/2020 - 10:00am - 4:00pm 


   FREE but please sign up!


Urban Nous videos



Kevin Lynch Memorial Lecture – What neuroscience can tell us about our sense of place and sense of direction – Professor Kate Jeffery, UCL



11 presentations from the National Urban Design Conference 2019
– Making People Friendly Planet



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


2019-2020 Events


Annual UDG Film Night

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


Transport for New Homes



Transport for New Homes: what needs to change?
Monday 20 January 2020, 6pm – 8pm
St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, Manchester, M12 6FZ


Transport for New Homes: beyond car-dependence
Thursday 30 January 2020, 6pm – 8pm
The Warehouse, 54-57 Allison Street, Birmingham, B5 5TH


Historic Towns and Villages Forum


Finding New Life for our Heritage Assets
Tuesday 11th February 2020, Kellogg College, Oxford

Character, Quality & Design in Neighbourhood Planning and beyond
Thursday 27 February 2020, Kellogg College, Oxford




The Heritage Alliance – Heritage Day - 26 February



Urban Design London



Applying the Tall Building Policy

16 January


Designing Liveable Neighbourhoods Day

4 February


Designing Town Centres and High Streets

Wednesday 12 February 2020


Academy of Urbanism


Homes and Neighbourhoods for All – Urbanism and Affordable Housing in the UK

12 February


Cities on the Waterfront

6 March – Limerick


Institution of Chartered Foresters

Trees, People and the Built Environment

22-23 April - Birmingham



Centre for Cities


Cities Outlook 2020

27 January 2020  @ City Hall, London


Civic Voice



Future of London


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


Good Homes Alliance



Kent Design


Introduction to Water Sensitive Design

15 January


Introduction to Housing Types and Tenures

28 Feb


Design Brighton




Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire Berkshire Milton Keynes


Oxford Brookes


Landscape Institute



Digital Integration and Transformation

28 January 2020, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Landscape and Place Convention
Birmingham, 2-3 July 2020


London Living Streets


Nottingham Urban Room


Interacting in the city: how do you use public spaces?

Monday, January 20, 2020

10:00 AM 1:00 PM


Co-PLACE Launch & Awareness Briefing

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

1:30 PM 3:30 PM


National Design Guide

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

10:00 AM 4:00 PM


Association of Regional Urban Design Officers


Place Alliance



Housing Design Quality &

Launch of “A Housing Design Audit for England“

21 January – Rescheduled

UCL – London



Royal Town Planning Institute


RTPI West Midlands Urban Design Forum - January meeting

28 January


Climate Emergency – What next for the UK?

27 February


Transport Planning Society


Transport-led development in London and the South East, London 15th Jan

15 Jan 2020 08:45 - 17:10


Low carbon planning - possible or flippant? Swindon 26 Mar 2020

Thursday 26th March 2020 10:00 to 16:00


Museum of Walking


Walks continue through January


Healthy City Design 2019

Designing for utopia or dystopia?

People and planetary health at a crossroads

Selection of presentations available to download



Connected Cities

Connected Cities – Metroisation of the Railways

30 March


Frequent rail services everywhere will enable sustainable development where active travel and public transport are the norm.

Speakers include:

  • Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman, Network Rail
  • Martin Tugwell, President, CIHT
  • James Harris, RTPI
  • Richard Simmons, CPRE
  • Jenny Raggett, Transport for New Homes
  • Stephen Pauling, Midlands Connect
  • Simon Elliott, Transport for Greater Manchester
  • Nicholas Falk, URBED
  • David Biggs, Network Rail Property
  • Martin Chatfield, Thameslink (TBC)
  • Andreas Markides, Past President, CIHT





Senior Urban Designer / Associate - Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design



Urban Designer - Pegasus Group



Urban Designers (all Senior levels) - Pegasus Group

The Solent Area


Graduate Urban Designer and Urban Designer – Terence O’Rourke Ltd

Bournemouth and London


Call for new Panel Members - Merton Design Review Panel - Merton Council



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