An Urban Design Manifesto for the Government

The Urban Design Group (UDG) has successfully campaigned since 1978 for urban design to be on the national agenda. The need for high standards of urban design is now almost universally accepted. What are still missing are the skills, practices and frameworks on which good design depends.

The UDG is focusing on what needs to be done to put these in place. We urge the government to give high priority to implementing the following 12-point programme:

Put Design at the Heart of the New Planning System

1 Vision plans

Require local planning authorities to produce an urban design vision plan as an integral part of every local development framework.

2 Development briefs

Require planning authorities to produce and approve supplementary planning guidance explaining how they will deal with design matters such as development briefs and design statements. A development brief should be prepared for every site larger than 0.5 hectares that the local authority has identified for development.

Integrate Planning and Transport

3 Integration

Unite decision-making on planning and transportation throughout all levels of government from cabinet down.

4 Public realm strategies

Require local authorities to prepare public realm strategies that integrate planning and transport matters into a single policy vehicle for the public realm. Local communities must be involved in this process. Such strategies must set out how the quality of design and the maintenance of streets and squares will be improved to make them more attractive, safer, cleaner and greener.

Develop Urban Design Skills

5 Urban designers

Encourage local authorities to continue to employ at least one urban designer to support more effective planning and higher design standards.

6 Bursaries

Set up a bursary scheme to help professionals study for postgraduate qualifications in urban design through universities that already offer diploma and masters courses in the subject. The professionals would come from a variety of backgrounds, such as planning, architecture, engineering, surveying and landscape architecture. The scheme, run on the lines of the ODPM’s bursary scheme for postgraduate planning courses, could be linked to local authorities’ performance through the planning delivery grant.

Promote Sustainable Development

7 Access

Insist that every new neighbourhood should be within a 10-minute walk of a station or bus stop, and that existing neighbourhoods are within a 10-minute walk of new or extended public transport routes.


Encourage the re-use of existing buildings by zero-rating VAT on repairs and restoration.

9 Greener buildings and spaces

Introduce measures to encourage investment in sustainable development through renewable energy, reducing CO2 emissions, and increased biodiversity.

Champion Urban Design

10 Design champions

Promote the appointment of local authority design champions with responsibility for the built environment and public spaces at cabinet level.

11 Agencies

Support Design Council CABE in working to rise the quality of our built environment.

12 Public spending

Require those responsible for all public expenditure on buildings and infrastructure to provide evidence of how they will ensure high design standards.