Urban Update

Reflections on the impact of the Department for Transport’s Transport Appraisal Guidance

UDG @ Futurebuild 2022  3 March
Keynote: Do we need a below-ground national design guide?

Foundation Certificate in Urban Design endorsed by the UDG


Several deadlines this weekend!
Buckinghamshire Council | Clifton Emery Design | Origin3 | Savills Urban Design Studio | Sevenoaks District Council | Sheffield City Council | Urban Green

Computer Says Road - Challenging the Transport Appraisal Guidance

The Department for Transport’s Transport Appraisal Guidance has been criticised for many years over its bias towards road-based infrastructure, and failure to adequately value the benefits of active travel, or the damage caused to the climate and public health that result from car dependency.

A new paper written by David Milner of Create Streets, and reported in the Guardian identifies five issues:

  • The wrong models: existing traffic modelling, so called ‘Predict and Provide’ is outdated and based on flawed, oversimplified solutions
  • Valuing algorithms over expertise: decision makers treat traffic models as a fact rather than an opinion
  • Valuing traffic congestion over everything else: the Department for Transport’s cost-benefit analysis tool known as ‘Transport Analysis Guidance’ (TAG) fails to value social and environmental benefits and costs, and overvalues travel time
  • Valuing commuters over everyone else: we value the pre-Covid peak-hour commuter ahead of the school run and design developments for infrequent events
  • Failing to consider systemic impacts: our transport infrastructure is a series of expensive disjointed projects



Examples taken from the Transport Appraisal Guidance

Examples of external costs used
Severe road congestion: 57.2 pence per km travelled
Excess noise: 0.1 pence per km
Air quality: 0.5 pence per km 
Greenhouse gases: 2.8 pence per km

Do these adequately reflect the damage done to the environment, or to people’s wellbeing?

Valuation of time
Non-work related journeys: £4.54 per  hour
Commuting journeys: £9.95 per hour

Are these values justifiable, or equitable?

Because commuters are more likely to be male and car users, the effect is to discriminate against non-car users who are more likely to be less well-off, female, young, elderly or disabled. The use of these different values appears to be in breach of the two core statutory duties in the 2010 Equality Act.

S1 Social Economic Equalities Duty
S1. An authority to which this section applies must, when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise its functions, have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.

S149 Public Sector Equality Duty
This requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, and to advance equality of opportunity among protected groups eg. age, gender, disability, race
Due regard has a specific legal meaning - it is not a matter of ticking a box saying that one has thought about something, but an essential preliminary to a decision necessitating a substantial, vigorous and open minded approach; where consideration is given to measures to avoid adverse impact before fixing on a solution. See Ali v Newham 2012.

The Equality Act has been used before to amend decisions on transport infrastructure. In January West Sussex County Council reinstated a withdrawn cycle lane following an Equality Act challenge.
There are deeper questions posed by the use of the method, including the way it treats the environment, in effect as a tradeable commodity, and in the valuation of human life: that a life today is worth more than a life in the future, something that defies one of the most basic principles of sustainability: the principle of intergenerational equity.
With so much development taking place that is ringed and penetrated by large highways that resemble 1950s style trunk roads, and that lack adequate active travel or public transport infrastructure, many people will conclude that this system is failing today’s generation, and future generations.

Do we need a below-ground national design guide?
Thursday 3 March @ 10:15-11:00
Part of Futurebuild 2022 at ExCel London
FREE - pre-registration required

The Urban Design Group curates keynote session at Futurebuild 2022

Much of the ‘placemaking’ making and working infrastructure that creates value above ground depends on how we manage the spaces below ground. Our design and management of the ‘underworld’ to date has not been impressive, and is preventing us from creating the towns and cities that can face up to the challenges ahead.

  • Street trees essential for climate change adaptation and mitigation that need undisturbed root-space – difficult when below ground the space is crowded-out with pipes and cables
  • Underground waste management systems that allow streets to be kept clear and unobstructed by bins and bags
  • Street-based SuDS to tackle the greatly increased run-off due to climate change
  • Grey water recycling and distribution systems
  • Upgrading of drainage systems to enable sewage effluent and rainwater run-off to be handled and treated separately and to bring an end to the pollution of rivers with sewage spills
  • Upgrading electricity cabling to allow a transition to clean energy
  • Gas distribution networks upgraded to enable the distribution of hydrogen
  • District heating and cooling pipes, plus ground source heating and cooling

And so on…

This session will look at how a ‘national model design guide’ for below-ground could improve the situation for the future and what changes to legislation and regulation would be needed to achieve this necessary change.

A vital topic for all engaged in working on places, buildings and environments for people and nature.


  • Robert Huxford  Urban Design Group
  • Nicole Metje  University of Birmingham
  • Jim Smith  Forestry Commission
  • Katja Stille  Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design | UDG Chair



Looking for a short course in Urban Design?

3-Day Comprehensive Foundation Certificate in Urban Design
Endorsed by the Urban Design Group
20-22 June 2022 | Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Discounted rate available for public sector workers

This course deals with urban design, but you don’t need to live or work in a city to benefit from it. We welcome all applications from rural areas, as this course benefits anybody with an interest in planning and design for the built environment. Inclusivity is at the heart of what we do.

  • There are no entry-level qualifications
  • The course is delivered through a range of classroom/lecture theatre-type learning, site visits, and walking tours
  • The course takes place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom, and learners must attend in person for the duration of the 3-day course
  • There will be virtual post-course sessions to consolidate your learning and to help you apply your new skills in the real world
  • The course is delivered in English both verbally and written
  • The course is UK-based, but its content is transferrable to global contexts


Other Non-UDG Events

Kent Design
Masterclass: Shaping Liveable Neighbourhoods: Delivering well-designed, higher density neighbourhoods
Tuesday 15 March 2022 @ 9:30-12:00

Masterplanning now and into the future
Wednesday 23 March @ 13:30-14:30

Speakers confirmed:

  • Sarah Murray, Edge Urban Design
  • Adrian Bower, ADP Architecture
  • Paul Comeford, Prior & Partner
  • Thomas Corbin, Prior & Partner

Free to BOB-MK members
Non-members £75 for one place or two places for £100

News + Research


Proposal for New York State Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act
The Act would mandate for “complete streets”, and allow New York municipalities to set their speed limits below state-mandated minimums.

Built Environment

Neom: What's the green truth behind a planned eco-city in the Saudi desert?

How we should transform the design of care homes and accommodation for elderly people

Do larger builds lead to less-liveable cities?

Disabled people risk being ‘left out’ of post-pandemic urban design, report reveals

Breakthrough in using quantum level technology opens up possibility of accurately mapping the spaces beneath our streets


Digital platforms (apps and websites), COVID-19 and the reshaping of urban mobility
A review of recent trends by researchers at the University of Manchester

"A digital platform is an app or website where information, goods and services are exchanged by a provider and the user. While platforms are diverse, it is the data generated which is generally considered the most valuable or useful resource. Uber, Airbnb and Deliveroo are examples of digital platforms."

In recent years, digital mobility platforms have emerged offering ‘on-demand’ services in cities where mobility was traditionally organised around public transport and private cars. Platforms such as Uber, Lime and Citymapper focused on urban centres where they compete or collaborate with established operators. In the pandemic, ride-hailing companies such as Grab were able to rapidly switch function from passenger to delivery services. Digital platforms played a key role in enabling many to work from home, reducing the need for urban travel. Zoom saw daily users jump from 10 million to 300 million in spring 2020. Questions follow…

  • Will dense city centres continue to be the priority for infrastructure investment?
  • What should be the response to an increasingly fragmented urban landscape of work, mobility and transport provision?
  • Should the digital platforms that support urban mobility be privately or publicly owned and managed?


Digital revolution is needed to make our cities climate resilient


Humans, Health, Society

Ambient Heat and adverse impact on Mental Health
Case-study finds days of extreme heat were associated with higher rates of mental health related emergency department visits.

Police in New Zealand use Barry Manilow music to disperse protesters

Us and the music we listen to
Study examines what drives our musical tastes

What's special about singing?
MIT neuroscientists identify a population of neurons in the human brain that respond to singing but not other types of music or speech.

Professional practice

Where Words Fail: Teach Architects and Urban Designers Like Violinists
Architects and urban designers justify or explain their work with words, and municipalities govern design with jargon-filled regulations. The outcome is often underwhelming.

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture
Is it possible to explain one art form using another?


Why Toronto's plan to build a rail deck development is not being embraced by all


Bogota continues to make progress in sustainable transportation


Coventry Canal Village

Public transport in some of the UK’s biggest cities is the most expensive in Europe, new research has revealed

Legal right to nature should be part of the levelling-up agenda
UK wildlife campaigners launch petition


Update from Paul Altman

Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets
The Engineers Ireland in association with the RIAI and the Irish Planning Institute are holding a series of free one-hour webinars starting at noon on Thursday afternoons on the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Street (DMURS)
There have been two webinars held already and recordings are to be available on the Engineers Ireland website, as well as the form for booking for the six further webinars

Design Manual for Social Housing
The recently published Design Manual is available to download. The sample site layouts included in this Manual set out the urban design and placemaking priorities, consistent with compact growth, to assist in the delivery of high-quality and sustainable housing developments.


Better mobility design can encourage the use of public transport, cycling and walking

South Africa

Are the New Smart Cities planned for South Africa worth the investment?

Opportunities: UDG Careers Board 

Buckinghamshire Council
Landscape Architect / Urban Designer | Buckinghamshire

Clifton Emery Design
Assistant Urban Designer / Landscape Architect | Exeter

Senior / Associate Urban Designer | Bristol

Savills Urban Design Studio
Associate Director / Director | London

Savills Urban Design Studio
Senior / Associate Urban Designer | Oxford

Sevenoaks District Council
Urban Design Officer | Sevenoaks

Sheffield City Council
Design Officer | Sheffield

Sheffield City Council
Principal Design Officer | Sheffield

Urban Green
Urban Designer | Manchester

For more details visit the UDG jobs board