Urban Update


Foundation Certificate in Urban Design endorsed by the UDG

Climate change special…

  • IPCC Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - 1 minute summary
  • 2021 Carbon Emissions highest in history - IEA
  • Carbon Dioxide must be actively removed from the atmosphere if climate change to be limited to 1.5°C - 1 minute summary
  • Amazon rainforest reaching tipping point, that would see it turning into savannah  
  • No clear plan on how Net Zero will be funded - House of Commons committee report summary 
  • Commercial inter-urban bus services may be collapsing leaving isolated housing developments totally car dependent
  • Women’s freedom of movement grossly restricted by personal security concerns - survey and report

Plus a palate cleanser from Living Streets

BDP | Clifton Emery Design | Define | JTP | Origin3 | Pegasus Group | Sheffield City Council


Parking Policy: Time for Change
Tuesday 29 March 2022 @ 12:30-13:45 via Zoom

CPRE London say local authorities are failing to use their “most effective tool” to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. Effective parking policy also delivers safe and attractive streets and promotes active/shared/sustainable travel, while also making transport more accessible.

Find out:

  • Why is parking policy so important? What evidence is there that it is not being used to full effect?
  • What changes can local authorities make to parking policy to deliver a better urban realm and environment?

Who should attend?

  • Local authority councillors and officers with responsibility for streetscene, urban realm, transport, climate or pollution action plans
  • Transport engineers and transport planners
  • Urban designers
  • Anyone with an interest in changemaking through built environment


London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard 2022
Tuesday 5 July 2022 @ 10:00-11:00 via Zoom

The Scorecard Coalition are back for the fourth year running to compare London boroughs on the action they’ve taken to promote active and sustainable travel in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy targets. Which boroughs are taking action? Which boroughs need to do more?

Speakers to be announced.



Non-UDG Events

Living Streets
Walking for Everyone: National Walking Summit
Tuesday 22 March 2022 @ 10:00-17:00 in person and online

Improving air quality, tackling inactivity, and reviving local high streets requires neighbourhood by neighbourhood action and agreement. But we need streets that work for everyone.

This Summit will look at how we can create truly inclusive streets for all and how we ensure marginalised voices are brought into transport planning and design.

The 2022 event will bring together people from across the UK and internationally to explore how to break down barriers to walking and cycling in order to create places where people want to rest, play and spend time.



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



News + Research

Energy, Climate Change

The past 10 days have seen the publication of a series of alarming reports on climate change, the consequences and the options for action
While the war in Ukraine is likely to accelerate investment in renewable energy sources as European countries seek to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas, the Ukraine supplies up to 20 percent of the world’s wheat, the increase in food prices may greatly increase the incentives to turn rainforest into agricultural land.

Six things we all can do to ease the climate crisis

  • Keep products for at least seven years
  • If you can, no personal vehicles - Cars can last more than 20 years, and the shell and interior of a car can last even longer if well cared for. But if you replace it with a new one every 3 years you’re generating 5 or 6 times the amount of emissions involved in making these cars over that period.
  • A plant based diet – no waste – a healthy amount
  • Three new items of clothing per year
  • Holiday local - One flight every three years
  • At least one life-shift to nudge the system


IPCC Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

  • Impacts of climate change (drought, extreme heat, floods) are already wider and more severe than forecast 
  • Short term impacts are now unavoidable - eg reduced food supply security 
  • Risks escalate with increasing temperature, with some impacts being irreversible… eg disappearing glaciers, species extinctions
  • Poverty increases exposure to climate change risks
  • Adapting to Climate change must be a priority in all areas
  • Some of the impacts are already too severe to adapt to
  • There is a need for action to avoid an irreversible global catastrophe

Of great concern are the positive feedback effects:

  • Loss of ice increases the amount of heat absorbed from the sun,
  • Thawing of permafrost releases methane into the atmosphere – methane is a very potent greenhouse gas
  • Droughts increase the risk of the collapse of forest systems and the risk of fire, together turning them from carbon sinks to carbon sources


A Geochemical History of Life on Earth
The BBC World Service has broadcast a series of 5 programmes on Geochemistry, outlining the changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, climate swings from times when there has been no ice at the poles, to “snowball earth” phases  when there has been ice at the equator, massive changes in sea levels of 100s of metres, global extinction events, and how the evolution of living organisms including bacteria, fungi, trees, and animals have driven many of the changes. It is a stark warning.

UK not prepared for climate impacts, warns IPCC experts – covered extensively

Amazon rainforest reaching tipping point, researchers say
Deforestation and climate change, via increasing dry-season length and drought frequency, may already have pushed the Amazon close to a critical threshold of rainforest dieback.
Fires mean that the forest turns from a carbon sink, to carbon source, and amplify drought.
Increased drought may change the fire regime from small local fires, to 'mega fires'. 
Deforestation changes the evapo-transpiration regime, leading to a loss of water-recycling. 

Also reported in New Scientist: Amazon rainforest nears tipping point that may see it become savannah
More than three-quarters of the world's largest rainforest has become less resilient to drought since the early 2000s, with areas near humans and with lower rainfall being the worst hit.

Background reading… 'Hadley cell' and 'Polar Cell' - a key to understanding the Earth’s climates, rainforest, and desertification

The greatest heat from the sun is felt on the equator - the heated air rises, and is replaced by air from the north and south. There is a matching air circulation at the poles, based on dense, cold air flowing downwards and away from the poles. The impact of the circulation depends on the presence of continents, oceans, mountain ranges and vegetation. The Hadley circulation is the reason why north Africa is a vast desert, with the Hadley cell circulation drawing any moisture from the Sahara towards the equator, and the equatorial rain forests. 

Diagram: NASA / Kaidor, Wikipedia


To limit global warming to 1.5°C Alive - Carbon Dioxide must be actively removed from the atmosphere
Major and detailed report by the Energy Transition Commission lists possible measures that could be taken, and the extent that would be necessary to achieve the objectives.

1. Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) 

  • Afforestation and reforestation 
  • Wetlands and peatlands restoration
  • Soil carbon sequestration – better soil management to raise carbon levels in soils
  • Ocean fertilisation – to boost photosynthesis
  • Biochar – heating biomass to reduce it to carbon which is then stored or buried 
  • Bio-energy With Carbon Capture and Storage

2. Engineered solutions     

  • Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) - using chemical solvents to capture CO2 directly from the air - costly and energy intensive

3. Hybrid / Biomass with Carbon Removal (BiCRS) solutions 
4. Mineral absorption 

  • Alkalinisation of oceans 
  • Enhanced absorption of carbon by silicon-based rocks (eg sand, clay and mudstones)

CDR: Carbon Dioxide Removals 
BiCRS: Biomass carbon removal and storage
DACC: Direct air carbon capture

International Energy Agency reports that Global carbon emissions rebounded to highest level in history in 2021

Africa Heritage Sites at risk from rising sea-levels

Hull sea defences features raised sea-walls with windows
Sadly this is the shape of things to come for all coastal towns and cities apart from those built on granite cliffs.

House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts Achieving Net Zero: Follow up report published

“Government has no clear plan for how the transition to net Zero will be funded.”

The report warns that the Net Zero Strategy relies heavily on private investment and innovation driving down costs, and changes in consumer behaviour: things that cannot be guaranteed. It expresses concern over the lack of clarity over the involvement of local government, and the lack of skills in either the private or public sectors.


Collapse in core shire county bus service patronage... a threat to car-based greenfield developments in open countryside?
A number of local newspapers have been carrying stories about commercial bus operators giving notice of the scaling back or withdrawal of key bus services. They include services connecting small towns and villages, with larger conurbations. Questions that follow on include: 

  • Whether local authorities should step up in providing subsidised services (difficult given that the decline in funding for local authorities has pushed some into effective bankruptcy, and some funding streams, such as highway maintenance, have been frozen for the next three years)
  • Whether development in open countryside where public transport cannot be guaranteed can constitute sustainable development either in environmental terms, or social terms - given that people who cannot use cars will become stranded
  • Whether bus-deregulation (dating from the 1985 Transport Act) should be reconsidered in order to secure long term stable bus services, and a different model rolled out

Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls - report issued by West Midlands Combined Authority
Thirteen recommendations include: planning, data collection and intelligence gathering, training of staff, more women working in transport, greater use of technology, funding, schools education programme, safer travel partnerships, awareness raising.

YouGov survey reveals extent to which women’s freedom of movement is suppressed by fear of attack or harassment
The survey of over 3,000 UK adults found that 66% of women said they did not feel safe walking alone at night, at least some of the time. That compared to just 39% of men who said they felt unsafe in the same situation. When at home, 33 percent of women felt unsafe, sometimes, often or always. Two thirds of women had experienced harassment.

The full data shows the extent to which women’s movement is supressed: 

The results imply that 20 percent of women are under an effective curfew after dark.


Built Environment

Councils treating accommodation in houses in multiple occupation as separate units for the purposes of council tax

Examples of distinctive, low cost, moderate density development in Moroccan and Indian suburbs

Politics, Philosophy, Economics

Formalising online council meetings - a step change in public involvement in local decisions

The Potteries have missed its chance to capitalise on its heritage - says V and A boss
But… the older generation remember the Potteries as an area of gross pollution, from smoke pouring out of the tops of the coal-fired bottle kilns. It is easy to have a romantic image of an industrial past that, in reality, involved poor working conditions with little regard to health or environment. While tourist-based regeneration can help, it can fall substantially short of being a replacement for the loss of the core of the economy, and may not help the people worst affected. A former leader of one of the Potteries local authorities commented wryly long ago that while people may not have a job, thanks to the regeneration scheme they can now buy six different types of balsamic vinegar.

Ascoli Piceno - the Italian town not clad in marble, but built of it

And now for something jollier...

Living Streets set up a new Park and Stride scheme in Rotherham
Check out the short video from the launch day, when they were joined by Sarah Jones from Team GB, Living Streets mascot Strider, and over 80 families, pupils and staff from Aston Fence Junior and Infant School.

Park and Stride launch in Rotherham with Aldi and Team GB


Opportunities: UDG Careers Board 

Associate / Senior Urban Designer
BDP | North of England offices

Assistant Urban Designer / Landscape Architect
Clifton Emery Design | Exeter

Urban Designers (Various levels)
Define | Birmingham

Urban Designer
JTP | London

Senior / Associate Urban Designer
Origin3 | Bristol

Urban Designers
Pegasus Group | Nationwide

Design Officer
Sheffield City Council | Sheffield

Principal Design Officer
Sheffield City Council | Sheffield

For more details visit the UDG jobs board