Urban Update

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Katja Stille, Chair of the Urban Design Group, reflects on the proposals for England
We welcome the objective of creating a truly plan-led system, giving greater weight to local plans, supplementary and neighbourhood plans as well as spatial development strategies.  We also welcome the emphasis on Infrastructure providers to be involved in the plan making stages.
Sustainable location of development
To ensure that the additional weight that plans are being given is not misdirected, it is essential to address the problem of so-called “cowpat development”: single use housing estates that are being built in isolated countryside locations, with negligible public transport, and at a scale that too small to support even a local shop.  This form of development is unsustainable: car dependent, high in energy-use, and owing to the unavoidable inactive lifestyles, unhealthy.  The right way to develop is to select sites that are in locations that can be well served by public transport, where walking and cycling can meet most movement needs, and which form part of a mixed-use development.  It is about town-building, not just housebuilding.  In the UDG’s response to the White Paper, we suggested a proactive and place-based approach to strategic planning.  For that to succeed, close and early collaboration with infrastructure providers is essential.  While the spatial development strategies developed by Mayors or combined authorities may help some areas, we believe the Bill has fallen short in addressing the current lack of strategic, regional and integrated planning.  
Funding infrastructure
The infrastructure delivery strategies prepared by Local Authorities and delivered through the proposed new Infrastructure Levy will need to do some heavy lifting and not only identify what infrastructure is required locally, but also when. How will the timely delivery of infrastructure be ensured?
Delay to infrastructure is one of the greatest community complaints and one that undermines the creation of communities and their ability to live sustainable, healthy lives.  Locally raised Infrastructure Levy will need to be matched by national funding and strategic planning that goes beyond Local Authority boundaries and ensures a comprehensive network of, for example rail, health care and active travel routes. The funding should not, as it has so often in the past, go on more road building and increased vehicle-flow capacity. Transport infrastructure investment must observe the National Planning Policy Framework requirement that “opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport use are identified and pursued”. The user hierarchy outlined in Manual for Streets should be properly followed – investment in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure should receive priority in funding.   We should expect to see new development being served by new railway stations, trams and rapid buses and more frequent services, not new motorway junctions and trunk roads.
Design quality, design codes and the urban design skills shortage
We are pleased to see the continued emphasis on design quality at all spatial scales. Through the proposed changes to Supplementary Plans these design codes will be given additional weight. This is to be welcomed, but it creates an even greater need to ensure that codes are fit for purpose:  tested, verified and based on appropriate information. The Bill requires “all local planning authorities to have a design code in place covering their entire area.” Detailed codes, for specific areas or sites can sit below these.  
But who will create the codes? To be effective and to deliver quality places, their content and level of detail needs to be tailored to the specific scale. This requires resources and expertise within Local Authorities. The skills survey the UDG commissioned from the Place Alliance found that:

  • two fifths of local planning authorities have no access to urban design advice;
  • almost two thirds no landscape advice;
  • three quarters no architectural advice

Despite having heard a lot of positive messages about skills, we are concerned about the ability to upscale the design capacity of Local Authorities quickly to deliver this Bill.
Model development management policies
Some of our members feel the introduction of model development management policies sourced nationally, is a positive opportunity. Provided it is done well and with the right objectives in mind, this has the potential to free up Local Authority resources so that officers can concentrate on local issues, developing locally specific policies and codes.  Further it has the potential to deliver consistencies across the country. However, we recognise that national policies and consistency across diverse communities can be seen as undermining local character or democracy. 

As always, the devil is in the detail. National policies and / or standards must be modelled on the best and most aspirational policies that exist within the country and must not undermine local distinctiveness and identity. Only then will they provide a real opportunity to meet the levelling-up agenda.

View the Bill


Hastings & St Leonards on Sea "15 Minute Place" - Study Visit

Saturday 11 June @ 11.00 -5.00 and after 
£6 UDG/IHBC Members; £10 Non-Members

An opportunity to test the 15-minute place, and trial of a range of appraisal systems with friends and colleagues.   And to answer the question is St Leonards on Sea a good 15 minute model.


About this event

11.00 Meet -At the Goat Ledge – seafront café


Part 1 – Guided tour of Burtons’ St Leonards – “Regent’s Park on Sea”

We will reflect on how the area is functioning in the 21st century.


Part 2 - A walk around, appraisal, and assessment of St Leonards on Sea as a 15-minute place using a range of tools.

Each participant will be given assessment materials to fill in based on:

  • 15 Minute Journey Purpose Checklist
  • Building for a Healthy Life
  • Jane Jacobs/Jan Gehl
  • National Planning Policy Framework S130 + National Design Guide
  • Building Design Criteria
  • Placecheck 

Afternoon Break - and a discussion of findings of walk around.

Part 3 – Is St Leonards a model for the 15-minute city? – creating a design code

A discussion on what a design code for a 15 Minute St Leonards would look like, following the National Model Design Code guidance

Part 4 – Evening walk around Hastings including the Old Town and the Stade with possibility of evening meal

Stade is a Saxon term meaning landing place. Hastings is home to Europe’s biggest fleet of beach launched fishing boats.

Book tickets



News + Research

Built Environment

Child Friendly Urban Design – Observations from Eindhoven and Jerusalem -  New Report more>>>>

The report questions the idea that providing lots of play spaces leads to children playing more and providing few play spaces leads to children playing less.  In all neighbourhoods researched, traffic safety was a primary concern: speeding cars, parked cars, absence of visual queues to slow traffic

Local scale

  • Playful street furniture
  • Sidewalk games
  • Climbable objects
  • Shared space
  • Natural play areas

Neighbourhood level

  • Child routes, Walking routes, cycle routes and networks etc

City Level

  • Family Friendly City Strategy
  • Encouraging Child Participation

NB this is published as an awkwardly formatted issue document and is best read with good eyesight, or a large screen.

Toronto publishes City-wide and specific Building or Development Guidelines - urban design more>>>>

How Singapore’s “Garden City” vision fused nature and urban design like nowhere else more>>>>

Urban Design is Eternal more>>>>
David Rudlin reflects on masterplans: that while few are implemented, once they are, while the buildings may come and go, the streets created may last forever.

What are the thresholds for urban design and transport features that support walking to create healthy and sustainable cities: findings from the IPEN Adult study >>>>
If people are to walk more, they need urban environments that encourage and support walking. Urban design and transport features—including higher residential density, mixed land use, street connectivity, and better access to public transport, amenities, and parks—have been associated with more walking.  This study examines walking in a range of countries including  Australia, Denmark, Mexico, Canada etc.

Thresholds for an 80% probability of any walking for transport
    5700 people per square kilometre
    100 intersections per square kilometre
    28 public transport stops per square kilometre


Relationship between population density and the probability of
walking for more than 150 minutes per week

Relationship between intersection density and the probability of
walking for more than 150 minutes per week



City Building Games 
Financial Times discusses the evolution from ‘SimCity’ and US style suburban sprawl, to newer environmentally minded titles such as ‘Terra Nil’ and ‘Lichenia’ more>>>>

Artificial Intelligence in Urban Planning and Design – New Book more>>>>
BetaStreets computer-generated image (CGI) design and visualisation tool allows residents to see how their streets could be transformed more>>>>   BetaStreets Website
Computer modelling toolkit can help urban designers build cities that are more resilient to infectious disease transmission  
The paper groups the urban design interventions into six types:

  • social distancing,
  • travel-related
  • individual-level
  • building-level
  • neighbourhood/district-level, and
  • city-level design

more>>>>  Paper>>>>

Politics, Economics, Philosophy

M&S warns online sales tax will damage High Street – 19 May more>>>>
M&S to shut 32 more stores as it shifts away from town centres – 25 May  more>>>>
A week is a long time in the retail industry



Cycling makes society richer more>>>>
The City of Copenhagen has calculated that each kilometre driven in a car costs society 0.71 Euros, after taking into account the impact on individual wellbeing and the environment.  Each kilometre cycled benefits society by 0.64 Euros.  Society therefore saves 1.34 Euros when people cycle rather than drive one kilometre.

Manual for Streets - Publication expected soon 


Photo competition

Community’s Cultural Life in Public Spaces
Silk Cities international competition 2022 - supported by UDG
Photo & Short video
Submission: May 23- October 30
Early bird registration: May 23-July23



Non-UDG Events

How The World We Build Shapes Us
Monday 6th June 5.30 Zoom - Free
John Simpson - Architect
Nikos Salingaros -  Professor of Mathematics and Urban Design Academic at the University of Texas
Nicholas Boys Smith - Senior Government planning adviser and Director of CreateStreets
Suzy Moat - Professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick
Tobias Preis - Professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick
Thomas Hogg - Director, Architectural Wellbeing Institute

Further details and registration>>>>

What Happens in Your Brain When You Walk Down the Street? Implications of Architectural Proportions, Biophilia, and Fractal Geometry for Urban Science  download paper>>>>

Academy of Urbanism Congress – Belfast
Cities Overcoming Challenges
8-10 Jun 2022

Exciting programme of workshops, walks, debates with senior politicians, and international speakers, including Anuela Ristani, deputy mayor of Tirana

Wednesday 8 June 2022
Scene-setting afternoon city tours and evening Civic Reception

Thursday 9 June 2022
Congress Belfast Day, Workshops and Cultural Reception

Friday 10 June 2022
Congress International Day, Workshops and Congress Dinner
Further details and Registration

HTVF Using Heritage Impact Assessments Successfully Part 1 : Webinar
Thursday 9th June, 12-2pm  
Further details of HTVF Events  
Living Maps
14, 15, 24 June – events exploring the natural history and archaeology of Queen Elizabeth Park, London
Tree Mapping Workshop – Trees and Design Action Group
Organised in association with Forest Research and  University of Birmingham
16th June 2022
9am – 1pm
HTVF Using Heritage Impact Assessments Successfully - Part2 : Webinars 
Thursday 23rd June 2022, 12-2pm 
Further details of HTVF Events  

RTPI Conference – Urban Design
24 June 2022 at 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM

HTVF Delivering Change in Town and City Centres - Webinar 
Thursday 30th June 2022,12-2pm 
Further details of HTVF Events 
Research and data influencing walking for transport and urban design
5 July 12:30 pm–02:00 pm  GST (Australia)
HTVF The Role of Historic Buildings in Getting to Net Zero - Webinar 
Thursday 14th July 2022, 12-2pm 
HTVF : Finding New Uses for Heritage Assets - Webinar 
Thursday 15th September 2022, 12-2pm 






Opportunities: UDG Careers Board 

Senior Urban Designer (Garden Communities)
Chelmsford | London and South East

Urban Designer
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council | West Midlands

Senior Urban Designer, Urban Designer, and Assistant Urban Designer
PRP Architects 

Urban Designers across various levels
Project Centre 

Planning Officer - Urban Design and Conservation
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council | Solent

Senior Urban Designer
Stride Treglown | South West

Graduate Urban Designer
Terence O'Rourke | London and South East, Solent

Assistant Consultant/ Consultant / Senior Consultant - Townscape, Landscape and VIA
Turley | North West, Scotland, West Midlands

Urban Designer
Urban Green | North West

For more details visit the UDG jobs board