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Urban Design London talk

New Ideas for Welcoming Cities

Natasha joined a panel at Urban Design London on "New Ideas for Welcoming Cities" and presented the Place Quality framework as a new approach for creating healthy, sociable, vibrant and inclusive places.

It is part of innovative design and planning guidance published as draft for consultation which aims to embed people-focused outcomes into the design and assessment of development.

Thank you to the panel and audience for their hugely supportive response and the questions, comments and ideas for the future of the framework!

(Comments below - February 2023)

Chair: Esther Kurland, Director, Urban Design London

Prof. Yolande Barnes, UCL Institute of Real Estate

Natasha Reid, Founder – Matter Space Soul / Public Practice associate at Brent Council

Lucy Minyo, Public realm Lead, Central District Alliance / Principal Consultant, Momentum Transport

Petra Marko, Co-founder, Marko & Placemakers

Nivedita Vijayan, Associate Director of Urban Design, Jacobs


Place Quality Framework: Comments and Questions from the panel

Lucy Minyo

Shifting master-planning practice

Absolutely fantastic work. Thinking through the framework and having worked in a master-planning practice - the training and practice day-to-day is not rooted in socio-demographic research or theories around social impact and public health.

The typical design and access statements are still very based on form – it’s slowly changing, but in a lot of practices they still are. Will there be a journey in how you work with the type of material that comes through from design practices as the approach grows?

NR: Yes absolutely, for me it is a long-term project of shifting mindsets and changing what gets valued.

Petra Marko

Growing the approach

Is there an ambition for this toolkit to be applicable for other boroughs? It communicates some of the values of the national design guides at a micro level, and at a macro level it is really aligned with the Doughnut Economics model.

It would be interesting to see how your toolkit can have a wider impact – how you do you achieve rolling it out to different boroughs or integrating it more with policy, not just locally?

Esther Kurland

A basis for Design Codes

You could turn it over into a borough-wide design code for public space. Instead of saying “tell us what this space should provide for people” you actually say what it should provide for people through different types of space. That could possibly circumnavigate potential negotiations and misunderstandings – you could turn it into new area-wide design code requirements.

Supporting the Design review process

It will be so helpful to have a framework to discuss the parts of a proposal which aren’t the number of homes, the height of the building, the internal configuration and where the bins stores are!

To have a framework to say “what is the purpose of each bit of space” and “how it is going to work” and “what benefit is going to be for the people that will use it, and the environment” is brilliant. Looking forwards to see how it works in practice and examples of the impact in the future.

Nivedita Vijayan

Impacting the design early on

The questions are so impactful and as a designer it makes you think how you design a space. How early do you plan to socialise this with people? Sometimes if this questioning comes later in the design process you miss opportunities. Do you have a timeline in mind of how it is expected to be discussed?

NR: It is expected to be responded to for a pre-app meeting with a preliminary statement, so from the very first principles.

Stephen Lovejoy

Where has the framework come from?

It’s a really exciting and innovative framework, it would be great to hear more about the process developing it and where the initial push for the framework came from – whether it was from you or from groups within the council? Very inspiring!

NR: The remit was originally an amenity space SPD. I brought in the concept of expanding this to health/social impact as it is my specialism (the outcome is a Residential Amenity Space and Place Quality SPD).

The framework is part of my own consultancies prior work, research and methodology. The process of applying and adapting this as an officer within the spatial planning team as part of Brent council’s SPD was highly collaborative.


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