The Bartlett School of Planning


Housing delivery under threat through a lack of design skills in planning

31 October 2017

Place Alliance Report

A report by Matthew Carmona and Valentina Giordano

The Government, both in its manifesto and in the recent Housing Green Paper, committed itself to a step change in the delivery of high quality new homes across the country.  New research published by the Place Alliance and funded by the Urban Design Group, puts those aspirations in doubt because of worsening design skills gaps in English local planning authorities.

This report summarises the findings of a freedom of information survey of urban design skills within local planning authorities, and how they have changed over the last five years. It demonstrates that urban design skills and capacity within local planning authorities are woefully low and declining and that these gaps are not being filled by the patchy, albeit increasing, use of design review. Critical gaps exist within local planning authorities, including the ability to produce proactive design guidance in-house in order to positively shape the future of new housing developments.

A very real danger now exists that as we gear up to deliver a greater number of homes nationally, the absence of design expertise locally will result in a new generation of substandard developments. This, for example, includes new housing estates that are dominated by roads and tarmac, lacking any greenery or character, and which are disconnected from public transport and local amenities. These, moreover, will be with us for generations to come.

The report can be also downloaded from https://bit.ly/PA_SkillsReport2017 


The research was conducted by a team at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning with financial support from the Urban Design Group and the Place Alliance.

The Urban Design Group is a membership organisation open to all who care about the quality of life in urban areas and who believe that better urban design is central to raising standards. 

The Place Alliance is hosted by UCL and brings people, evidence and organisations together as a means to support the case for investing in a high quality built environment.