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Does the statement clearly explain how the site fits in with surrounding uses? It is normally the mix of uses in a neighbourhood that is important to creating successful places, not the use on a single site.

Click here to access our lesson on Planning tools


Have you ever thought why some places work and some don’t?

Places that work well usually have similar characteristics, but there is something more going on. Successful places tend to meet a need; they have a purpose, they fulfil a role. These places are cherished and looked after, and they develop and maintain their position over time. This means that people are proud of them and feel affection for them.

These are tough things to achieve and they need more than clever design work. They rely on good planning, community involvement, management and often political will and determination. But behind all this is the need to set out and agree what the space will be used for and the role it should play in the area and community. These roles and uses need to be practical, deliverable and reasonable. If it’s the right role, then the place has a fighting chance to become or remain successful.

Click here to access our lesson on Places with a purpose


When considering whether a place is well-designed for its proposed use, you need to ask:

1. How will the place be used?

2. Are these the right uses for the area? Is there a mix of accommodation that reflects the needs and aspirations of the local community?

3. Does the development provide (or is it close to) community facilities, such as a school, park, play areas, shops, pubs or cafés?

4. Are the right uses in the right places?

5. How will open spaces be used privately and publicly? Are they designed to accommodate these uses?

6. Is there a tenure mix that reflects the needs of the local community?


Visual quality

Visual quality assessments will depend upon local circumstances. There are very few absolutes, but the audit should look at how the design respects the character and quality of the area.

Click here to access our lesson on Quality audits for highways schemes



Pedestrians need to be able to walk easily on the footway, without having to dodge clutter, risk injury from traffic or divert far from preferred routes. This means that walking audits should take into account:
  • the effective width of a pavement,
  • its ease of access for wheel chair users and buggy pushers,
  • the separation of the route from traffic.
  • respect given to desire lines
  • the percentage of the route which is not easy to use
  • the number of obstructions (posts, bins, advertising boards and planters)

Click here to access our lesson on Quality audits for highways schemes

West Midlands plan (The)

Regional policy should require all new housing to meet quality standards, for example the Building for Life standard. This standard sets 20 criteria to ensure new homes and neighbourhoods are well designed. It complements Lifetime Homes Standards and can be managed through self-assessment. The West Midlands Plan was the first draft RSS to incorporate the Building for Life Standard.

Click here to access our lesson on Regional planning policy

Who's responsible for good design?

People bring different priorities and perspectives to a project. If we don’t try to think about everybody’s needs as the design develops we can end up isolating, segregating or retrofitting to try and make the place work.

Click here to access our lesson on Who's responsible for good design?

Working effectively

The most effective decisions are based on thorough knowledge. Best practice examples can act as an inspiration, and as benchmarks to check how well you are doing.

If you have little experience of construction projects, you'll need to rapidly develop a knowledge and understanding of some relevant examples. Looking at buildings and visiting them is a good way to start. Visiting a few places with your design and project teams will help the whole team understand your values.

Click here to access our lesson on Commissioning design work

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