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Key insights and recommendations

Key insights are as follows:

Awareness and knowledge

  • Changes in behaviour and/or thinking have occurred in many organisations as a result of the Protocol with two out of three respondents (67 percent) reporting this change. A further 12 percent reported that changes in behaviour and/or thinking were already occurring in their organisation before the Protocol was established
  • Of note, one in seven respondents (14 percent) were uncertain whether they had experienced any changes in behaviour and/or thinking. In addition to this, higher proportions of non champions and central government respondents were unsure whether any changes had in fact occurred (27 percent and 31 percent respectively)
  • People within the organisation (94 percent) were identified as being a key driver of changes in behaviour and/or thinking regarding urban design, followed by the community (42 percent), other consultants (35 percent), professional associations (35 percent), and clients (35 percent). This degree of commitment and support (both internally and external to the organisation) and the overall capabilities and capacity of the urban design industry were identified as being the key factors influencing quality urban design. Conversely, these same factors were identified by respondents as the main barriers inhibiting quality urban design being achieved in their organisation
  • Attitudes towards urban design are largely positive with high levels of agreement regarding taking a multi-disciplinary approach (79 percent), having strong support from senior management (79 percent), having quality urban design considered to be extremely important (76 percent), and a quality urban environment being a key priority in their organisation’s outcomes (75 percent)
  • Of note, just over half (58 percent) agreed that their elected representatives strongly support urban design, and a further 18 percent were unsure or did not respond.

Networking and sharing information

  • Urban design related networking events and seminars are providing value to those who attend, with more than four out of five respondents (85 percent) rating the Protocol events they have attended as being of value. This is also the case with networking groups or activities not organised by the Ministry (90 percent rating this of value) and other seminars and symposiums (92 percent rating this of value)
  • Considerable value is also being obtained from exchanging urban design related information and research and supporting other organisations (93 percent and 86 percent respectively).

Urban Design Champions

  • The process for selecting an Urban Design Champion (Champion) varies between organisations. The most frequently mentioned selection criterion includes their specific role and/or position within the organisation (46 percent), their level of seniority (45 percent), a passion/interest for urban design (42 percent), specialist urban design expertise (37 percent) and their high public profile/presence (23 percent)
  • The length of time Champions have held their role also varies. One in three respondents (31 percent) have held this Champion role for between one and two years, while a one in three (29 percent) have held this role for more than three years. Of note, one in six Champions (16 percent) reported being in this role for less than 12 months
  • Champions have been identified as promoting quality urban design within their organisation, with two out of three (67 percent) non champion respondents reporting this was the case
  • They are also considered to be effective in their role as Champion, with four out of five respondents (78 percent) rating them as somewhat or extremely effective.

Action Plans and other programmes

  • The overall value of action plans have not been fully realised for about half of all signatory organisations. For example, half of all respondents (53 percent) were in agreement that the urban design action plans were an effective mechanism for demonstrating their commitment to the Protocol, while one in three (29 percent) did not agree that they were at all effective in this regard
  • This was also the case regarding the perceived value of undertaking the urban design action plans. Half of all respondents (52 percent) agreed that undertaking their urban design action plans were of high value, while one in three (31 percent) did not agree
  • Having said this, an average of 2.9 urban design work/programmes have been completed by each organisation that were not included in their Action Plan. While this indicates that many signatory Action Plans require updating, it also suggests that urban design work/programmes are being conducted regardless of whether or not they have been included in the urban design action plan
  • The urban design concepts and/or principles themselves appear to be having a strong influence on quality urban design. Three out of four respondents (77 percent) were in agreement that the urban design principles were being applied in their work/projects, and more than two out of three respondents (70 percent) agreed that urban design concepts were influencing new policy development
  • In line with respondents mixed opinions regarding the overall effectiveness of action plans, one in two respondents (53 percent) agreed that their organisation were using or leveraging off the Protocol to achieve their projects.

The Protocol

  • In general, attitudes regarding the Protocol are positive, with slightly more than half of all respondents in agreement that they are using or referencing the Protocol in the development of other policies (54 percent agreed this was the case), and were using or referencing the qualities of urban design (or the 7c’s) in their publications (52 percent agreed this was the case)
  • The Protocol’s influence in strategic decision making is having some traction, with slightly less than half of all respondents (48 percent) agreeing that the Protocol was influencing the strategic decisions being made in their organisation, while one in three respondents (34 percent) reported this was not the case
  • More than half of all respondents (58 percent) agreed that having their own urban design guidance was of high value. In line with this, half of all respondents (48 percent) reported their organisation had either developed or were in the process of developing their own urban design guidance. Of those who were unsure or had not yet developed any guidance (36 percent in total), a further two out of five reported their organisation was likely or extremely likely to start developing this over the next 12 months.

The Ministry’s role

  • The Ministry’s more tangible tools and resources (i.e. published documents etc.) are rated of greater value than those of a less tangible nature (i.e. services). The Urban Design Tool Kit, Urban Leader (E-newsletter), Urban Design Case Studies, the Action Pack for action plans, and the Review of Urban Design Case Law were rated as being extremely or somewhat valuable by more than three out of four respondents (between 77 and 89 percent)
  • The support and guidance received from the Ministry in relation to the development of action plans was rated as being of value to three out of five respondents (61 percent), while one in five (22 percent) did not find this of value
  • A similar result was also found for the support and training for Champions. Three out of five respondents (61 percent) rated this of value, while one in six (17 percent) did not
  • A variety of other urban design tools and resources are also being widely used. The most frequently mentioned being CABE, other professionals, and English Partnerships. Not surprisingly, respondents also consider these resources to be of high value (71 percent rated these as being extremely valuable)
  • Providing direction and guidance on urban design, providing urban design related information and resources, promoting urban design and increasing awareness, developing policy and legislation, providing education and events, and facilitating networking activities were noted as the key areas of the Ministry’s involvement regarding the Urban Design Protocol.

Recommendations

In light of the above key findings, we recommend the Ministry:

  • Continues to promote the Protocol and the benefits of quality urban design in order to further enhance the changes in behaviour and thinking that have occurred to date
  • Continues to provide Urban Design Protocol events, and consider increasing the number of events being provided in regional locations
  • Continues to further develop the urban design tools and resources (viz. Urban Design Tool Kit, Urban Leader newsletter, Urban Design Case Studies, the Action Pack for action plans, the Review of Urban Design Case Law)
  • Promotes the value organisations receive through exchanging urban design related information and research, and the value received through networking with other organisations
  • Promotes the benefits and value (including leverage) signatory organisations receive from achieving their action plans
  • Develops a strategy for working closer with the central government agencies, building networks, promoting the Urban Design Protocol and raising awareness of quality urban design
  • Develops a strategy, in conjunction with education providers, to address urban design capacity issues and consider seeking input from the wider industry
  • Develops a strategy to assist signatories to develop their own urban design guidance, and consider the development of tools and resources to aid signatories in this process
  • Reviews the Urban Design Champion resources in order to provide a more tailored support for existing and new Champions, and senior management
  • Reviews the action plan resources in order to provide more tailored support and advice for signatories developing, and maintaining, their action plans
  • Reviews the current administration of signatory action plans (including its database of signatory organisations) in order to make this a more efficient and effective process, and allows for greater communication between signatories and the Ministry in regards to ongoing monitoring of action plans
  • Targets key influential or strategic networks or stakeholders to sign up to the Protocol
  • Considers optimising the Urban Leader newsletter as a tool of communicating with signatories (including online linkages), and facilitating greater two-way communication
  • Considers updating the Protocol (including visual graphics) to ensure it remains current and relevant
  • Finally, keep up the good work and target the areas identified as needing attention.