National Design Guide

The national design guide sets out the characteristics of well-designed places and demonstrates what good design means in practice.

It forms part of the government’s collection of planning practice guidance and should be read alongside the separate planning practice guidance on design process and tools.

Author: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

Publication date: October 2019



Distinctively Local

This report focuses on new suburban and rural housing, including urban extensions, suburban infill and completely new settlements. It aims to inform and inspire those who may be planning, designing, delivering or hoping to inhabit new developments, including the latest generation of garden towns and villages. It includes guidance and case studies showing how to create genuinely distinctive and popular places. In doing so we hope it will help foster a positive perception of new development that can in turn help smooth the path for boosting housing supply.

This report is the product of collaboration between four architectural practices, specialising in the design and delivery of residential and mixed-use neighbourhoods:

Author: HTA Design, Pollard Thomas Edwards (PTE), PRP, Proctor & Matthews Architects.

Publication date: May 2019


Further information:


Place Value and the Ladder of Place Quality

The types of places we inhabit have a profound impact on health, society, the economy and the environment. This report distils 271 empirical research studies to uncover the truth about the qualities of the built environment that are good for us and deliver place value.

The Ladder of Place Quality is a simple tool for decision-makers to use when considering: are we making a great place?

Author: Place Alliance

Publication date: March 2019



The Housing Design Handbook: A guide to good practice

Everyone deserves a decent and affordable home, a truth (almost) universally acknowledged. But housing in the UK has been in a state of crisis for decades, with too few homes built, too often of dubious quality, and costing too much to buy, rent or inhabit. It doesn’t have to be like this. Bringing together a wealth of experience from a wide range of housing experts, this completely revised edition of The Housing Design Handbook provides an authoritative, comprehensive and systematic guide to best practice in what is perhaps the most contentious and complex field of architectural design.

This book sets out design principles for all the essential components of successful housing design – including placemaking, typologies and density, internal and external space, privacy, security, tenure, and community engagement – illustrated with case studies of schemes by architecture practices working across the UK and continental Europe.

Written by David Levitt and Jo McCafferty – two recognised authorities in the field – and with contributions from more than twenty other leading practitioners, The Housing Design Handbook is an essential reference for professionals and students in architecture and design as well as for government bodies, housing associations and other agencies involved in housing.

Read a teaser for the book here.

Author: David Levitt, Jo McCafferty

Publication date: October 2018



Making spaces for play: on new suburban and town developments

It looks in detail at play (a proxy for overall social activity) and relates this to a simple mapping exercise that scores four physical characteristics of new developments. Though only a pilot exercise the methodology shows promise as a way of predicting, at an early stage in planning, future social outcomes. Where beneficial features are absent, social activity and play may be a small fraction of that observed on the developments with the higher mapping scores.

Author: ZCD Architects, NHBC Foundation

Publication date: December 2017



Housing Design for Community Life

This report presents data about how people are using external spaces in residential areas on recently completed schemes in England. Inspired by the work of Jan Gehl Architects, it is a study of numbers of people, their activities and the time they spend outside as an indicator of what Gehl calls ‘life between buildings’. It presents new maps that show access to external spaces in relation to dwellings and the streets in between and reaches the conclusion that the layout of a development may have a significant impact on how well spaces are used.

It incorporates theories of child development, play and children’s independent mobility, in part to quantify some of the health and wellbeing concerns that need to be addressed, but fundamentally to highlight the value of children’s use of external spaces: both for their own bene t and as the generators of community life. The report reveals the social nature of these spaces, the importance for children and the challenges for other age groups, while also highlighting the damage that anti- social parking behaviour can have on otherwise well designed schemes.

“The report’s work in trying to understand how we use public space cannot be ignored. It is a vital manifesto for new planning policy and a cultural shift in our obligations towards people and the new communities we are creating.”

David Montague, Chair of G15 and Chief Executive, L&Q

Author: Dinah Bornat, University of East London/ZCD Architects

Publication date: November 2016