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Urban Challenge

This initiative will highlight and support ideas to change the way we manage our built environment.

Do you have an idea for a change to policy, practice or design approaches? If so, would you like to share and develop it within our Urban Challenge? 

Your idea might learn from 2020 experiences, but should aim to meet long term objectives around climate change, health and equality. Your idea may be from any built environment sectors and should support improvements to: Town Centres, Local Living, Buildings or City Structures (more info below). We will write up the ideas and share them widely.  We anticipate that those who make policy and fund programmes will find the ideas useful.

To participate fill in this very short form.

The initiative will also involve Challengers, Scene Setters or Stress Testers.  If you don’t have an idea you wish to put forward but want to be involved in a different way please do get in touch.  

Our Challengers:                                                          

Philip Graham (GLA)                           

Alex Williams (TfL)                                                    

Joanna Averley (MHCLG)                                              

Our Scene Setters:

David Christie (TfL)

Prof. Matthew Carmona (UCL)

Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)

Fanny Blanc (LSE)

Prof. Ken Gibb (UK Collaborative Centre for Housing)

Max Farrell (LDN Collective)

Our Stress Testers:

Selina Mason (Lendlease)

Finn Williams (Public Practice)

Matthew Yates (TfL)

Elanor Warwick (Clarion Housing Group)

Samer Bagaeen (Brighton & Hove CC)

Ellie Howard (GLA)

Dinah Bornat (ZCD Architects)

... and have received over 30 ideas so far !

 The challenge will start this autumn and involve:

1. Challengers– explaining the objectives ideas for change should aim to achieve

2. Scene Setters – covering research, polls or other evidence of changing behaviours and conditions before, during and since lockdown

3. Ideas Groups – to discuss and work up ideas for change

4. Stress Testers -  community members, practitioners and business people who would implement ideas in the real world

If you would like to be a Challenger, Scene Setter or Stress Tester please do get in touch.  

Each to have between 10 and 15 people who have, or are willing to, work on ideas for changes to planning, highway, public realm, housing or building processes - policy, practice or design approaches

Here are some suggestions on what each Challenge Group may wish to focus on:

Town centres

• Repurposing town centre building space away from traditional large chain retail to providing home working support hubs, bringing manufacture back into town centres, homes, and/or leisure and learning uses
• Changes to town centre public spaces, the use of outdoor space for commercial activity and the greening of centres
• Changes to the way town centres are managed, events are provided and information and feedback is shared between providers and users of town centre services.
• Ideas around getting both people and goods to and from town centres including local delivery systems, active travel, shared mobility etc.

Living local 

• Will Lockdown love for local continue? Should it? If so, how can it be supported?
• Supporting and strengthening community and neighbour connections
• Local spaces to meet, exercise, relax– from the park to the door step and everything in between. 
• Play streets and school streets
• Understanding the role of neighbourhood densities


• Achieving Flexibility, adaptability and resilience
• Homes that are light, airy, private and quiet
• Resource efficient buildings
• The relationship between building form and building use (i.e. homes can be work places, offices can be homes?)

City structures

• Smart commuting post Covid
• The relationship between living local and city living
• Do we need different approaches in different types of place (metroland suburbs, compact suburbs, central zones)
• Using physical free communications to improve city structures

Ideas should be practical, affordable, safe and inclusive.  They do not need to be fully developed or tested during this Challenge initiative – but should have the potential to move to the next stage and be implemented in the future. The changes might relate to plan making, decision taking, funding, design or build out tasks. The group should meet at least three times - first time on 12th October 2020. Any group members with existing ideas can present them briefly here.  The group can then decide if they want to develop other ideas too, and if so, what should be the priorities. One aim for the challenge group is to look for synergies in ideas across built environment sectors. Each group will have a leader and a facilitator.

Contributors will retain IPR over their ideas, but will need to agree for UDL to share the idea within events, websites, social media posts and the Challenge report.

If you would like to take part in an Ideas Group please fill in this very short form.

The challenge would run over 4 events:

1. Setting the Challenge

12th October 2020

An event where key-note speakers set out the main urban challenges facing us as we emerge from the Covid era.

We will also hear about new research and evidence explaining how we used urban areas during lockdown and our attitudes to the buildings and places around us. Lastly, we will introduce our challenge groups – which will develop and test ideas over the course of this initiative.  There will be 4 groups looking at town centres, living local, buildings and city structures.

2. Ideas Group Meetings

9th & 10th November + 7th & 8th December 2020

Groups will meet on these dates to share the ideas they have been developing. An informal panel of Stress Testers will provide feedback as ideas develop.

3. The Pitch

19th January 2021

Challenge groups will be able to present their ideas to the Challengers, Stress Testers and  other ‘dragons den’ type individuals we identify. Challenge Group leaders will also be able to suggest how ideas could fit together. Constructive feedback on ideas presented will be collected. There will also be time for discussion on how ideas with the most support could be taken forward.

4. Write up

February 2021

UDL will publish a summary of ideas, feedback and suggestions for implementation.


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