Reports and Guides

National Model Design Cole (NMDC) Pilot Programme Phase One, Monitoring & Evaluation (2022)

Matthew Carmona, Wendy Clarke, Brian Quin & Valentina Giordano

In January 2021, the UK government proposed to test the application of the National Model Design Code (NMDC) through conducting 14 pilots across England.  This report summarises the monitoring and evaluation and draws out key findings.  The report follows through the coding process structuring the findings agains inputs, process, outputs and potential impacts before setting out overarching lessons identified by the pilot teams themselves.


Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 11.10.54Appealing Design, The evidence of planning appeals and the need to reject poor and mediocre housing design (2022)

Matthew Carmona and Valentina Giordano

Following changes to the National Planing Policy Framework in England in 2021 which strengthened the hand of local authorities wishing to reject poor quality housing development, this analysis examines the impact of the policy on how the Planning Inspectorate in England is dealing with design concerns.  Through an analysis of design-related appeal outcomes across 2021, the research confirms a significant change, notably that local authorities rejecting poor and mediocre design are three times more likely to be supported by Planning Inspectors than before the policy change.


Screenshot 2021-07-21 at 12.46.12The Design Deficit, Design skills and design governance approaches in English local authorities (2021)

Matthew Carmona and Valentina Giordano

This report summarises the findings of a short survey of urban design skills and approaches within England’s local planning authorities, and how they have changed over time.  A response rate of 71% was achieved.  Reviewing the evidence, it is possible to conclude that whilst urban design and related skills in local authorities have stabilised, they remain at a low ebb and far below where they need to be in order to address the ambitious national agenda on raising the design quality of new development.


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New Governance Strategies for Urban Design (2021)

Matthew Carmona and the Urban Maestro team

Urban Maestro ran for two years between 2019 to 2021 and examined the use and utility of informal tools of urban design governance across Europe.  It was a collaboration between UCL, UN-Habitat and the Brussels Bouwmeester Maître Architecte.  This report summaries the high level recommendations flowing from the project along with the approach used and the analytical framework adopted.  It should be read alongside the detailed evidence and information gathered at


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Home Comforts, How the design of our homes and neighbourhoods effected our experience of the Covid-19 lockdown and what we can learn for the future (2020)

Matthew Carmona, Valentina Giordano, Garima Nayyar, Jessica Kurland & Clare Buddle for Urban Design London, Good Homes Alliance, Urban Design Group and Civic Voice

This report summarises findings of a national survey of 2,500 households (representing 7,200 people) aimed at understanding how well or how poorly the design of our homes and their immediate neighbourhoods supported us during the period of coronavirus lockdown.  The intention was to understand what we can learn from this period of unprecedented stress on our home environments.  The findings offer insights into how we should be designing or adapting them in the future in order that they are more resilient and better able to support happy and healthy lifestyles.


Screenshot 2020-10-24 at 19.01.04Towards a Design Quality Unit for England (2020)

Matthew Carmona for the Academy of Urbanism, Civic Voice, CPRE, Design Council, Place Alliance, Trees and Design Action Group, Urban Design Group

This pamphlet sets out in more detail the form that a Design Quality Unit for England might take. It is intended to assist in the process of deciding what the i) mission, ii) tools of engagement and iii) modes of delivery of the new body might be.  It is written in the spirit of encouraging and helping to shape a public debate, not of having all the answers.


Screenshot 2020-05-16 at 12.33.02 copyDelivering Urban Quality, Time to Get Serious: The Case for a Design Quality Unit for England (2020)

Matthew Carmona for the Academy of Urbanism, Civic Voice, CPRE, Design Council, Place Alliance, Trees and Design Action Group, Urban Design Group

This pamphlet sets out the case for a new national body to provide leadership on urban design quality across England. Whilst various models are possible, the pamphlet argues that a design quality unit should work through a partnership and networked approach across the country to ‘monitor’, ‘challenge’, ‘inspire’ and ultimately help to ‘deliver’ real change.  It sets out various options for delivering such a unit.


Screenshot 2020-02-01 at 16.00.40Housing Design Audit for England (2020)

Matthew Carmona, Amer Alwarea, Valentina Giordano, Anastassia Gusseinova, Fola Olaleye for the Place Alliance and CPRE

Housing design audits represent systematic approaches to assess the design quality of the external residential environment. This new audit evaluates the design of 142 large-scale housing-led development projects across England against seventeen design considerations. It provides enough data for comparisons to be made regionally and against the results of previous housing design audits conducted over a decade ago. It establishes a new baseline from which to measure progress on housing design quality in the future, and correlates the findings against a range of key development, contextual and design governance factors.  Overwhelmingly the message is that the design of new housing environments in England are ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’.


Screenshot 2019-04-23 at 09.46.53Councillors’ Attitudes to Residential Design (2019)

Matthew Carmona, Valentina Giordano and Anastassia Gusseinova, for the Place Alliance, supported by the Design Network

This report summarises views from a national survey of local councillors in England on their approach to the design of new residential development.  In England, for too long we have been building too few homes and those that we build are often of a quality that unites local communities in opposition against them.  Understanding the role of local politicians as regards the design of new housing development: their aspirations, motivations, mode of operating and frustrations, was the purpose of this national survey.  This research asks, how are our local politicians playing their part in helping to deliver better design?


Screenshot 2019-04-23 at 09.27.52Place Value, and the Ladder of Place Quality (2019)

Matthew Carmona, for the Place Alliance

A large and growing body of empirical evidence now points in the same broad direction, that better place quality adds value economically, socially and as regards health and environmental outcomes. We can call this ‘place value’.  This report uncovers the truth about the qualities of the built environment that deliver this place value.  In other words those qualities that are good for us, and those which are not.  It is possible to envisage these different qualities as sitting on a ladder.  The ladder climbs from those place qualities that should be avoided to those that should be required in new development as a means to maximise place value through good design.  A virtuous circle is established between place quality and place value. A more comprehensive report of the research was published in the Journal of Urban Design, see Selected articles: Place Value


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Street Appeal, The Value of Street Improvements (2018)

Matthew Carmona, Tommaso Gabrieli, Robin Hickman, Terpsi Laopoulou & Nicola Livingstone, for Transport for London

The Streets Appeal research aimed to gain a proper understanding of the impact of street improvement projects on streets as physical space, locations of movement and social exchange, and as places for real estate investment. A mixed research methodology was adopted based on the comparison of five improved and five unimproved street environments.  This was underpinned by a ‘holistic’ framework for analysis that avoided a fragmented or partial picture of street spaces and enabled a more rounded and nuanced understanding of value to emerge.  A more comprehensive report of the research was published in Progress in Planning, see Selected articles: Street Appeal


Screenshot 2019-04-23 at 09.54.23Reviewing Design Review in London (2018)

Matthew Carmona, Wendy Clarke, Valentina Giordano, for Urban Design London, Mayor of London and Place Alliance

This research takes a comprehensive look at the design review landscape in England in the post-2011 (post-CABE) era.  This is a period in which design review services are now offered by multiple providers in the market.  The work focussed on London where the market has developed most comprehensively, but the findings are applicable across the country.  The report explores both how design review is operating, but also provides clear recommendations for improving practice covering everything from setting up a design review service, through all stages of its operation.


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Design Skills in English Local Authorities (2017)

Matthew Carmona, Valentina Giordano, for the Place Alliance and Urban Design Group

This report summarises the findings of a survey of urban design skills within local planning authorities nationally in England, and how they changed over the previous five years. It demonstrated that urban design skills and capacity at the time within local planning authorities was woefully low and declining and that these gaps were not being filled by the patchy, albeit increasing, use of design review.


house-of-lordsBuilding Better Places (2016)

House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment (Specialist Advisor, Matthew Carmona)

I had the great privilege of being Specialist Advisor to this Committee of Parliament, and this is the report that resulted.  The report sets out the conclusions from a wide ranging review of national and local policy relating to the built environment and argues that policy should begin with a focus on place and that Government should be more ambitious and directive in its aspirations for a high quality built environment.


design-codingDesign Coding, Diffusion of Practice in England (2013)

Matthew Carmona, Valentina Giordano, for the Urban Design Group

This focussed piece of analysis followed up, seven years later, on research relating to design coding in England, see: Design Coding in Practice and Preparing Design Codes (below).  It aimed to explore how far the practices explored during the earlier study had diffused into practice in England and concluded that in many areas the production of design codes had become mainstreamed.


space-standards-the-benefitsSpace Standards, The Benefits (2010)

Matthew Carmona, Nick Gallent, Reetuparna Sarkar, for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)

This was one of the final pieces of research commissioned by CABE prior to their funding being withdrawn.  It looked at the question of internal space standards within new build dwellings and compared practice in the UK with international experience.  From this the benefits of investing in higher internal space standards were extrapolated.


high-street-londonHigh Street London (2010)

Matthew Carmona, Miles Davis, Fiona Scott, Jay Gort, Mellis Haward, for the London Development Agency (LDA)

This project, commissioned by Design for London, explored the structure and use of London’s local high street network.  The project aimed to examine the potential of this network of mixed streets to accommodate future growth and intensification in London in a more sustainable fashion than had hitherto been achieved by focusing on large brownfield sites.  The report was later published in Progress in Planning, see Selected articles: London’s Local High Streets


locan-environment-qoualityLocal Environmental Quality, A New View on Measurement (2007)

Matthew Carmona & Claudio de Magalhaes, for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

This project for the UK government examined, at a conceptual level, how policy-makers could measure local environmental quality and their contribution (through public services) to achieving it in a non-distortionary manner.  It offered a new view that moved away from the over-simplistic application of key performance indicators that had come to dominate in the late 1990s and 2000s.


monitoring-outcome-qoualityMonitoring Outcome Quality in Planning, Challenges and Possibilities (2007)

Matthew Carmona, for the Town & Country Planning Association

This thought-piece represented the culmination of a long-term interest in the measurement of outcome quality in British planning.  It reflects on, and attempts to overcome, the dominant practice at the time whereby those issues that can be measured, e.g. speed of processing applications, are prioritised, and those which are more challenging to measure, e.g. quality of outcomes, are not.  For a more comprehensive discussion see books: Measuring Quality in Planning


preparing-design-codesPreparing Design Codes, Practice Manual (2006)

Matthew Carmona, Jane Dann, for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

This practice guide was commissioned by the Government as the culmination of research published in Design Coding in Practice (see below).  As well as exploring best practice, the guide also provides a rationale for using design codes, and a detailed methodology for their production.


design-code-in-practiceDesign Coding in Practice, An Evaluation (2006)

Matthew Carmona, Jane Dann, for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

This research report followed on from an 18 month Government funded design coding pilot programme in which action research was used to explore the potential and utility of design codes in England.  The research reports on seven pilots, and twelve other design coding case studies that were more advanced in their delivery of new housing.


offices-value-and-designOffices, Value and Design, A Discussion Document (2006)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhaes, Michael Edwards, Louie Sieh, for the British Council of Offices

This report focuses on developing a more robust method for measuring the value added by better design within the office market.  It explores the literature and existing studies and conceptualises a new methodology that could be applied in the future.  The discussion is largely conceptual and methodological in nature.


cabeMaking Design Policy Work, How to Deliver Good Design Through Your Local Development Framework (2005)

Matthew Carmona for Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)

This practice guide took earlier work – see From Design Policy to Design Quality (see below) – and updated it in the light of evolving practice in the production of design policies for development plans.  It presents a simple framework of key lessons concerning how to optimise such policies in order to maximise their potential as a tool to aid the delivery of better design through the planning process.


smaller-towns-reportThe Smaller Towns Report, Delivering a Retail-led Renaissance in Towns and Smaller Cities (2004)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhaes, Joanna Hammond, for the British Council of Shopping Centres

At a time when huge investments were being made in new retail developments in large cities, this research explored the potential of smaller towns, and how retail might be used as part of a regeneration strategy.  It argued for a differentiated offer from place to place and that smaller towns needed to think carefully and strategically about how to attract shoppers by offering something different from their larger competitors.


is-the-grass-greenerIs the Grass Greener … ? Learning from International Innovations in Urban Green Space Management (2004)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhaes, for CABE Space

This project brought together eleven detailed case studies from around the world that explored innovation in how green spaces were being managed.  It then compared the practices to the experience in the UK to see what lessons could be learned.  This work and other public spaces research was later published in book form, see Books: Public Space, The Management Dimension


the-value-of-public-spaceThe Value of Public Space, How High Quality Parks and Public Spaces Create Economic, Social and Environmental Value (2004)

Helen Woolley, Matthew Carmona, Jonathan Freeman, Sian Rose, for CABE Space

This report builds on the earlier study – The Value of Good Design (see below) – to provide a compendium of research with a focus on how investing in the quality of public spaces could in turn deliver long-term economic, social, health and environmental benefits for society. The intention was to provide the evidence policy makers needed to support their arguments for investing in public space.


living-places-caring-forLiving Places, Caring for Quality (2004)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhaes, Ruth Blum, Leo Hammond, for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM)

Commissioned by Government, this practice guide focussed on the much neglected issue of how public spaces could be better managed.  It explores the dominant management practices of the time and sets out a practical agenda for a more enlightened approach to management based around better coordination, better investment, better regulation and the better maintenance of public spaces.


from-design-policy-to-design-qoualityFrom Design Policy to Design Quality, The Role of Design Policies in Community Strategies, Local Development Frameworks and Action Plans (2002)

Matthew Carmona, John Punter, David Chapman, for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

This practice guide took the lessons from research conducted in the 1990s – see Books: The Design Dimension of Planningto explore the role and potential of design policies in development plans, suitably updated in the light of the legislative changes effecting plan making under the New Labour government.  It presents key lessons for the writing of design policies through a step by step easy to follow methodology.


the-value-of-good-designThe Value of Good Design (2002)

Matthew Carmona, Sarah Carmona, Wendy Clarke, for Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)

This report brought together published evidence on how design adds value to different types of development: in healthcare, education, housing, and business settings; and to increasing civic pride and reducing crime.  It selectively drew from A Bibliography of Design Value to provide a compendium of this evidence in a manner that, it was hoped, would allow policy makers and others to use the evidence in order to justify to politicians, developers and others, the need for a greater and more sustained investment in design.


A Bibliography of Design Value (2001)

UntitledMatthew Carmona, Sarah Carmona, Wendy Clarke, for Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)

This bibliography of design value represents a systematic attempt to collate research that examines the ‘value added by good design in five key areas: Health, Education, Crime (& safety), Housing, and Social inclusion (& regeneration). The bibliography was a first attempt to bring together knowledge in these key areas of public and private sector interest. It offered an evidential base to back arguments that better design adds social, economic and environmental value and is therefore a worthwhile investment.


scanWorking Together, A Guide for Planners and Housing Providers (2001)

Matthew Carmona, Sarah Carmona, Nick Gallent, for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

Commissioned by the RTPI, this practice guide focuses on the critical relationship between planners and the providers of new homes: both market and social housing providers.  It argues for greater communication and for a consensus based approach, and advances a set of practical lessons in order to achieve this.  The thinking was later greatly extended and developed in book form, see Books: Delivering New Homes


valueThe Value of Urban Design (2001)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhaes, Michael Edwards, for Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)

This was the first research project commissioned by CABE and had a huge impact on their work programme thereafter.  It empirically tested how design adds economic, social and environmental value through using a method of pairwise comparison of six office developments in three sub-markets around England.  The research concluded, empirically for the first time in the UK, that better urban design adds significant value to new development.


living-placesLiving Places, Urban Renaissance in the South East (2000)

Nick Falk, Matthew Carmona, Chris Cadell, Peter Hall, for the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)

This study, jointly with URBED, aimed to identify how the urban renaissance agenda of the Urban Task Force could apply to the sorts of smaller towns and cities that dominated the South East of England outside of London.  It provided a practical guide to strategies for bringing a renaissance to these smaller places.