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Core curriculum topic: Places, planning and communities

To help you gain the skills you need to practise architecture now and in the future as a RIBA Chartered Member, we have defined 10 mandatory core curriculum topics to address through CPD.

The topic Places, planning and communities covers the legal, regulatory and policy frameworks for creating successful urban and rural places, and the relevant planning processes and procedures. The topic also includes having the knowledge and skills to create successful buildings, within the context of neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

Places, planning and communities

The legal basis of planning and governmental policy

Statutory instruments: Town and Country planning regulations Acts of Parliament

  • The Housing and Planning Act
  • The Environmental Protection Act
  • Infrastructure Act
  • Localism Act
  • Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act
  • General Permitted Development Order (GPDO)
  • The London Plan

Assets of Community Value

Planning and placemaking processes

  • Understand scheme development, negotiation, consultation and approval processes (pre app, app, plan making, formal and informal engagement, committee decisions, use of conditions and legal agreements)
  • Understand the different people involved in such processes, their roles and how these overlap (councillors, planners, communities, non architect professionals)
  • Know how to make good, and responsible, use of graphical and other communication materials (such as CGI’s plans, photomontages, concept drawings)

Changing demographics, ways of living and public health issues

  • Designing cities and places changing and ageing populations
  • Designing for dementia
  • Designing age-friendly environments (cross-generational)
  • Lifetime homes and Lifetime Neighbourhoods
  • Co and communal housing, pocket living and other emerging housing forms
  • The impact of the built environment on health and well being, obesity, mental health, access to healthy food and services

Engagement with clients and communities

The needs and aspirations of communities, and space and building users

  • Engaging with and understanding different stakeholders and their needs
  • Working with neighbourhood forums and parish councils
  • Community consultation and co design
  • Creating neighbourhood plans
  • How Neighbourhood planning works and how to work with neighbourhood planning forums and develop neighbourhood plans space and building users
  • Community co design

Fairness, regeneration and community development

  • Understanding briefing, engagement, empowerment, cohesion and leadership and their impact on creating successful communities
  • The ethics of building and regeneration
  • The effects of regeneration on communities
  • Equitable and inclusive approaches to placemaking and cities
  • Stakeholders and their differing interests, including the agencies involved
  • Promoting urban social integration
  • Understanding place and poverty factors

Place poverty factors

  • Affordable, quality housing
  • Access to services
  • Availability and quality of green spaces
  • Access to educational opportunities
  • Availability of public transport
  • Access to jobs
  • Local air quality pollution
  • Access to shops and healthy foods
  • Rates of crime and anti-social behaviour

Rural planning issues

Understanding of

  • The changing nature of rural areas, including the main agencies involved
  • Reconciling competing views of what the countryside is
  • Approaches to rural housing provision, including the exceptions policy
  • Approaches to rural settlement planning
  • Service provision and maintaining the local community
  • Planning for rural transport, and approaches to recreational transport
  • Conflicts between agriculture and the environment
  • Policies for forests, woodlands, water provision and management

Environmental issues

  • Growth management (and managed change and decline)
  • Regeneration and community development
  • Resilient environments – places and buildings
  • Environmental performance – places and buildings
  • Protecting and enhancing valued landscapes
  • Minimise impact on and enhance biodiversity
  • Daylight, sunlight, wind effects on microclimates
  • Dwelling indoor daylight
  • Sunlight for dwellings
  • Sunlight for outdoor spaces
  • Light pollution
  • Wind effects around tall buildings
  • Street pollution flushing

Issues relating to climate change

  • Energy targets and parts L and P of the Building Regulations
  • Renewable energy generation
  • Energy efficiency in buildings
  • Embodied energy
  • Dwelling over-heating
  • Avoiding urban heat islands: very low energy buildings, electric vehicles, urban vegetation, avoiding continuous street canyons, use of vegetation canopies
  • Flooding and flood prevention measures: sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), public-realm planting, streets trees, permeable surfaces
  • Climate change minimization, adaptation and mitigation – including green and blue infrastructure
  • Water management

Development and conservation

  • “Heritage Assets” – designated and undesignated --- and the principle of assessed harm to them.
  • NPPF and PPG and positive strategies for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment.

Issues to manage and consider

  • Significance, and handling significance
  • Establishing an evidence base
  • Identifying non-designated heritage assets
  • Impact and harm
  • Enabling development
  • Setting
  • Heritage statements
  • Heritage at risk
  • Conservation advice

Public spaces

  • The distinction between public space and publicly accessible private space
  • The difference between formal and informal spaces
  • Forms of regulation for public spaces
  • Planning controls to sanction new public space proposals
  • Highway orders, focusing on changes to the highways themselves
  • Listed building consents
  • Street trading licensing
  • Creating diverse, safe and inclusive public spaces
  • Designing for long-term maintenance
  • Designing public spaces that are
  • Delineated: clearly public or clearly private
  • Have designed in actives uses where appropriate
  • Incorporated amenities and features
  • Encouraging for social engagement
  • Balanced between traffic and pedestrians
  • Comfortable, safe and relaxing
  • Robust, adaptable and distinct

Small scale development

  • Assessing small schemes
  • Local design guidance on residential or small scale development
  • Siting
  • Context and character
  • Massing and building height
  • Facades and windows
  • Sunlight, daylight, privacy and outlook
  • Outdoor space and access
  • Recycling, rubbish and services
  • Safety and security
  • Car and cycle parking


  • Delivering a wide choice of high-quality homes for different users, for current and future needs
  • Self-build and custom build housing
  • Volume housing/large scale development and offsite construction
  • Understanding the allowance for windfall sites
  • Housing White Paper
  • Lifetime Homes and Lifetime Neighbourhoods
  • Viability and affordable housing --- including coverage of the different types of affordable housing which have differing affects on viability

Layout, density and typology

  • Density and methods of measuring, presenting and using density data
  • The density performance of differing typologies
  • Public transport, accessibility, supporting walking, cycling and public transport, and reducing the need to own and use cars
  • Parking – amounts and handling
  • Smart cities, planning, data and IOT
  • Design Review – purposes, practices etc. What to expect as someone who sits on a panel; and what to expect as someone presenting.
  • Mixed use building and neighbourhood solutions

Tall buildings

  • Height and planning policies
  • Suitable locations for tall buildings
  • The role of tall buildings in an area
  • The parts of a tall building and their various zones of impact (base for surrounding streets, middle for the neighbourhood, top for the skyline)
  • Fire safety and relevant Building Regulations
  • Fire management strategies
  • Negotiating tall building proposals
  • Assessing a scheme
  • Availability of execution
  • Wind and microclimate
  • Sun, sky, and shadow
  • Visual impact
  • Function and impact

a. Local transport
b. Amenities
c. Geographical access
d. Flow of people
e. Deliveries and maintenance

Landscape design

Principles of landscape design

Different elements of landscape from structural to individual plants or pieces of furniture
Understanding potential use of space and how this can be accommodated and managed
Using landscape to support and complement the use of buildings

  • Well-maintained spaces
  • Designs consider the long term
  • Designs support the proposed use of the space
  • Designs allow for different uses to co-exist
  • Elements have more than one function
  • Desire lines have shaped the design
  • Aspect and topography have been taken into account
  • The scheme supports biodiversity
  • Leftover space is managed carefully

Elements to consider

  • Structural planting
  • Pathways
  • Drainage
  • Boundary treatments
  • Water features
  • Seating
  • Lighting
  • Art and culture
  • Plants, trees, wildlife-friendly planting and biodiversity


Understand the modal hierarchy set by government and applicable to street design and management: pedestrian, cyclists, public transport user, private vehicle user

Streets that are designed to be

  • Accommodating and balancing a locally appropriate mix of movement and place-based activities
  • Functional and accessible for all
  • Safe and attractive public spaces
  • Reflective of urban design qualities as well as traffic management considerations

Understanding how decisions about streets are made
Understanding important design considerations

  • Function of the street
  • Degree of separation
  • Reflecting character
  • High quality materials and workmanship
  • Avoiding over-elaboration
  • Thinking of local needs
  • Clean, simple and straightforward
  • Designed for what they need to do

Understanding the language of streets

  • User hierarchy
  • Highways
  • Carriageways
  • Pavements
  • Junctions
  • Sightlines and radiuses
  • Traffic calming
  • Segregation, separation and shared space
  • Level surfaces
  • Tactile paving

Masterplanning: understanding of:

Differences between strategic (cities, regions) or project based (specific sites with definable boundaries) masterplans

Preparing for the masterplanning process

  • Defining who the client is and work the client has done to support the masterplan
  • Assembling the client team
  • Key drivers that have brought about the masterplan (economic, or social regeneration, environmental improvements, rebranding)
  • Other relevant issues (social context, environmental context, infrastructure and services, energy sources, connectivity, future needs)
  • The physical changes required

Managing the design process

  • Defining and preparing the project brief
  • Generating and testing detailed options
  • Adopting of approving a master plan
  • Preparing the design brief
  • Designing the final masterplan

Managing implementation

  • Implementing the masterplan and managing that implementation
  • Developing mechanisms to deliver quality
  • Preparing a design code

The attributes of safer places and Secured by Design Principles

  • Access and movement: places with well-defined routes, spaces and entrances that provide for convenient movement without compromising security
  • Structure: places that are structured so that different uses do not cause conflict
  • Surveillance: places where all publicly accessible spaces are overlooked
  • Ownership: places that promote a sense of ownership, respect, territorial responsibility and community
  • Physical protection: places that include necessary, well-designed security features
  • Activity: places where the level of human activity is appropriate to the location and creates a reduced risk of crime and a sense of safety at all times
  • Management and maintenance: places that are designed with management and maintenance in mind, to discourage crime in the present and the future

Find CPD on this topic

You must take two hours of CPD on this topic every year.

Find RIBA accredited CPD on Places, planning and communities through RIBA Academy.

Related courses include:

Find related CPD offered by our partners on the CPD Providers Network.

Podcasts, videos, articles, and other offers can also contribute towards your CPD requirements.

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