Placeshaping: Learning from 2020

Based on insights gleaned through The Future Place Programme, this 2021 report provides suggestions as to how those involved in placeshaping, such as local authorities, can respond to the challenges brought about – or accelerated – by the Covid-19 pandemic. It provides practical advice around five key areas: community design, design stewardship, healthy places, town centre regeneration, and sustainable placeshaping.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This report is based on insights from The Future Place Programme – a team of placeshaping experts including RIBA, Local Partnerships, Local Government Association, Historic England, Homes England, and the RTPI, helping authorities to develop place visions and projects, in collaboration with local communities. The team pivoted activities in 2020 to focus on helping with recovering and transforming from the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on a series of activities, such as blogs, roundtables, and interviews, this resource provides practical suggestions about how place stakeholders can tackle a range of health, economic, and societal challenges. These suggestions are focused around five key areas, and are summarised below:

Community design

  1. Communities should be consulted early-on in any place design processes.
  2. A diverse range of demographics should be included in any community engagement processes.
  3. It is important to build inclusion into the place design process from the outset.
  4. A blended approach to engaging communities can be taken, using both ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ methods.
  5. It is important to consider how any place visions can build the skills of the local community over time.

Design stewardship

  1. It is important to develop clear place visions in collaboration with local communities.
  2. A balance is needed between community involvement, and stakeholders with more technical expertise.
  3. A good understanding of the place is vital for designing with local character in mind, as well as attending to broader societal challenges.
  4. A concern for design should flow through every stage of the placeshaping project, from visioning to evaluation.
  5. Appropriate mechanisms should be implemented to monitor user experience over time.
  6. Ongoing maintenance and management of any development is crucial.

Healthy places

  1. Public health targets need to be integrated into any place design process from the outset.
  2. Collaborative working is important across disciplinary boundaries, such as public health, social care, and built environment professionals.
  3. It is important to take into account the role of social infrastructure in local community wellbeing, alongside air quality and active travel.
  4. The social value of any place design projects should be measured.
  5. Places need to be future-proofed by taking into account economic and environmental sustainability.

Town centre regeneration

  1. Understand strengths and weaknesses of a town centre by engaging the local community in the visioning process.
  2. Town centre visions should be mindful of the history and character of the place.
  3. Support local businesses to navigate challenges, and meet the needs of the local community.
  4. Move beyond a focus on just retail, to give people a range of reasons to visit and create a 'living local’ spirit.
  5. Experimenting with ‘meanwhile’ uses and temporary activity can help to engage local communities and boost activity.


  1. A collaborative approach is needed to tackle the climate emergency, with any siloes broken down and local capacity built.
  2. Knowledge-sharing about sustainability is important in establishing shared goals for taking collective action.
  3. It is important to plan for low-carbon and measure low carbon performance.
  4. Local authorities and developers should explore creative ways of addressing the climate emergency, such as circular economy design principles.
  5. Proactive adaptation tactics are important to establish more resilience places and communities.