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Urban Design


Attractive buildings and lively streets, parks and neighbourhoods, especially those with a mixture of compatible uses and historic character, all contribute to making our environment a memorable and pleasurable experience. The quality of our surroundings is also now recognised not just as a vital factor in attracting and retaining businesses, employers and tourists, but also in contributing towards a healthier community and an improved lifestyle.

Central Government places the design of the built environment high on their agenda, stating in its National Planning Policy Framework that “Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development” and that it “should contribute positively to making places better for people.” It also states that “It is important to plan positively for the achievement of high quality and inclusive design for all development, including individual buildings, public and private spaces and wider area development schemes.”

The Council considers it very important that  Gateshead’s architectural and historic heritage should be preserved and enhanced and that we strive to improve the quality of design for all new development, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Design of new development

Good design should be the aim of everyone involved in the development process, but it is primarily the role of the developer and their designers  to ensure that proposals submitted for planning approval are of an appropriate quality and are fit for purpose. Nevertheless, the appearance of proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings are material considerations in determining planning applications so the Council will use these aspects to seek the best design quality from developers.

What is good design, and is there more to it than personal taste?

To most consumers good design is primarily measured by the way something looks and how attractive it is to them as individuals (personal taste). To a lesser degree other considerations then come into play like reliability, ease of use, and cost, but these are generally not regarded as aspects of good design. This is a common misconception as good design is very much a part of these other considerations. There are three well-established fundamental objectives to achieving good design; how well something is constructed (durability); how easy something is to use - or how well it works (functionality); and how something looks (appearance). Evaluating design by scrutinising these three aspects (and treating appearance as ‘visual appropriateness’ rather than something of ‘personal preference’) allows more objective views to be formed by removing the subjective aspect of design (personal taste) to enable a more balanced and unbiased conclusion to be drawn.

In the context of the built environment, good design is about delivering new development that responds positively and appropriately to its context by complementing it visually, providing an attractive solution that enhances place and enriches character (appearance); fulfils its practical requirements easily and efficiently and gives easy access for all its users (functionality); and that is well constructed in an efficient and  sustainable manner that will be resilient and adaptable to meet future needs (durable).

'Urban Design' is concerned with the appearance, functionality and durability of buildings and the spaces between them; the streets and squares and the roads and green open spaces that form our villages, towns and cities. It examines the architectural merit and performance of individual buildings but extends to include all aspects of our built environment.  The way to promote good urban design is through the provision of clear design policy and by fostering high quality in the design of public buildings and spaces.

See also

Planning Policy



Further reading

Urban Landscape Study of The Tyne Gorge

Gateshead Streetscape Design Guide

Fit for a City – Regeneration Delivery Strategy

Fit for a City – Executive Summary


Contact us

Urban Design Officer:
Ian Burchell
0191 433 3432

Urban Design and Conservation Officer:
Caroline Hargreaves
0191 433 2293