New London Architecture

What makes great places? Places for People and Arup join forces to launch design guide

Monday 26 April 2021

The What makes great places for people? design guide sets the scene for a new future for communities. Created by Places for People Group, alongside global engineering and design consultancy Arup, it champions ideas for the way we will live, work and play in our neighbourhoods in a post-Covid world. 
Even before the pandemic, the demographic make up of the UK was evolving; the population is projected to increase to 73 million by 2041, while the number of people in the 65+ age bracket is projected rise from 18% to 26% of the total population. 
“The way that we live is changing,” says Arup Director Sowmya Parthasarathy – an architect and urban designer with over 25 years of global experience, who was recently named as a Woman of Influence 2021. Sowmya led on the project alongside Places for People’s chief executive David Cowans and says it is imperative that all developers advocate for and deliver spaces that accommodate everyone; “This is essential to promote a high quality of life, and a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for people from all backgrounds.”
Driven by their shared passions for creating great places that work for everyone, both now and in the future, David and Sowmya’s teams have assimilated their experience, scrutinising the factors that are driving demographic, social and environmental change – including the impact of COVID-19.
The result is a design approach based on six key principles which address how we should shape new neighbourhoods. 

“Our vision is to create thriving, sustainable communities that are good for people, and for the planet,” continues David. “This design guide gives us a framework which enables us to do this.”
“We have collated our research and findings to propose what we believe are the essential qualities and principles of great places,” Sowmya adds. 

“These principles aim to be universal, inclusive, and relevant to all people, irrespective of their age, gender, background, family structure, or socio-economic status.”
Places for People is already doing this. The company manages 71,000 social and affordable rented homes, and in the past year it has built an additional 1,226 affordable homes and generated £286.1m of social value for its communities. David continues: “We have already proven how long-lasting communities can be created, with Places for People neighbourhoods up and down the country offering affordable and attainable homes for people from all backgrounds – places in which residents can lead fulfilling lives. 
“Our experience shows that mixed-use and mixed-tenure places lay the foundation for social cohesion, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability. We want to ensure that places are genuinely inclusive and have a range of facilities for the benefit of local communities to help them thrive in their work, life and leisure pursuits.”
Underpinned by broader industry findings, the Guide has also been cross referenced against recently published Government papers including Building Better Building Beautiful, MHCLG’s National Design Guide, and the National Model Design Code. It is hoped that it will now form a basis for future communities, examples of it are already evident in its authors’ work with places such as Places for People’s Brooklands development in Milton Keynes flourishing examples of multi-functional and sustainable communities. 
The full published document is available to download now at


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