Community Planning Pioneer John Thompson receives Urban Design Group (UDG) Lifetime Achievement Award

John Thompson, has been presented with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the UDG National Urban Design Awards 2019.

The award follows John receiving an American Institute of Architects AIA Presidential Citation in February this year, affirming his contribution to the architectural profession and his unique standing in the fields of urban design and collaborative planning and placemaking.

John has had a 50-year career as a renowned architect and urbanist, devoted to improving the quality of everyday life in neighbourhoods. From the very beginning of his career in the early 1970’s as a partner at Hunt Thompson Associates, John pursued a pioneering approach; first community architecture and then community planning, working directly with local people to create places that encourage social interaction and help nurture a strong sense of community, often in areas experiencing significant social and economic challenges.

In 1994 John became founder chair of John Thompson and Partners, now known as JTP.  In 1998 JTP’s multi-award-winning regeneration of the former Caterham Barracks marked the first time that a large-scale Community Planning Weekend (aka Charrette) process had been promoted in the UK by a private developer.

Involving local people in the planning process has since been written into English planning policy (through Localism and the NPPF) and is now a required part of every significant planning application, thanks in large part to John’s influence.

In 2006 John was instrumental in establishing the Academy of Urbanism (AoU), a not-for-profit organisation which now has over six hundred members, including the thriving Young Urbanists group. The AoU brings together the current and next generation of urban leaders, thinkers and practitioners to recognise, encourage and celebrate great places across the UK, Europe and beyond.

Throughout the years John has used his remarkable drive, influence and natural charisma to make a significant contribution to the lives of people across the UK and Europe. David Harrison, one of JTP’s founding partners and known as “Harry the Pencil”, collected the Lifetime Achievement Award on John’s behalf, and said:

“At JTP, with residential developers as clients, John persuaded many to adopt urban design principles and mixed use and even in some cases tenure blind projects, therefore adding vitality, diversity and much needed life to the urban environment.

John was unusual for his time in that although trained as an architect he had a passion for creating good places and saw placemaking as the core discipline in his work and visionary initiatives.

But what I think is the most remarkable thing about John was his ability to convincingly communicate these ideas not only to the hundreds of collaborators, including myself and some others present in this room this evening, but also to the literally thousands of so called “ordinary people” who attended JTP Community Planning Weekends at venues all around this country and overseas.”

The Caterham Barracks collaborative planning process features as one of the case studies in “20/20 Visions” along with this quote from John that encapsulates his philosophy:

“The essence of community planning is simple – all around us we are surrounded by people who have within themselves, whether they recognise it or not, a great wealth of common intelligence and knowledge. If we can tap that knowledge and intelligence we can enrich all the processes that we are involved in, we can bring about much better solutions and we can even involve the people in sustaining these solutions in the future.”

IAP2 Australasia leads call for 2020 to be declared UN International Year of Engagement

The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) are partnering to promote systematic, quality engagement of stakeholders and the public, to help governments and others who lead and design engagement processes to develop structured, well-planned and meaningful engagement.

IAP2 Australasia is working to submit a proposal for an International Year of Engagement and Public Participation.

To find out more click here

UK high streets need cross sector collaboration and shared Vision developed with local community for better future

The House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee believe UK high streets and town centres can survive and prosper and their recommendations have been published in the “High streets and town centres in 2030″ report.

However, the report says that urgent action is required to stop the current deterioration, loss of visitors and dereliction that could lead to some high streets and town centres disappearing altogether.

The report recommends that there needs to be “a shift from the retail focused activities of high streets and town centres today to new uses and purposes which foster greater social interaction, community spirit and local identity and characteristics.”

Achieving large-scale structural change should focus on “convenience”, “place making” and creating an “experience” and will require cross-sector collaboration “with a strategic vision for the future developed in partnership with the local community”.

Change will need to be mainly led by the local authority, with the backing of local stakeholders and the wider community to redefine high streets and town centres and ensure their long-term sustainability.

To read the recommendations in full, the report can be found here:

Urban Design Group Event: Charrettes – best practice for 21st Century Placemaking

Urban Design Group Event

Charrettes – best practice for 21st Century Placemaking

Wednesday 06 March, 6:15pm to 8:30pm
JTP, Unit 5, The Rum Warehouse, Pennington Street, Wapping, E1W 2AP

Jane Jacobs famously wrote: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” But how can communities most effectively participate in shaping the places they call home?

Chaired by Charles Campion, author of 20/20 Visions: Collaborative Planning & Placemaking this event will bring together four speakers highly experienced in Charrette and community engagement processes.

Evening programme:
6.15 Arrival
6.30 Welcome and introduction by Charles Campion, JTP
6.40 Individual presentations by panellists
7.30 Panel discussion & Q&A
8.00 Informal conversations and networking
8.30 Close

First conceived in the United States in the fifties and mainstreamed by the American Institute of Architects R/UDAT programme in the sixties, hundreds if not thousands of co-design Charrettes processes have subsequently been held around the world to bring communities genuinely into the heart of planning and placemaking. Despite the demonstrable benefits, there are still many architects and planners who lack the confidence and expertise to collaborate with the public effectively.

Considering these critical issues will be four speakers including Lynne Ceeney, Lytton Consulting; Nick Taylor, The Piece Hall, Halifax, and; Husam AlWaer, Senior Lecturer at University of Dundee.

For more information please visit:

Charles Campion, author of 20/20 Visions, to speak at Dundee University on Wed 20 February 2019

The Association of Dundee Architecture Students (ADAS) in partnership with The Academy of Urbanism, RTPI Scotland & University of Dundee & JTP kindly invite you to the following event:


“Just as the act of voting is a right, it is inherently democratic to bring people genuinely to the heart of planning and placemaking.”
20/20 Visions: Collaborative Planning & Placemaking (RIBA Publishing, 2018)

Charles Campion RIBA AoU, a Partner at JTP Architects, Masterplanners & Placemakers, joins ADAS to give an exclusive talk on the importance of charrette processes and the involvement of the community in placemaking and urban design. Followed by a Q&A facilitated by Craig McLaren, Director of RTPI Scotland.

Date: Wednesday 20 February 2019

Time: 5pm-7pm
5pm Drinks Reception
5:30pm Talk with Charles Campion
6:30pm Q&A with Director of RTPI Scotland, Craig McLaren

Location: LT 5018
Matthew Building, 13 Perth Road, University of Dundee.

This event is FREE.
Ticket must be acquired for entry.

For tickets and more information, please see link below or click the poster to download:

Charrette to plan way forward for Auroville, India: Monday 7 – Tuesday 13 January 2019

Auroville was founded in 1968 by the spiritual leader Mirra Alfassa outside Pondicherry, Southern India as a universal town where men and women of all countries could live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.

Much progress has been made over the last 50 years, including the environmental restoration of the land, and more remains to be done to develop Auroville and raise the population up towards the 50,000 inhabitants originally envisioned.

From 7 January, Auroville’s town planning and development research organisation l’Avenir and an international team led by Andreas von Zadow will facilitate a charrette to work out baselines for Auroville’s next decades and develop a Way Forward Strategy reflecting on:

  • Mother Mirra Alfassa’s vision and unlocking its potential
  • Fresh ideas for healthy and sustainable placemaking
  • Challenges of decision making within a unique self-governance concept
  • Capacity building at l‘Avenir to improve services and outputs

The charrette team includes:
Von Zadow International
Dreiseitl Consulting
Eble Messerschmidt Partner

We will follow the progress of the charrette as it happens on and on Twitter @20_20Visions

For more information about Auroville please visit

Auroville Charrette Flyer
Auroville Charrette Process

Citizen participation on innovative urban expansion in Riegel, Germany

On Friday 12 and Saturday 13 October 2018 the local community are invited to a participatory Perspektivenwerkstatt (Charrette) in Riegel, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany to co-design a substantial urban expansion to the north west of the town called ‘Breite III’.

The ‘Breite III’ development is an opportunity for Riegel Council to focus on delivering new and innovative services for the entire community and to shape more communal, integrated and independent living for elderly people in the community. Existing residents are invited to be involved at an early stage, together with a ‘Support Group’ consisting of more than 20 qualified experts from the local area. The Council’s aspiration is to explore new ways for Riegel’s community to develop, and to find innovative housing concepts that will lead to positive solutions to overcome the social and demographic challenges of decades to come.

The process will be facilitated by coaching and facilitation practice Von Zadow International and architects Eble Messerschmidt Partner

Andreas von Zadow is featured in the Lübeck case study in 20/20 Visions. There he co-facilitated a seven day Community Planning Weekend with JTP to create a new vision for the streets and spaces of this world heritage city.

For more information on the ‘Breite III’ development in Riegel, visit the council homepage

Civil Society Strategy puts communities at the centre of decision-making

This August 2018, the UK Government has released its first Civil Society Strategy in fifteen years. The 122 page Strategy sets out a vision which places communities at the centre of decision-making and focuses on five key foundations of social value: people, places and the social, private and public sectors.

The Strategy, published by the Office for Civil Society ­– part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport – not only provides a set of reforms across public and private sectors to build a fairer society, but describes a set of specific actions along with case studies to support these actions. One of these actions will be to launch an ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilot scheme in six regions across the UK. This will offer creative ways for citizens to participate in direct democracy, such as citizen juries, participatory events and online apps.

Visit the UK government webpage to view the Civil Society Strategy 

China / UK  new town knowledge exchange reveals key learnings

In a recent article in Town & Country Planning magazine (TCPA, July 2018) Ying Ying Tian, Director of the China Design Centre, describes how China and the UK face similar challenges in identifying the right places to build while striking a balance between urban and rural landscapes. The article offers key learning points from a 2017 study tour of five UK towns with two groups of senior managers from Greentown China and Bluetown Group – sister companies which are currently building 30 new towns in China. Ying distils the learning points, not as a replicable model of English towns, but as a series of ideas on time, stewardship, systemic thinking and management.

The China Design Centre (CDC) is a dedicated platform between China and the UK to promote design and innovation exchange. You can learn more about Ying and the CDC at

Thank you to the TCPA for permission to share this article. Click image to read article:



NPPF promotes early collaboration with stakeholders and communities

On the 24 July 2018, the UK Government released a revision to its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. The Policy Framework takes a clear stance on early engagement with stakeholders and communities to ensure responsiveness to local interests and to maintain design integrity.

The NPPF was first introduced in 2012 and has since undergone scrutiny from a wide range of professionals in the public and private sectors. The revised NPPF declares that, “the creation of high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve”. This heightened emphasis on design quality is supported in the chapter entitled, ‘Achieving well-designed places’ which states that early and sustained engagement with stakeholders and communities should reflect local aspirations.

Paragraph 128 states, “Design quality should be considered throughout the evolution and assessment of individual proposals. Early discussion between applicants, the local planning authority and local community about the design and style of emerging schemes is important for clarifying expectations and reconciling local and commercial interests. Applicants should work closely with those affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.

Chapter 129 says, “Local planning authorities should ensure that they have access to, and make appropriate use of, tools and processes for assessing and improving the design of development. These include workshops to engage the local community… These are of most benefit if used as early as possible in the evolution of schemes,  and are particularly important for significant projects such as large scale housing and mixed use developments. In assessing applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the outcome from these processes…”

Clare San Martin, Partner at JTP Architects, says, “This call for early engagement with communities will encourage clients to embrace a collaborative rather than confrontational approach.” She continues, “Overstretched local planning authorities under pressure to deliver schemes quickly, too often allow detrimental changes following consent. A good design code developed with community and stakeholder involvement can be a really effective way of avoiding this.”

For more information about the revised NPPF and to download the document please visit