Purpose – Designers and planners in the UK are being asked by government to address sustainability. This paper seeks to explore how such issues can be addressed with the urban design process. From the literature, it is unclear when specific sustainability issues should be addressed, who
actually makes decisions and what influences them, or how different stakeholders are engaged.
Design/methodology/approach – A case study is presented, focusing on the early stages of an urban design and redevelopment process taking place in a deprived region of the UK. Interviews with key decision-makers and observations were conducted and subsequently analysed using content analysis.
Findings – The findings show that the process adopted by clients and consultants was relatively similar to that identified by the literature. The importance of creating a sustainable community, and of addressing deprivation and poor services was recognised from the outset. Sustainability was referred to in the briefing to select a team of consultants to develop a vision and regeneration framework.
However, specific problems related to sustainability, such as crime and poor health, were not communicated through the briefing documents, for fear of deterring private investment. Indeed, the need to attract private investment was a key aspect of early stage of the urban design process.
Originality/value – This paper highlights potential difficulties of addressing sustainability at the early stage of the design process, when private sector backing is such a crucial component of the regeneration.