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London, UK
Urban designer
at Public Practice

Public Practice is seeking urban designers to join its team in London.

Paid year-long placements within the public sector

Public Practice is looking to recruit and select talented, motivated and experienced urban design and placemaking professionals who want to gain experience working in the public sector. After completing a competitive two-stage application process successful candidates (known as associates) are carefully matched to relevant local government roles who also have to apply to host placements. Selected Associates will secure fixed-term employment, or secondments from their current employer, with a salary of £30,000 – £70,000 depending on the authority and role and will start in their role in April 2021.

Who we are

Public Practice is a social enterprise with a mission to help built environment practitioners transition into a career in the public sector. We believe that the built environment is where the symptoms and solutions to society’s most complex challenges are played out, from the crisis in the availability of affordable housing to struggling high streets, or the climate emergency. We think the public sector plays a fundamental role in creating places that are spatially, socially and economically inclusive and sustainable. Being a public planner – by which we mean any built environment expert working in the public sector – can be hugely influential in shaping the world around us for the benefit of everyone. You can read examples of our press coverage on our website.

Why apply to the programme

Public Practice placements generally offer flexibility in terms of working patterns, compressed hours, part-time roles and remote working. Associates can expect to join a team who share a respect for diversity in their environment and humility as public servants. Associates also benefit from a comprehensive induction course, personal development and mentoring from leading practitioners and spend 90% of their time at the host Authority. The remaining 10% is dedicated to taking part in an R&D programme run by Public Practice where associates work collectively with the rest of their cohort to develop and share best practice.

Your role as an urban design officer

Roles within authorities vary, but as an urban design officer, you will likely be one of the only employees in the council with urban design training. Your role might include:

  • drafting strategic site design principles and toolkits
  • write design policy, design guidance, design briefs, design codes and urban characterisation studies, drawing on best practice examples
  • support development management officers on appraising the design quality in planning applications and during pre-application meetings
  • providing urban design, architectural or placemaking support for potential new development opportunities on council-owned land
  • undertaking design-led site analysis, capacity and feasibility studies to support the delivery of small to medium-scale housing infill sites
  • leading interactive co-design workshops with the local community and stakeholder and setting up design competitions for masterplanning of large strategic sites
  • providing expertise in heritage-led regeneration and development in conservation areas, including tall buildings guidance and urban intensification
  • delivering in-house design training to officers and members to upskill teams and grow confidence in design and conservation

You can read more about the work of our current associates here.

Who you are

We believe creating diverse and inclusive places relies on creating a diverse and inclusive profession. We want our cohorts to be diverse in terms of skills, experience, and backgrounds and actively encourage applications from sections of the community that are under-represented in the built environment sector, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, neurodiversity or disability.  There are no fixed requirements in terms of qualifications, background or age, but we do expect Associates to have a minimum of three years’ professional experience within the built environment sector so that you are able to hit the ground running from the start. There is no upper limit.  Whatever your background or level of experience, we are looking for the following competencies in all associates: initiative; empathy; humility; perspective; resilience; sensitivity; fascination. All Associates will need to have the legal right to work in the UK to be eligible to apply to the programme. You can take our eligibility quiz here.


You will be willing to consider placements at an authority within London, the South East or East of England. Potential placements range from Camden to Cambridge and Barnet to Brighton, and we will look to match you with a placement that works for your personal circumstances and location. Although many Authorities offer flexible working options, all Associates will be required to travel to locations across this region during R&D days so we are not able to consider candidates who would not be able to do this.

How to apply

  1. The first stage of the application process is completing an online form where applicants will be assessed anonymously based on their answers to four questions. Deadline for applications is the 23 November 2020 and there is an open evening on Tuesday 3 November for applicants to meet current Associates and ask any questions about the application process.
  2. Those successful at the online stage will be invited to a day-long placement workshop on either the 5, 6, 7 or 8 January 2021, prior to which attendees will be asked to submit additional supporting information by the 29 December 2020.
  3. And if successful at placement workshop applicants will then be considered for matching to the placements we have available and be asked to meet with their proposed Authority at the end of January 2021.

We strongly recommend you read our FAQs and further information on our programme before applying through our online form that can be found on our website.


If, for accessibility reasons, you are unable to submit the initial application using the online form, we are happy for you to submit your application in an alternative format. Please email or call 020 3858 7447 to discuss your requirements.

  • Applications have closed.