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Master planning Granton

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5 Jun 2008

Planning David Page of Page\Park was involved in the early master planning of Granton at Edinburgh's waterfront

I like what Bill Gates said about predicting the future. We overestimate what we think we will achieve in the short-term and under estimate what we will achieve in the long-term. So to with master plans. We should be careful not to expect a quick fix from the master planning process. The burst of activity that heralds a plan’s inception will inevitably diminish once you enter the long and tortured delivery of enabling land ownership, delivering the statutory support, making possible the infrastructure, nurturing the developer interest and presenting and representing the evolving context to the public. It is easy to lose the nerve, to turn the master plan into a palliative act, moving the deck chairs to salve the short need for visible action.

Often this is as a result of the master plan biting off more than it can chew in relation to being prescriptive over a multitude of levels of detail. At the scale of 1:500 the master plan’s role should be twofold, first to get the right skeleton framework of public routes and their sense of enclosure through a site, and second to ensure their linkage to adjacent neighbourhoods. The rightness of routes and public space should hold for generations of development. The architecture can change with the winds of inspiration, but the alignment of passage between neighbourhoods belongs to the grander vision of the master plan. In that respect Llewelyn Davis’s plan for Granton Waterfront conceived at the turn of the century, defined a number of connecting routes, both pedestrian and vehicular, linking various Forth edge ownerships, defined by building form, emphasising the aspiration for urban continuity in the admired Edinburgh tradition. Sitting in the middle of the ownership sandwich, it seemed to us there was no need to change that vision, that it was founded on sound and basically practical alignments. Re-engaged after an interval of some years we remain of that view.

The Llewelyn Davis plan bridged a vast landscape open to change. Short-term variations on parts of their plan have been smoke screens, choking the long drive of delivery. Let’s accept the long-term ambition they argued and fix on the essentials, creating that foundation for generations of designers to follow. Then stick with it.

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