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The role of masterplanning

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5 Jun 2008

Masterplan Graham Ross is a director of A-S:L, a board member of A+DS and has a passion for urban design

Despite the plethora of guidance and policy, it is clear that there continues to be misconceptions regarding the process and product of master planning and urban design. There are too many instances when “master plans” are presented which are little more than land use zoning diagrams or “big architecture” masquerading as considered urban design. In these instances the scope for coherent, high quality place-making is undermined by ill-conceived urban design methodology or lacklustre master plan outputs.

Having worked on, and within, numerous master plans throughout Scotland over the recent years it is clear that there are however, many examples of good urban design guidance which are helping to deliver design-led regeneration in our towns and cities. This encouraging trend needs to continue to pervade all levels of planning to forefront spatial visions for existing and emerging settlements.

The long established tradition of town and city making in Scotland is being extended by ambitious initiatives led by some of the URCs and several forward thinking local authorities. That said, while these pioneering projects aspire, in a few noteworthy instances, to high standards of design quality, many fail to meet their aspirations when delivered or avoid disappointment by deliberately evading setting inspirational goals in the first place. For urban design master planning to retain credence in the longer term, delivering on ambitious visions is essential to avoid undermining expectations.

The need for design considerations to be at the forefront of planning, from the strategic level to individual sites, is essential and there are encouraging signs in this regard. The role of city design champions should be pivotal in driving forward that agenda and whilst initial work has yielded benefit, the professions and policy should work in tandem toward supporting these efforts and embed the design agenda as the essence of future city planning.

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