Understanding Master Planning

To understand master planning is to understand how a town, city, or area, evolves over time. We all see changes and developments within our surroundings. A town can look drastically different from one decade to the next, or at least function in a completely different way to previously even if it looks the same architecturally. Master planning is the devised framework for a place to grow, helping to manage scale and improvements in a smooth way. Where this is most apparent is when new building developments come into contact with traditional and historic buildings in an area. How can you ensure that the two can co-exist effectively side by side, without the new washing out the former? Master planning is the answer.

We can see all over the world how the urban population continues to grow at an exceedingly fast rate. As towns merge into cities, and cities become large metropolitan areas on a huge scale, the dynamics of urban populations are changing with it. Alongside that come many functional and cultural challenges and expectations that have to be met from somewhere. The master planning function of both a city, and the country it is located in becomes very important in this process, for several reasons.

Allocating land is a process that differs greatly from country to country, but in the UK there is heavy regulatory restrictions passed down by the government, including many tight permissions and planning guidelines that are set in place to ensure that a city can evolve to meet the needs of a growing population without damaging the existing structures and communities within it, and to certainly maintain the integrity of any listed buildings, whether they are listed for historic importance, architectural importance, or one of the other important reasons listed status is awarded certain buildings and structures. Planning permissions are only awarded to new developments if they have managed to pass the muster in a political, civic, and economic sense.

Architects and master planners continue to work at the cutting edge of innovation to keep up with the pace of demand on modern towns and cities. Technology continues to advance at breakneck speed, and there are ways in which new developments and improvements on existing infrastructure can be pushed forward in a cost-effective way, without lowering standards of quality.

Strategic master planning identifies how to regenerate areas and change entire sections of cities and regions, with a view to meeting long-term population and environmental challenges. This is a wide-scale strategic model of master planning that often takes place within government and the public sector, shaping policy and looking towards the future.

The project-based arm of master planning takes place on a smaller-scale, looking at project to project and specific sites. This includes private developers and looks at how best to utilise a plot of land for economic purposes, or how to change an existing piece of land or building to meet new regulatory requirements. The two types of master planning must always try to work together for the better of the overall finished product, with the people on the ground the most important factor.

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