Masterplanning: learning the lessons of the last 10 years


A research programme within a leading university probably of three year duration and involving three to four researchers. It will evaluate the masterplanning evidence of the last decade using a framework  that re-defines the concept and practice of masterplanning to include contemporary influences and insights.

Its aim is to set out the next generation of good practice for masterplanning.


Masterplanning is potentially one of the most powerful instruments in the process of regenerating and renewing places, thus having  a major impact on the outcome of investment in an area. The size of investment is considerable, with government historically spending some £40 bn p.a.¹ and part of this leveraging up to four times the amount from other sources. The effect of investment is vital to the economy of an area, its social well-being and sustainability.

Masterplanning underwent a step change in 1999 as a result of the Urban Task Force’s report. With its strong emphasis on “design” it became the source of many positive changes in the public realm built environment. However alongside these successes were plentiful examples of indifference or failure to the extent that the term “masterplanning” has pejorative connotations in some quarters, and expert opinion considers it to be one of the least understood instruments in the planning and design lexicon.

Masterplanning, so potentially important yet so significantly flawed, is thus overdue for a complete overhaul. Ten years of extensive regeneration activity in the UK provides a fertile field of evidence to be harvested, while the current lull in economic activity coupled with the Coalition’s reforms provide the ideal opportunity to carry out the review. It is anticipated that funding will come jointly from the public and private sectors.


To re-define  masterplanning to be a responsive tool for aiding design and delivery of place-regeneration and which, once launched, can travel forward in time (perhaps 20 to 30 years), absorbing up to date information and self-adjusting to avoid becoming out-dated. The research will consolidate the immense strides made in post Urban Task Force masterplanning, whose achievements are represented by such texts as Responsive Environments; Urban Design Compendium; and By Design. However, to adequately represent the city now, it has to contain more dimensions than is currently the case. It will therefore seek to overcome limitations in the grasp of underlying economic reality; contemporary geography of connection; identity; and power of the image; as well as advancing techniques of crosscutting collaboration; explanation and mapping.


This research programme is better placed than any other initiative to achieve this vision because:

(a) it is based on the intellectual property of an emerging conceptual framework that includes the various contemporary influences noted above;

(b) it has a methodology designed to make it as authoritative and comprehensive as possible by using techniques to sift a large amount of evidence;

(c) it is based within a university department with personnel who have long and deep experience of the fields of planning, urban design and regeneration and of conducting research programmes of national and international significance; and

(d) with its aim of serving the practitioner, it aims develop a model of dissemination that rolls out knowledge as it advances rather than waiting for the conclusions at the end.


The purpose of this prospectus is to invite any or all of the following four methods of support for the project. Support can be given in two stages:  (a) support in principle – while the project is in gestation and which is subject to satisfactory resolution of the detail; and (b) full support – when it is felt that the detail satisfactorily meets the principles.

1. Endorsement

Endorsement is sought from influential participants in, and commentators on, the field who can see the value of the project.

2. Advice

A core ethic of the project is open collaboration as far as this is possible. The objective is to facilitate the best possible outcome and this can rarely be achieved acting individually. Advice on how to improve the offer is therefore welcome.

3. Partnering

This represents a more sustained and formalised version of the previous item for optimising the outcome. Partners would be credited.

4. Funding

Funding is sought to pay the researchers and meet the other expenses of the project. A business plan will be drawn up as soon as a few of the current variables have been settled.



Click here ResarchProspectus to download a copy of the prospectus.

Research Proposal

A research proposal, Masterplanning: learning the lessons of the last 10 years, has a more detailed presentation. It is available on request from Philip Kassanis.

Position Paper

A series of position papers is being produced as a springboard for the various strands that will be included in the research programme. Good City Form: part or whole is now available.


¹ using a sample year 2007/8: Whitehall departments and agencies spent some £40 bn. for the year in the regions on public infrastructure, such as new hospitals, roads and schools, not including  the funding for the RDA’s at some £2.7bn., and the HCA at, say, £5bn. Refer to Philip Kassanis white paper “Masterplanning: learning the lessons of the last 10 years” for more detail.


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