Planning Advice Note 83: master planning

This Planning Advice Note (PAN) 83 covers the masterplanning process from beginning to end.

Processing a masterplan

Presentation of the final masterplan

Once the concept has been finalised, a final masterplan should be prepared showing detailed proposals. An aim is to see more consistency in Scotland in terms how masterplans are presented. This will help built environment professionals and others to become more accustomed to understanding and assessing masterplans. The absence of a standard structure together with varied use of sometimes confusing design language can often cause masterplans to seem overwhelming. In addition, too many masterplans contain comprehensive appraisals and elegantly presented design principles, without showing any sign of a connection between the two. As a rule, all masterplan documents should be easy for their readers to navigate and to grasp the most important principles quickly. The following provides some advice on a preferred format.

General structure

The amount of information contained within a masterplan will often be influenced by the scale of the development. In the most straightforward cases, some simple, but well presented diagrams, together with succinct, clearly written text - all summed up by a three-dimensional illustration - should be sufficient to convey a basic masterplan's essentials.

For more complex projects, the masterplan should include some of the more detailed information as set out below. In particular, it is good practice to present the masterplan's design solution with respect to the configuration of its buildings, spaces and movement supported by three-dimensional form diagrams.

Suggested masterplan format

Programme how will the development be phased
Background information
  • name of development
  • applicant
  • team/specialists
  • brief
Masterplan Explanation with respect to:
Site details
  • location & site plan
  • description
  • history
  • ownership
Buildings i.e. layout & elevations
scale, mix, height & massing
details and materials
energy efficiency
Site and area analysis
  • context
  • identity
  • connection
Movement i.e. accessibility and well
connected routes
streets hierarchy and spaces
traffic speed and security
street furniture and materials
utilties and services
access to public transport
Key design principles
  • national guidance
  • local development policies
  • SPG/guides/briefs
Open space i.e. landscape strategy
retained and new planting
biodiversity and sustainability
( SUDs)
public space and play space
Public involvement
  • outcome of public consultation
  • impact on design development

Tips on text and illustrations:

Text: The text (or bullet points) should be short and describe the process undertaken to produce the concept. It should explain the design philosophy and proposals as well as the role that stakeholders have played in shaping the concept.

Illustrations: Illustrations will play a key role in getting the masterplan's message across. Illustrations must be easy to interpret, clearly related to the text, and may consist, for instance, of a combination of photographs, sketches, figure/ground diagrams (showing built and unbuilt space), photomontages, concept diagrams and computer-based images. The scale and format of the images will depend on the required level of detail. Models can also be used to good effect.

Making the masterplan accessible

It may be useful to have the masterplan on-line or hold some forum where people can view it.

Embedding a masterplan in the planning system

A masterplan should genuinely raise the standards of development, not simply aim to ease a proposal through the planning system. It will carry more weight in the system if it is consistent with national planning guidance and local planning policy, has been prepared with effective public participation, and has been formally adopted by the local planning authority.

A completed masterplan can be submitted to the local planning authority to be embedded into the planning system in three main ways. All parties should be clear about these prior to engaging in the masterplanning process:

1. Adoption as supplementary planning guidance ( SPG): Development plans should set out the planning authority's distinctive vision for how its area will develop, and should identify areas or sites where masterplans will be required. Development plans are increasingly requiring masterplans to be prepared for significant, complex or sensitive sites. If an approved masterplan's proposals clearly relate to the development plan, it can be adopted as supplementary planning guidance. To be adopted as SPG, the intention to prepare a masterplan should be explicitly signalled in the strategic development plan ( SDP) or local development plan ( LDP).

2. Endorsement as a material consideration: With design as a material consideration, a masterplan can be an effective way of ensuring that the local planning authority has sufficient information on which to make a decision.

3. Achieving planning consent and road construction consent ( RCC): The masterplan (accompanied by any appropriate supporting documents, such as a design statement and an environmental statement) may form the basis of a planning application and, ideally, achieve permission and RCC at the same time.


Evaluation of a masterplan

A masterplan allows the planning authority and others to see the extent of the analysis on which the proposal has been based. If a masterplan is required for a site or area, but no adequate masterplan has been prepared, it will be unlikely that a planning authority will be able to support the proposed development. When evaluating masterplans, local authorities, developers and other stakeholders should consider how the following broad issues have been taken into account:

Key considerations

Some questions


Does the masterplan relate to the original aspirations or vision for the place?


If there was a brief, does the masterplan accord with it?


Does the masterplan meet the relevant policies?


Has there been effective community/stakeholder engagement and participation?

Have any key stakeholders, such as utilities and services been involved in the progression of the design solution?


Is there evidence of a full site analysis? i.e. context, identity and connection.

Does the infrastructure exist to allow the development to take place?


Is the masterplan deliverable?

Is the timing of the programme for delivery realistic?

Does the proposed phasing scheme provide the most appropriate approach?

Is there a realistic expectation based on funding levels available?

Design review

Has a design review taken place?


Will the masterplan contribute to creating a sustainable place?


Will the masterplan be phased?

Planning system

Can the masterplan be embedded into the planning system?

Have Section 75 conditions been discussed and minimised?

Overall, will the masterplan deliver a successful place?

The following questions can be applied to any masterplan to gauge the extent to which it will create a successful place based on the six qualities in Designing Places.


Will the development's landscapes, natural features, buildings, street patterns, spaces, skylines, building forms and materials be likely to enhance the sense of identity?

Will the masterplan help to create a place with a distinctive character?

Are the proposed streets defined by a coherent and well-structured layout?

Does the masterplan make the most of existing buildings, landscape and topography?


Will buildings and layout make it easy for people to find their way around?

Will new landmarks or gateways be created, helping people to find their way around?

Will good use be made of views?

Will the development provide (or be close to) community facilities, such as a school, park, play areas, shops, pubs or cafes?

Safe and pleasant

Will the development have active frontages to streets?

Will all routes and public spaces be overlooked?

Will the proposed uses encourage activity at all times of day?

Will the public and private space be clearly defined?

Is public space well designed, and will suitable management arrangements be put in place?

Will routes and spaces be safe?


Will there be a tenure mix that reflects the needs and aspirations of the local community?

Will there be opportunities to make buildings and areas adaptable to a variety of future uses?

Will internal spaces and layouts allow for adaptation, conversion or extension?

Easy to get to and move around

Will a network of continuous routes be created?

Will areas with the highest densities be located where access to public transport is best?

Will public transport facilities be well-connected and safe?

Will public spaces, roads and footpaths be connected into well-used routes?

Will there be provision for and promotion of a range of transport options?

Will the building layout take priority over the roads and car parking, so that highways do not dominate?

Will the streets be pedestrian, cycle and vehicle-friendly?

Will car parking be well-integrated into the street scene?

Will the scheme integrate with existing roads, paths and surrounding development?

Will public spaces and pedestrian routes be overlooked and feel safe?

Will the development have easy access to public transport?

Has the masterplan considered green networks in and around the proposed development area, and made provisions to connect to these or enhance their value?

Have opportunities been taken to incorporate biodiversity features (such as green roofs) into the fabric of the buildings and into the spaces between them?

Resource efficient

Will the development include a range of features that reduce its environmental impact and carbon footprint?

Will the need for landforming be minimised?

Have significant natural features and other biodiversity been protected and intrusion minimised, as appropriate?

Does the masterplan integrate and/or enhance surrounding habitats and landscape character?

Has the masterplan fully considered the natural hydrology of the area, including any permanent or ephemeral watercourses, and made provision so that these may be retained where possible?

Have sustainable drainage systems been considered from the earliest stage?

Has waste been addressed - both in terms of collection and waste minimisation in construction? Can any of the sites existing materials, i.e. soil/rubble be re-used?

Will the orientation of buildings minimise energy use?

Will buildings and spaces be adequately sheltered?

Will building materials be sourced from local or other sustainable sources?

Will development make use of advances in construction or technology that will enhance its energy performance, biodiversity value, quality and attractiveness?

Will buildings or spaces out-perform statutory minima, such as building regulations?

Will there be opportunities to improve habitats and support wildlife, both on the fabric of the buildings and in the spaces between?

successfully delivered

The production of a masterplan document is not the end of the process.
The masterplan must be successfully delivered and developed.



Telephone: 0131 244 7528

Area 2-H (South)
Planning and Architecture Division
The Scottish Government
Victoria Quay

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