Planning Advice Note 83: master planning

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

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Implementing the masterplan

Delivery mechanisms

Once a masterplan has been finalised and approved, further, more detailed, design guidance may be needed in the form of, for example, a design code to help move the masterplan to the detailed design stage.

Design codes

A design code is a document accompanied by detailed drawings or diagrams that elaborate on some of the design principles set out in the masterplan. The design code will provide a degree of detailed specification on the matters which the masterplan has identified as non-negotiable and which are not expected to change in the foreseeable future. If a matter does not relate to a specific design principle it should not be coded. The code may cover a group of buildings, a street or a whole area within a masterplan area.

A code can be adopted by an authority as supplementary planning guidance, or it can be given status as a condition to a planning permission or through planning agreements. It can also be tied to land sales and be enforced by any succession of landowners. Although gaining the commitment of all relevant parties to a design code may take some time and effort, it may also contribute to the speed, quality and certainty of processes. Local authorities can adopt development management policies offering quicker decisions to applications that comply with a design code. In some cases, the use of a code will allow the decision to be delegated to a council officer, as members have already approved the code.

Codes must be prepared by designers who understand how to create successful places, and who are skilled in knowing what to code and how to write the code. Similarly, codes will work successfully only if the landowners and local authorities which use them have the necessary skills and understanding to evaluate the response.

Overall, design codes can be good delivery mechanisms to ensure that construction takes place in line with the masterplan. But whilst providing a level of certainty, they must have a degree of flexibility. Codes must be possible to adapt in response to changing conditions.



Masterplans should provide certainty on implementation. In some cases, this certainty will derive from a legal agreement under planning or other legislation.

Clients, whether applicants, developers or authorities, should have a structure in place, perhaps linked to their business plan, that allows them to manage the implementation process, review it and redirect it if changes occur. Those commissioning a masterplan are encouraged to prepare a realistic implementation strategy. The strategy should include methods of delivery for the public or private sectors; the engagement with all parties and stakeholders throughout the process; timescales; likely sources of funding; cash flow; and return on investment.

Considerable thought must be given to establishing an appropriate phasing programme covering utility and road infrastructure, spaces, buildings, ground preparation and buildings. Phasing programmes should consider costs, funding, advance work requirements and lead-in times.

Monitor, review and update

One way to try to ensure that a masterplan does not get wasted is to implement a process by which it will be reviewed. As the masterplan is prepared, it should be monitored and reviewed to ensure that it reflects the specific requirements of the proposal and will deliver the vision.

Detailed proposals should be constantly monitored against the masterplan's aims. Any lessons learnt from early phases that could have a positive effect on future phases should be fed into a revised masterplan to ensure it remains relevant. This may cover issues such as changing economic circumstances, the availability of new products and materials, or changes in policy.



Telephone: 0131 244 7528

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

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