Masterplanning process

The Aberdeen Masterplanning Process has been prepared as a guide for developers. Reflecting current national design guidance, the Process seeks to enable the delivery of sustainable places.

Successful places are sustainable and have distinct identity. Designing Places and Designing Streets, policy statements for Scotland, set the context for creating places. Successful places are safe, pleasant, easy to move around and welcoming to visitors. They are sustainable and adaptable to changing circumstances in social, economic and environmental conditions. Good street design must consider place before movement and should meet the qualities set out in Designing Places.

These policies are supported by PAN 83: Master Planning which promotes the use of masterplanning to create better places.

The Aberdeen City and Shire Structure Plan sets out the Spatial Strategy up to 2030, promoting development of sustainable mixed communities. The Aberdeen Local Development Plan translates this into a settlement strategy for Aberdeen allocating appropriate sites for development and highlights masterplanning as means to achieve efficient and sustainable places.

This process identifies the need to consider an integrated approach to site planning, urban design, sustainable transport, ecology, landscaping and community involvement. There is also a recognised need to raise the quality of design for new developments in Aberdeen, from the largest and most significant areas of change to smaller individual sites. Under the umbrella heading of 'Masterplanning' Aberdeen City Council (ACC) proposes tackling this through 3 design tools:

Setting out a baseline, or 2 dimensional spatial framework, for the way in which large areas that may be in multiple ownerships, are to be developed. This will involve:

  • appraising local context;
  • reviewing whatever policy, guidance and regulations apply;
  • conceiving a vision for the place; 
  • determining feasibility; 
  • establishing planning and design principles; and 
  • agreement on the development process.

Where developers decide to submit a detailed planning application on the basis of a development framework rather than proceed to the preparation of a full Masterplan, visual assessment to demonstrate the 3 dimensional form of proposed development from at least 3 viewpoints located on public roads or places must be submitted to support 2 dimensional layout plans. Development Frameworks can be prepared by ACC, landowners or developers.

Detailed guidance, in 3 dimensions, on design matters, specific topics, or land uses for sites in single ownership, or for buildings or external spaces within a larger development framework. For some sites a basic development framework may require to be developed into a more detailed 3 dimensional Masterplan, describing and illustrating the proposed urban form. The initial sites where this is expected are identified by the Local Development Plan. Masterplans may include Design Codes and will include a detailed timeline for delivery. Masterplans will be developed for residential sites with an area over 2 hectares or 50 houses or more, for sites identified in the Local Development Plan, or other large scale sites deemed appropriate. Masterplans prepared in accordance with the Masterplanning Process will be recommended for adoption as Supplementary Guidance. Masterplans will be adopted before development will be considered for planning permission.

Site specific guidance highlighting planning policies, constraints and opportunities. A planning brief informs any planning application made for the site. Planning Briefs can range from small sites in conservation areas up to the scale of a masterplan. Planning briefs will be prepared at the discretion of ACC.

ACC will produce development frameworks, masterplans or planning briefs for sites owned by ACC. For sites in other ownership, in order to make the most of limited staff resources, ACC encourages the landowner or developer to commission consultants in co-operation with the planning authority. When the planning authority is in agreement with the content of the draft guidance it is reported to the relevant Committee

This hierarchy of design tools (supplementary guidance) will set out proposals for land use, buildings and external spaces, and the efficient means of moving around and between them. They must ensure that development fits the local context and creates a meaningful sense of place. Proposals will be accompanied by a reliable delivery strategy, and include a programme for stakeholder consultation.

The Local Development Plan has been subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment, avoiding the need for further individual strategic environmental assessments for allocated sites. Some planning applications for large or sensitive sites may still require to be supported by individual Environmental Impact Assessment.

To aid the process of moving from initial conception towards implementation on the ground for each plan area, a lead officer within ACC will be identified to work directly with the landowner, developer or client's planning team. For this to work effectively initial contact should be made with the Team Leader for Masterplanning and Design. 

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