The design process

Masterplanning is a design process. It is a creative way of solving problems over large scales and long time periods, and involving multiple interests and users.

It needs a strong, informed client to structure the masterplanning process and think ‘strategically’ – making sure that the right things get the right amount of attention at the right time. This means balancing and reconciling different issues and interests, seeing how multiple benefits and value can accrue from certain actions and investment, and setting priorities accordingly.

Physical development must be balanced with issues such as equitable access to jobs and services, the engagement of local people in a process of change in their area and the performance of places in relation to key resource issues such as energy, water and waste.

Masterplanning focuses on meeting aims and objectives set out in a brief. The brief serves as a reference-point for what everyone wants to achieve. Design practitioners as part of a project team will start by asking questions to understand the project context and requirements. Then they will make propositions, test them against the brief and consult with stakeholders. Using this consultation, they will refine their ideas, and test and consult on them again. This carries on until the proposition is deemed to have met the objectives set out in the brief in the best way possible.

This is called an iterative approach. It relies on the client and wider stakeholder group giving their steer and their views as to which possibilities are moving in the right direction. Each proposition must be compatible with the broad aims and objectives but a good process will recognise that there are many different ways around a problem. Multiple iterations are a way to test multiple possibilities, ensure that issues are resolved properly and avoid a simplistic ‘leap’ to a preferred solution.