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Masterplanning for property developers and housebuilders



Masterplanning for property developers and housebuilders

Master planning is key for any property developer or housebuilder if you’re going to maximise your return on investment. But what does it involve? Base Architecture MD Harry Reece spells out how we add value for our clients and their projects:

“These new housing developments just spring up everywhere!”…

“It’s so easy to get planning these days” …

“All these developers make is money” …

They are just three of any phrases I hear regularly! So what’s really involved in being a property developer or house builder nowadays? Is it really as simple as people think?

The reality of those statements above couldn’t be further from the truth and here’s why and how we can help.

Master Planning:

Any new development starts as a green or brownfield site, each with its challenges but, most of all, opportunities.

At Base, our focus is to ensure our client’s risk and expenditure is reduced as much as possible and that their commercial gain is maximised. After all, if a developer is undertaking this risk, it’s only fair they earn an appropriate return.

Our first approach is to assess the site’s constraints. They can be positive or negative but ultimately any development has to address them. It could be highway access, sun path analysis to ensure gardens have appropriate levels of sun or site levels. There can be further complexities such as the  biodiversity, drainage retention, listed buildings, scheduled monuments or limited services for example.

Once we’ve established the constraints, we assess and consider how best the site can be proportioned/divided for potential development. At this stage, we discuss both feasibility and viability  (they are very different) with our client. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just as simple as scattering one hundred three-bed units across the site.


We discuss the mix of house types, size of units, garage provision, driveways and more with our client and ensure we consider and allocate affordable housing required under the local planning policy.

The entrance to a site is critical for master planning as it dictates how the development is laid out and where each property is located. We need to be mindful of level variations and the many complexities that are associated with this, for instance: surface run off, disabled access to pavements, construction costs etc.

The highway configuration then leads our design eye to ensure the development is structured to suit its surroundings. An urban environment can perhaps be suited to a more grid-like and structural configuration while a rural development could focus on more organic curves and settings. This is, of course, stereotyping but gives an example of how each development is considered on its own merits. We’ll also look to create a layout that gives a cohesive ‘community’ feel to any development

Once pockets are established and agreed it is then a case of configuring proposed units across the site. Our focus would be to provide the best quality of life to each unit as possible whilst also ensuring the site is deliverable. One is not more important than the other.

We will look to consider privacy between each unit, parking provisions, guest parking, drainage, plot levels, sun shading, proximity to boundaries, corner plots and their appearance etc.

As a team, regardless of our client’s experience (novice or experienced) we engage them and a  supporting professional team that could consist of; surveyors, drainage engineers, ecologists, arboriculturists, sound engineers, flood engineers, highway consultants, public open space consultants, and landscape architects. There are a multitude of complex issues that need to be discussed and engaged with as a team before even considering a design solution.

The design and planning

We’ll develop a multitude of initial design concepts and solutions that will be revised until we have a conceptual yet tangible solution for consideration.

Due to different planning policy and housing delivery targets across the UK, our next step is to engage with the local authority and discuss the principle of development with a ‘vision document’ outlining how we have considered the design – this helps planning officers to understand our approach and rationale.

The planning system is, of course, not straight forward. From initial pre-planning advice to hopefully securing a permission will be between four to 12 months. There will be careful and considered engagement, and, ultimately, negotiation to achieve approval.

Information requirements vary depending on your type of application (outline or full) as well as whatever complications the site comes with. For instance, old coal mining towns across the north and Midlands will require a formal coal mining report and sometimes even ground stabilisation reports.

Our recommendation is to assess the risk, highlight the requirement and commit to a belt and braces application. For me, justification is the biggest buzz word in planning right now. If you can’t justify it, you won’t get an approval.


In short, a development takes a large investment in time and money. Despite public perception, the majority of work is done behind the scenes before a spade goes anywhere near the ground.

If you’d like to talk to us about master planning for a residential or commercial development, get in touch – [email protected] or 01743 236400.

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