Guest post by Ben Reed.

The masterplanning process is flawed. And it’s adversely affecting people's lives and wellbeing.

Let's look at why the masterplanning is often a complex process and needs to be modernised to lead with a 'consumer first' approach.

Tangentially, if masterplanning is straightforward, why has the number of residential planning applications in London fallen by nearly a third, year-on-year, in the first quarter of 2018? Read more here.

So, what jumps out when looking at, or creating, a masterplan? Are you looking at streets, public squares and places? Are you looking at pedestrian routes, rights of light, vehicle movement, tech infrastructure and green spaces? Or are you looking at planning use classes, residential and commercial space quantums and how best to get planning permission?

It's fair to say that most developers are looking at the masterplan as part of a project workstream, a vehicle to get funding, a robust cost model, and finally, planning permission to deliver a successful project - and make a tidy profit. On the other end of the spectrum, the architects, engineers and masterplanners are caught up with the detail, mix of uses and sensitivities to the neighbouring areas.

So, who is looking at the consumer and resident journey? Where is the pub? Where is the music venue? Where do you walk and know you may bump into a friend or get lost? Where can you create and make things? How will the masterplan foster a community? These considerations are not the role of a placemaking agency to action because they are appointed too late in the process, nor should this be the role of a public art agency.

I feel that masterplanning needs to draw from the experience of cultural and music experts - right from the embryonic stages. Use people who know how to create places that have the best possible chance of being popular and successful - places that are in tune with the needs of the community and visitors. This ensures that things are built to the right spec, will attract the right operators and tenants, will stand the test of time and generate revenue.

For help with your next mixed-use project contact Sound Diplomacy.

About the Author, Ben Reed:


With 20 years spent in the advertising world, Ben has built up a network of brands and businesses interested in exploring new ways to connect with their customers and places. Ben's focus is to work with global brands on how to sculpt powerful brand experiences within physical spaces.

Ben has seen placemaking inform the complex masterplanning process for large regeneration projects, but now sees placemaking as an overused term – so Developers, Councils and Cities are drilling down into what it actually means.

Ben is a guest contributor to Sound Diplomacy and a member of the London Music Board.