What is a masterplan? A Q&A with Castle Gateway’s lead Masterplanner

This week we will launch the masterplan ideas for Castle Gateway.

As we share the masterplan ideas as part of Step 3 of the My Castle Gateway process, we asked Francis Glare the Principal Masterplanner from BDP to answer a few questions. Not least…What is a masterplan?

Francis Glare, Principal Masterplanner
What is a masterplan?

A masterplan can mean many things to different people and in different situations.
For York Castle Gateway, the masterplan can be thought of as a planning and urban design framework that sets the vision for what the area should be in the future, and that guides building development and investment in city infrastructure and the public realm over a 10-15 year period towards the achievement of that vision.
The masterplan is NOT a blueprint that sets one detailed solution, but a set of planning and development principles that allow for some flexibility in interpretation, providing that certain guidelines are followed and desired outcomes are achieved. These principles will include the mix of land uses that is appropriate in the area, design constraints (such as heights and massing) and the requirement to deliver an enhanced public realm and better connections to the rest of the city, particularly for pedestrians. The outcomes could include economic and environmental benefits, the delivery (and funding) of infrastructure improvements, dealing with matters such as congestion and increased flood resilience – but also and critically, simply increasing the sense of the Castle Gateway as a valuable and well-used part of the City of York, on the part of residents, visitors and businesses.

How do you go about drawing up a masterplan?

Masterplanning is a process of firstly understanding a place and then the ideas and aspirations of all the stakeholders who have an interest in the future development of the area – from the City Council and residents of York through to businesses and visitors. 
Secondly, by understanding how the Castle Gateway functions now – including quite practical matters like access, the impact of flooding, commercial matters such as land ownership, values and the need and demand for new developments, and constraints on development like archaeology and heritage – as well as how people use and perceive the area, we can start to understand how to guide change in the future. In practical terms this might mean knowing which sites and buildings are likely to be sites for development and change in the next 10 years or so and conversely, which are unlikely to change.
Understanding how things work now also means that we can also judge what might happen if we propose change, for example whether changing the way traffic moves through the area will have the desired impact of improving the quality of the pedestrian experience within the Castle Gateway and how this will affect traffic and movement elsewhere in the City. Similarly, understanding the value of archaeology and heritage means that we can start to turn these constraints into opportunities – bringing out the cultural and social history of this part of York to ensure that the future Castle Gateway remains distinctive and unique. And understanding how people use and perceive the area means we can develop a masterplan that reinforces and evolves the positive aspects, such as enjoyment of the waterside setting, whilst tackling negative issues, such as a lack of activity in some areas during evenings.
The masterplanning process continues by developing alternative scenarios for how the area might evolve. This is a way of testing the likely success of the masterplan, in terms of delivering the vision and meeting the objectives for the area, but also of understanding the risks and challenges involved. From here we can then identify and refine a masterplan which best meets the vision we have for the Castle Gateway and that is underpinned by a robust understanding of how the proposed changes can be delivered, from the ongoing involvement of stakeholders to securing planning consents for development and investment for infrastructure and public realm improvements.
Of course the masterplanning process doesn’t stop here. In this case the City of York Council will be responsible for championing the masterplan, including working with stakeholders from the community, public sector bodies and private sector interests, to realise the vision for the Castle Gateway area. The masterplan will no doubt continue to evolve but the underpinning principles should be strong enough to ensure that anyone visiting this part of York in the future would be able to recognise what they find on the ground from the vision and guidance contained in the masterplan framework.   
What are the key challenges – from a masterplanning perspective – of the Castle Gateway project?

The Castle Gateway area offers many enviable qualities that will really contribute to the creation of great places to enjoy, as a resident or visitor, and opportunities to invest, in business and development. The waterside setting, the many unique and interesting buildings, proximity to the city centre, York Central and York station, are all assets that will contribute to a successful scheme. Equally the Castle Gateway is an area that comes with real challenges and constraints: flood risk, working with the heritage and archaeology, private land owner expectations of value and scope for development, the need to deliver (and to fund) better infrastructure to support the better use of the area, the need to try and reconcile and balance the many diverse views of what should or should not happen…
How is the My Castle Gateway process informing the development of the masterplan?

When we described what a masterplan was and how the process of preparing a masterplan works, we emphasised the importance of understanding how a place has developed, how it functions and how it is used, as well as getting a broad set of views on how the area might develop in the future.
In the case of York’s Castle Gateway, the My Castle Gateway process has performed the vital task of gathering and drawing out the knowledge, thoughts and ideas of a huge number of people with views on and interests in the area.  This work has started to coalesce around several themes, for example the ways in which people move or would like to move through the area, and the activities that they would like to see encouraged in the area. This is directly influencing the development of the masterplan and we will be able to show how masterplan proposals meet these objectives, as well as those of other stakeholders.
What are the next steps?
Following the work undertaken through the My Castle Gateway to identify and distil views on the area, we have developed masterplan proposals for consultation this month. The ideas not only meet the vision for the future of the Castle Gateway, but that there is a reasonable chance that in a very real and practical way, that they can be delivered. So we have been busy doing technical and feasibility work for example to understand the costs and funding of development and infrastructure proposals.
However, we really look forward to getting the input and feedback of many of those people who have already engaged with the My Castle Gateway process. This will then enable us to develop a Draft Masterplanning Framework for the Castle Gateway for consideration by City of York Council early in 2018.   

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