Garden communities toolkit

Masterplanning and design

Masterplanning is integral to creating well-planned and designed garden communities.

Masterplanning engages the local community and stakeholders in creating a place-making framework for the garden community.

Preparing your masterplan

Issues to consider at the outset include:

  • clarify what type of masterplan it is appropriate to develop at this stage in the project

  • be clear on the level of design detail the masterplan should provide to shape design quality in the garden community.

  •  review the evidence base available to inform development of the masterplan

  • decide who will take the lead in preparing the masterplan

  •  agree the approach to joint working approach for development of the masterplan with key delivery partners where relevant
  • decide what other forms of design guidance will be developed to complement the masterplan

  • consider how deliverability of the masterplan be tested

  • think about how local distinctiveness for the new community can be addressed

- decide what elements in the masterplan need to be fixed and where there can be flexibility in terms of implementation

Typical stages of planning and design process

  • strategic site selection and initial visioning

  • concept masterplan

  • framework masterplan

  • detailed masterplan (application)

  • detailed design tools

As your garden community evolves, the development of a masterplan should work in parallel with the statutory planning process.

Download information about the level of masterplan detail you can expect at each stage (PDF)

Testing your masterplan

How to develop and test a masterplan for a garden community.

  • masterplan must be consistent with the vision, principles and objectives established for the garden community

  • engagement with local people and stakeholders must feed into the evolution of the masterplan

  • describe the new garden community’s distinctive qualities

  • mix of uses must be supported by robust evidence base relating to needs and requirements

  • provision for local employment opportunities needs to be included

  • understand the target modal shift for the garden community

  • overarching landscape framework needs to respond to the landscape character assessments and provide a legible, connected and cohesive context for and in your garden community

  • masterplan must address the overall place-making structure to ensure it has a heart and connected neighbourhoods

  • integrate the green infrastructure and build environment elements

  • masterplan should set out clearly what the main fixes are and areas of flexibility

  • sustainability objectives are integrated into the masterplan to create a resilient place.

  • your masterplan must identify the infrastructure needed to support your garden community

  • address the phasing and implementation of development of the garden community.
  • plan stewardship and management arrangements for community assets
  • test the viability and deliverability of the emerging masterplan
  • set out measures for design review, and any further detailed design guidance needed such as design codes

Download a garden community masterplan checklist

Sustainability considerations

Plan active and accessible travel options

Meet residents’ day-to-day needs by planning a range of uses that are easily accessible by walking, cycling and public transport.

Incorporation of sustainable design and construction

Include energy use and supply, water use and supply, ecology and biodiversity, lifespan and durability of materials, and the use of technology

Interdependence of urban systems and communities and the effects of global issues. 

Plan in resilience for future change. This includes climate change, technological advances and economic uncertainty, and the ability of a place to adapt to changing circumstances

Design inclusive and intergenerational green spaces and public realm.

These need to be flexible enough to adapt to the community’s changing needs over time. Find out more in on the Natural England’s Green infrastructure guide website  

Encourage healthy and active lifestyles. 

Design space to enable good access to local facilities, green space, safe places for active play, food growing and social interaction.

Creating healthy and safe communities

Your masterplan provides an opportunity to design new places that offer people improved choices and chances for a healthier life.

It also can promote community interaction for people of all ages and needs

How to plan for healthier lifestyles into your masterplan

You can find information and online tools to help you create healthier places.

Tools & processes for achieving good design

Here are a number of tools and processes that can help to ensure that the design quality ambitions are embedded and translated to development on the ground.

  • Building for Life 12 is a government-endorsed industry standard for designing high quality new neighbourhoods and homes.
  • Building with Nature is an emerging benchmark for the design of high quality green infrastructure in new developments.
  • Design Guides developed locally and draw on the local character and identity of an area to provide guidance on addressing local context, topography, local heritage, built form, appearance and materials.
  • Design Codes are illustrated design rules and requirements created to guide the physical development of a new development. They build upon the vision and masterplan for the development.
  • Quality (or Design) Review Panels are established to provide independent, impartial and consistent feedback and advice on development proposals for garden communities. They include experts from a range of disciplines.

Further information