Policy S2

Policy S2: The Requirement for Masterplans or Other Design and Development Frameworks

The preparation of a masterplan or other appropriate design and development framework for all major development sites is supported prior to consideration of a planning application for the site.

Masterplans should address the following issues in so far as they are relevant to the particular development site:

  1. to respect the scarcity and quality of land by ensuring that individual development proposals contribute satisfactorily to the total jobs intended to be created on employment sites; and
  2. to demonstrate that development proposals add distinction to the City’s landscape and townscape within the site through adherence to the masterplan’s physical design guidelines; and
  3. to minimise any impact on views and setting of the World Heritage site and to avoid harm to the amenities of neighbouring areas, particularly in Conservation Areas; and
  4. to reduce the impact of travel by residents, employees and visitors by improving the provision for walking, cycling and public transport and by limited provision of car parking carried out in accordance with an agreed travel plan; and
  5. to provide high levels of permeability within, to and from the site through safe and attractive pedestrian and cycle routes: and
  6. to contribute to well-being both within and adjacent to the site by the provision and maintenance of green infrastructure for the enjoyment of residents, employees and the public, ensuring access for all.


4.24 The importance of the preparation of a masterplan for major development sites and that any such masterplan should demonstrate the highest standards of sustainability was emphasised in views received during the 2017 pre-submission public consultation. Further comments were received during the 2019 consultation and these have been taken into account in presenting this revised version of Policy S2. What is proposed is a nuanced approach that takes account of the particular characteristics of each site and its impact on Our Neighbourhood.

4.25 The NPPF clearly envisages a role for masterplans in its glossary definition of a design code: “A set of illustrated design requirements that provide specific, detailed parameters for the physical development of a site or area. The graphic and written components of the code should build upon a design vision, such as a masterplan or other design and development framework for a site or area.”

4.26 Major development sites are defined in the glossary of the NPPF. This Neighbourhood Plan adopts a slightly amended version of that so that it does not apply to small housing developments: “For housing, it means development where 30 or more homes will be provided. For mixed and non-residential development it means additional floorspace of 1,000m2 or more, or a site of 1 hectare or more, or as otherwise provided in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015.” (UK Government, 2015).

4.27 Bearing in mind the historic character of Our Neighbourhood, it is appropriate that a separate policy on masterplans (S2) should be included. These need to take account of the World Heritage Site Management Plan and the Conservation Area Appraisals. Major development sites require masterplans that will ensure avoidance of standard solutions, respect local surroundings, and create the highest quality of design. Masterplans will ensure that buildings and spaces are of the right type and in the right place. They will reduce the risk of inappropriate or piecemeal development and protect views to and from the World Heritage Site and its setting. Access and traffic considerations are important in major developments because of the imperative to create a low carbon economy and to provide access for all, especially for those with special needs such as mobility difficulties and dementia.

4.28 The masterplan or other appropriate design and development framework should be prepared by the local planning authority and/or applicant. This should be submitted to public scrutiny and take full account of representations made. This can be done through the normal planning application process, perhaps as part of an outline planning application, within which the masterplan will be a material planning consideration. According to Durham County Council’s website (https://www.durham.gov.uk/article/11465/What-are-Masterplans-, accessed September 2019), masterplans do the following:

  • Help to guide investment and improvements to towns across the county.
  • Help set down how our towns can develop in the future, ensuring that buildings and spaces are of the right type and are in the right place, and complement our existing guidance and documents, including the emerging County Durham Plan.
  • Can be taken into account as material planning considerations when applications are being considered.

4.29 Durham County Council’s (2016c) ‘Durham City Masterplan Update’ refers to the Milburngate House site and states that the Council “will work through the planning process to ensure a high quality and sensitive scheme is developed on this exceptional site within view of the World Heritage Site” (p.8). This is precisely the sort of site to which this policy on masterplans would apply. Other such sites in Our Neighbourhood are Aykley Heads, Mount Oswald, Mountjoy, Hild/Bede and Elvet Riverside; others might become available in the future.

Next section: Theme 2a: A beautiful and historic city – Heritage

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