What Is a Master Plan?

A master plan is a plan that shows an overall development concept that includes urban design, landscaping, infrastructure, service provision, circulation, present and future land use and built form. It consists of three dimensional images, texts, diagrams, statistics, reports, maps and aerial photos that describe how a specific location will be developed. It provides a structured approach and creates a clear framework for developing an area.

An effective master plan describes and illustrates the proposed urban form in three dimensions, explains the method of developing a site and illustrates what delivery strategy to use to implement the project. Typically, a master plan addresses transportation and traffic, community facilities, neighborhoods and housing, parks and open space, land use and economic development.

A master plan is used in building any municipality, from small villages to large metropolises. Generally, it is required for large-scale changes, such as housing developments, town and city centers, regeneration projects and town extensions. It is also important in places where certain environmental assets need protection. Master plans are typically commissioned by landowners, house builders, developers, local authorities and regeneration agencies.

Once a master plan is adopted, the next phase is implementation. This phase relies heavily on government authority. Most plans include an action agenda that outlines the necessary short-term and medium-term actions to implement the plan.