Strategising The Masterplan

Strategising the Masterplan

The Paceville Masterplan, the talk of the town for a few months now, has been loved, hated, criticised and endorsed; MHRA have discussed the topic with property, transport and infrastructure company WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and representative Bill Price gives his two cents on the matter.

In our view, the work that has been carried out so far in terms of the Paceville Masterplan cannot really be described as such. Typically speaking, a master plan will have been consulted upon extensively and it would provide a broad framework for development and regeneration. Even more critically, the stakeholders for the land parcels as well as neighbours and planning authorities will have provided input to the process. This input will range from consideration of views and massing to the mix and diversity of building uses, plus the interconnected spaces known as the public realm. It may be possible to say that the physical objects (buildings) represented in the Paceville masterplan are feasible, however, we cannot see how they form part of a wider strategy for this district of the city.

The process usually involves a strategy or vision for development. This is normally based on policy initiatives or government ideas for homes, jobs, tourism, education, health, sustainability and economic well-being.

An assessment of the demand for different types of development (forecast usage) is an important part of this early work.

Initial ideas on mix of uses, facilities, building scale and form can be described in writing or in zoning on a simple plan. These can form the basis of consultation with all parties. Responses are then collated and analysed to provide a basis for further work.

Paceville is also a historic coastal settlement with many beautiful features. These too need to be considered in the context of value and quality of destination. Where possible, the history and local heritage should be celebrated.

Eventually, after several rounds of masterplan consultation, there will be an approved layout (incorporating some flexibility) enabling developers and stakeholders to generate building designs and solutions to the issues raised during consultation.

The planning authorities will consider building proposals in the context of the process and consultation undertaken. Only if agreement can be achieved and collateral benefits, such as sustainability and public realm provided, will permission to construct be granted.

In addition, there will be due consideration of wider impacts into surrounding areas in terms of visual changes, transport, competing business, leisure and residential interests.

The timescales, scope and cost of a masterplan is a complex mix of factors.

One of the critical issues is the market and how developers who are taking significant risk perceive the opportunity to recover costs in a timely fashion. A complex major project costing €300m on an island in the Mediterranean is going to need confidence at many levels. It is premature to think of the work as a ‘project’ with a budget, but should be considered more as a regeneration vision with value.

As for the benefit of such a project, the safety and comfort of pedestrians is an excellent objective for any masterplan. There is a great deal of global evidence which shows that places for people add worth and strengthen retail, restaurant, entertainment, cultural activity, and residential values.

To be successful, such schemes need carefully thought out strategies for servicing, accessibility, cleaning, security, and emergency situations. In Malta’s case, such ideas executed elegantly with proper functionality would be symbolic of being a comparable destination with the best in class around the Mediterranean.

Having said that, making changes to the way places function take time and causes disruption for a period, but tourists still visit and witness new features and emerging landscapes. If the objective is to develop tourism, the outcome should be positive in terms of quality and quantity of visitors.

More tourists will create demand for more hotel facilities and restaurants. This direct effect will create jobs and a further demand for people in management and support functions. If there can be increases in a business activity involving offices, then this too will add to the hotel and restaurant demand. Of course, growth of this nature also impacts healthcare, education, cultural facilities, retail and professional services. In turn, such activity will lead to additional flights and use of the port for both trade and cruise ships. An overall boost to the reputation and attractiveness of Malta will benefit the whole business community as well as the population generally.

A key ingredient of such growth is transport infrastructure. This could take a number of forms but tram and light rapid rail systems are excellent ways of reducing car use, improving air quality, reducing cost, improving mobility and enhancing pedestrian ‘places’. This should be the basis of a significant study in its own right.

 

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Bill Price, Director at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

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