• Shayne Leslie

An Introduction to Thinking about Master Planning to Avoid the Biggest Mistakes

Master Planning Process | 101a

Like strategic planning, master planning should not be considered an event. It is a learning process that continually evolves.

The best response to uncertainty is to design and implement a planning process that is flexible, considers the past, is sensitive to the surrounding environment and interest groups, and that can be summarised and priced out in as short a time as three months or in six months maximum.

Who to include

The planning process should include the following groups;

  • BOARD and MANAGEMENT - An annual forum where program direction is debated in conjunctions with strategic review research

  • PLANNING COMMITTEE - A bi-monthly or quarterly meeting of the organisation or venue planning committee, whose role is the continuing coordination of all the subset processes

  • COMMUNITY - Quarterly meeting or information newsletter with a representative group of the membership, community, or residents for discussion and feedback

  • LOCAL GOVERNMENT – At least an annual planning meeting with local government, where each party details its plans and highlights areas where there might be an impact on the other.

Products of the Planning Process

The list of plans outlined below is not all-inclusive. These considerations will help the board and management develop a clear and long-range vision for the organisation or venue.

Facilities and Services Program Plan

What business are we in today, and into the future? What business we see ourselves in will assist in determining the facilities and services plan. Consider the following;

  • What is currently working and not working with regards to facilities and services space, location, and proximity

  • What future space we will need to run successful activities and programs? Larger, smaller, the same?

  • What needs to be in proximity to each other?

Character Plan

What should the organisation or venue look like? The character plan represents a model of how the organisation or venue hopes to appear when a "picture" of the organisation or venue is shown to its various supporters and critics. It speaks to the nature, feeling, look, and attitude that the organisation or venue conveys.

To consider are such aspects as;

  • Ratio of footprint of built and planned structures to open space

  • Ratio of outdoor business space to indoor space (e.g. alfresco dining to internal dining)

  • Ratio of height and bulk of structure to available footprint

  • Percentage of mixed-use housed on site (e.g. accommodation, other commercial)

  • Census of workforce, members, and visitors

  • Design, content, and scope of organisation or venue logistical and access systems

  • Degree of dependence on surrounding community or commercial services.

Resource Planning

Resources are not limited to dollars and space. The following resources all require attention from planners:

Land - Is there an adequately sized and located site? - Site Development Plan

Capacity - Will the site support the building and systems plan? - Infrastructure Plan

Space - Are buildings being utilised to their maximum potential? - Space Plan

Funds - Is there adequate funding? - Financial Plan

Support - Can we maintain the support of our community? - Community Comms

Site Development Plan

How should the site be developed not only to accommodate the current and projected needs of facilities and services program and achieve character?

All land is not equal.

To maximize overall site utilisation, the site development plan should match the assets that can be developed with logistical, programmatic, and aesthetic considerations.

Site­ development planners use zoning concepts like those used in the planning and development of a city. Such concepts include:

  • Designated open space

  • Boundary interfaces

  • Activity-specific site zones.

Infrastructure Plan

Planning for utilities and support services is the foundation against which proposed program changes designed into the master plan must be assessed. Because of time considerations, infrastructure planning and its implementation must precede the implementation of master plan projects, in some cases by years.

The primary elements are listed in the chart on the next page. Each of the elements of infrastructure should be evaluated in the following context:

  • Is there sufficient system and/or structural capacity to accommodate revisions and expansions?

  • Are the currently maintained systems and structures safe and meet codes?

Infrastructure plan evaluates

  • Structures (e.g. building envelope, interior and common spaces, and structural design)

  • Utilities and central systems (e.g. water, electrical, sewer)

  • Circulation (e.g. pedestrian, vehicle, materials)

  • Grounds (e.g. hard and soft landscaping)

Space Utilisation Plan (Space Plan or Footprint)

The space plan is the most efficient utilisation of buildings and space. If space allocation proceeds merely as a response to a current pressure, it will not take long before longer-range planning becomes exceedingly difficult and expensive.

The space plan includes responses to two evaluative factors:

  1. What is the current ability of each building and its inclusive space to accommodate the functions it was designed or renovated to house?

  2. What is the ability of that building and its inclusive space to accommodate functions different from those for which it was designed or is currently housing?

Master planners will look for the following information in the space utilisation plan:

  1. What is the capacity of current buildings to house existing programs, and is it being done efficiently?

  2. Can existing buildings be modified and/or used more efficiently to house other functions that more closely match the current program direction? In other words, can the space now occupied be better utilised?

Financial Plan

The financial plan's primary contribution to the master planning process is verification that the funding needed to accomplish the objectives of the master plan can be achieved – before, during and after.

This is a very large subject area and worthy of a separate chapter.

In the meantime, ask what funds and over what time periods will be required to achieve the objectives of the master plan?

Community Communications Plan

Community planning not only means involvement, but the consequences resulting from receiving feedback (especially when feedback is negative).

Designers of the planning process need to know

  • Who is the community? Where are members of the community located? What are their cultural identities and needs? Ages? Health and education requirements? Levels of mobility? What surveys need to be conducted to collect this information?

  • To what extent do community members understand the purpose of the organisation or venue? To what extent should they? What educational outreach programs need to be designed and conducted?

  • What does the community expect from the organisation or venue (e.g., programs, recreation, safety, parking)? What resources are required to be a good neighbour?

  • How do representatives of the media (print and video) perceive the organisation or venue? Is this perception accurate or should it be addressed? Does the organisation or venue staff include internal communication coordinators?

  • Does the organisation or venue plan incorporate a responsive approach to environmental and community safety issues? What mitigating measures need to be adopted, and at what expense?

  • Does the organisation or venue anticipate legal obstacles to implementation of the master plan? Can these be overcome, and at what expense?

  • What economic impact does the organisation or venue have on the community?

As organisation or venues revise their long-term expectations, it is reasonable to expect growing neighbourhood concern about and involvement in the planning processes.

In Summary

10 questions you can now answer!


  • Who hopes to benefit from it?

  • What could you do with the time, energy, and money instead?

  • Are we hoping if we build it they will come?



  • How will this project grow, sustain or rescue our current business?




  • Facilities and Services Program Plan

  • Character Plan

  • Site Development Plan

  • Infrastructure Plan

  • Space Utilisation Plan (Space Plan or Footprint)

  • Financial Plan

  • Community Communications Plan




  • How much does each plan cost?

  • Where does this money come from?

  • How will we pay it back?


  • If we build it how have we satisfied ourselves that they will come?

  • Is this the real problem or is it something else (like poor governance/management)?

SHAYNE LESLIE | shayne@integratedgovernance.com.au

0412 241 773

Integrated Governance specialise in governance, strategy, and recruitment for registered clubs and not-for-profits. www.integratedgovernance.com.au.

Madden Project Managers and Quantity Surveyors work with Clubs, Pubs, Residential, Retail, Aged care Disability Care,Energy supply, Heritage and environmentally sensitive sites, and more. See their website at www.maddenqs.com.au.

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