Neighbourhood Level Master-Planning - ‘A Strategic Value-Based Decision-Making Perspective’

  • Amer Alwarea

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The master-planning of large-scale neighbourhood development has become a central part of strategies to stimulate changes in local urban economy and property markets in Britain. However, the 2007-08 economic crisis severely disrupted urban development and created uncertainty affecting market conditions and the availability of investment, as well as policy change, and demographic and social change. Whilst researchers expounded on contemporary master-planning practice in the UK as too formal, inflexible, static, and misleadingly proximate to respond to these challenges, little is said about stakeholders’ susceptible values and actions tied to dominate sources of complex urban development pressures. In that context, this research aims to explore the significance of ‘value’ in master-planning at the residential neighbourhood and the pre-application planning phase of development, and further the understanding of strategic values-rich and value-based planning and design processes in both theory and practice. To achieve this purpose, a multidisciplinary constructive reasoning approach is adopted to iterate between theory and empirical observation to obtain new insights.

This thesis is sub-divided into three main phases. The first phase explored meaning, concepts, and theories of master-planning, strategic choice decision-making, value, and values to propose a theoretical framework. The second phase adapted a survey method, following a review of key policies and literature, aiming to define the strategic role and the value of master-planning in Scotland. It was piloted with 7 experts and tested among 112 professionals who are involved in neighbourhood’s development in Scotland. To illustrate the effect of development pressures on stakeholders’ decisions, the second phase evaluates two carefully selected case studies in Scotland, focusing on different forms of master-planning, typical developer-led and private-public partnership development. Through detailed review of planning application documents and the conducted semi-structured interviews, the effect of the 2007-08 economic crises was analysed showing how decisions and actions are/were tied to a complex web of development forces at the macro, micro, and meso levels.

Subsequently, a strategic values-rich and value-based view of master-planning is proposed through theoretical triangulation. This draws on theory to reach past the rational preconceptions that hobbled previous research efforts into defining the value of master-planning in planning and urban design. The main original contribution in this research is the development of an evolutionary ‘strategic value-based’ lens that re-defines the role of master-planning, revealing complex contradictions internal and external as a force of major hidden pressure on stakeholders taking decision. This work opens new horizons for spatial planning and urban design into the research field of value and values.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHusam AlWaer (Supervisor) & Robert Kirk (Supervisor)


  • Master-planning
  • Neighbourhood development
  • Value perceptions
  • Stakeholders’ values
  • Urban Design
  • Urban Planning

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