Community Spatial Planning Unit- CSPU for the development of Urban Master Plans

Community Spatial Planning Unit- CSPU for the development of Urban Master Plans

Dr. Abdurahman  Mohamed*,  Samar Zourob**


* Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Bahrain, Ex-Director-IWAN Center for Architectural Heritage, Islamic University Gaza, Palestine.

**Architect, Municipality of Khan Younis, Palestine.


The master plan is a tool to draw the strategies for urban development in the city. It is  an important organizational framework to facilitate connection and interaction between people, land uses and services. It reflects the style of life and city character. Several approaches have been used to define the master plan and to develop means to deal with its spatial organization. More recently,  the master plan has been defined as a spatial plan and has been divided into different spatial hierarchies  in order to improve the vitality of the plan and urban environment it deals with. It has been found that the concept of community unit is one of the effective tools to organize the spatial hierarchy of master plans. The aim of this concept  is to ensure that a residential community is properly served by the right number, size and type of schools, parks, mosques, shops, clinics and other services and facilities. It also aims at distributing these facilities in a manner that will both be convenient and give a sense of identity, continuity and coherence.

This study provides further development of the concept and widens its scope to be the Community Spatial Planning Unit- CSPU. In the light of this concept, spatial planning of  Khan Younis city, Gaza, Palestine has been discussed since the plan of the British Mandate, 1946 until 2005 Master Plan. it is found that spatial planning in Khan Younis did not recognize any type of well defined organization or hierarchical coordination. This severely has affected the quality of urban life in the city and the level of its services and facilities. It is of crucial importance to consider the Community Spatial Planning Unit- CSPU in the development of the future master plans of the city as a necessary requirement for improving its urban character and quality of life.


1. What is the master plan:


The Master Plan is used most often to help City Council and Planning Commission in evaluating the appropriateness of proposed development. It compliments other planning tools and ordinances and the various design guidelines for commercial, multifamily, infill and development corridors by showing the whole image of development. In other words, it puts individual pieces, represented by individual development projects, together to form a desired mosaic of land uses and densities of development.

The master plan is a tool to draw the character of the city within the kind of movement framework, organization of spaces in the urban fabric which take different types. Ching (1996) classifies spatial organization types as central, linear, radial, cluster and grid organizations [1]. On the other hand, Lynch (1960) classified the components of the spatial structure of the city images five elements: Paths, edges, districts, modes and landmarks [2].


2. The role of the Master Plan [3]:


The Master Plan is a policy guide that identifies city goals for directing future land development. It also deals with community policy issues and is used in this regard in a variety of ways including:

  • To evaluating development proposals.
  • To coordinating development within the city and with adjacent jurisdictions like transport links and connectivity, landscape character and amenity, and natural hazards
  • To plan neighborhood, special area and the provision of community facilities and reserves.
  • To forecast future service and facilities needs.
  • To raise funding for the implementation of its programs like the protection of sites, features or values (cultural, ecological, historical or amenity related).
  • To provide solutions for the future increase in the population in the urban area.
  • To care for the socio-economic and socio-cultural components in the community.
  • To carefully consider the history and identity in the planned area.

It is of great importance at this stage to look at the master plan as the tool for giving all the above factors  their spatial dimension by allocating land requirements space characteristics for them.


3. Master Planning vs. spatial planning:

Master planning deals with urban land uses and circulation patterns in two-dimensional space plans to serve as a guide to city authorities for many years. Increasingly, it is considered as an “exercise in futility” with the great pace of development change and future uncertainty. More recently, the term spatial planning is used to denote to the ongoing process of urban policy formation with all the dynamics of the urban society and rise and fall of powers and factors affecting it.


The main purpose of spatial planning … is not to mandate particular land uses but to allow for the better coordination of urban policies and large-scale project developments across space, to test alternative policies and designs by looking at their spatial implications, and to allow for an informed public discourse about them [3].

With the great increase in urban areas in recent times and the very complicated interrelationships between the factors  affecting them, it became unacceptable to look at the urban planning area as a simple singular continuous space. A basic trend has appeared dividing the master plan into several planning divides. The Detailed Plan is one way of looking at parts of the master plan in more detail. Yet it is now outdated and suffer serious problems in its ability to connect with other detailed plans for other areas. One more problem concerns the reality that socio-economic structure of urban areas has actually multi-level and multi-dimensions components in terms of their spatial distribution and functional interrelationships. And from this fact the concept of spatial hierarchy appeared to care for these problems  in the master plan.


4. Spatial hierarchy in the Master Plan:

A hierarchy is an arrangement of objects, people, elements, values, grades, orders, classes, etc., in a ranked or graduated series and can link entities either directly or indirectly, and either vertically or horizontally. The hierarchy implies a rank ordered change from one condition to another, and it refers to the degree of importance existing among forms and spaces. Ching (1996) and Krier (1991) explain that hierarchy by size, by shape and by placement are the main compositional rules in architecture [1], [4]. Alan Kaiser (2000) on the hand, argues that the hierarchical organization allows structures to be distinguished at a very general level (e.g. public vs. private space) as well as a more specific one (e.g. elite vs. non-elite housing) [5]. Wood (2004)  adds that the term hierarchy refers to the arrangement of spaces within a given area in an order of importance [6].

And it is of great importance here to denote to the fact that spatial hierarchy is a function of a more fundamental hierarchy deeply rooted in the act of human dwelling in urban spaces; that is the hierarchy of human needs. According to Pieri (1997),  hierarchy of needs was developed by psychologists in order to understand the behavior and motivations of individuals. It was thence adapted to the environmental hierarchy of human needs. several levels were identified [7]:

  • § The satisfaction of basic needs (food, energy and shelter),
  • § Providing security and  preventing any aggression against public safety.
  • § Increasing level of awareness and the recognition of collective responsibility to society towards the environment.
  • § The acknowledgement by all the stakeholders of the necessity of full internalization of the environment.

Taking the hierarchy of these needs into consideration implies that they should be acknowledged at all urban scales and  that provisions for them should be addressed at these different scales.

The different methods to determine the order of importance in urban hierarchy have been based upon: population size and  the range and number of goods and services provided. Batty and Longley (1994) denote that cities are organized hierarchically into neighborhoods whose rank and the spatial extent depend upon the economic function which they offer to the surrounding population. Specialized centers serve larger areas, whereas those of local needs serve smaller ones. This hierarchy is formed by centers and their surroundings, which have several elements – functions  in common, starting with the Central Business District –CBD, followed by some district centers, a larger number of neighborhood centers and even more local centers [8]. On the other hand, Friedmann (2007), identify three interrelated scales of the urban structure: the neighborhood, the municipal and the fringe around the municipal. The neighborhood gives rise to a sense of place and community. neighborhoods are built on walkable scale depending on the distance to the primary school. They are focused on residential areas and functions: parks, recreation, community services, convenience shopping, and religious worship [3].


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