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


5. Practical applications on the community concept in spatial planning:

It is important nowhere to study the use of community concept in the establishment of spatial hierarchy in some of spatial plans form different countries in order to shed more light on the characteristics of this concepts and its benefits. The selection of these spatial plans depended merely on their use of spatial hierarchy. The search of these plans was very difficult and took long time since the concept of spatial planning and hierarchy is not so common. Four examples have been studied: one from USA, one from Pakistan and two from the Gulf region in the Middle East.


5-1 Frederick County community Structure, USA [9]:

Frederick County 1972 General Development Plan outlined two planning philosophies which represented the Community Concept in later Comprehensive Plans. The 1972 Plan describes the division of the County into ‘Environmental Units’ which emphasize the social and functional character of planning areas – “total living environments” – subdivided from the County as a whole. These units are defined by residential population range beginning with Neighborhoods (1,500-7,000 residents), Communities (10,000 – 34,000 residents), Districts (40,000 – 100,000 residents), and finally, Regions (100,000 – 250,000 residents).

This Environmental Unit Concept is presented in the 1972 document as a means of bolstering the neighborhood as a fundamental component of new communities while battling the emerging sprawl pattern which at the time was becoming quite noticeable across the County. The Environmental Unit Concept also recommends the inclusion of public services and commercial uses in an attempt to establish sociologically balanced, mixed use communities.

The 1972 Plan anticipated Frederick County population, by the year 2000, of nearly 240,000 residents – not far off from the eventual mark of nearly 200,000 residents in that year. The Community Concept idea also addressed the land area needed to supply adequate area for anticipated growth at various housing densities, but the Plan ultimately stopped short of specifying, or mandating, these densities in Frederick County and in this way failed to control the growth of low density housing in the following years.

By 1984, the idea of the Community Concept as a primary means of establishing a planning order in the development of new communities – and in the growth in and around existing communities – is firmly established and adopted as County growth policy. While the 1972 Plan utilizes the basic building block of the ‘Neighborhood’, the 1984 approach designates this unit as a District Community. The 1984 Plan concentrates on establishing and reinforcing communities with distinct physical identities, recognizably distinct geographical edges formed by natural and man-made barriers, vibrant activity centers or community focal points, and pre-determined, ultimate physical size constraints. Excluding the unique designation of the City of Frederick as the County Center, the Community Concept as described in 1990 and later in 1998, allows for three fundamental community types: (figure-1)


5-1-1 The Regional Community (5,000 – 15,000 residents):

  • § Preferred Residential Density: 3-12 dwellings per acre.
  • § Residential Uses: Full range of housing including single-family detached, and multi-family. Employment Uses: Regional employment center
  • § Transportation Facilities: Direct access to major arterial highway or expressway; scheduled County transit service; interconnected bicycle corridors and linked pedestrian network; park and ride lots
  • § Public Facilities: Library branches (regional); schools (elementary, middle, and high); community and neighborhood parks; local police and public safety services; post office; water and sewer service; array of County public service facilities
  • § Commercial Services: Downtown commercial core/Town center; community, neighborhood, and mixed use activity centers.

5-1-2 The District Community (1,000 – 5,000 residents):

  • § Preferred Residential Density: 1-8 dwellings per acre.
  • § Residential Uses: Full range of housing including single-family detached, single family detached, and multi-family
  • § Employment Uses: Local employment uses
  • § Transportation Facilities: Direct access to major or minor arterial highway; scheduled County transit service; interconnected bicycle corridors and linked pedestrian network; park and ride lots
  • § Public Facilities: Library branches; schools (elementary and middle); community and neighborhood parks; fire and ambulance services; post office; water and sewer service;
  • § Commercial Services: Village commercial core/Town center; community, neighborhood, and mixed use activity centers


Figure (1): Community concept map -1998 comprehensive plan.



5-1-3 The Rural Community (less than 1,000 residents)

  • § Preferred Residential Density: Prevailing density in the designated community
  • § Residential Uses: Residences compatible with prevailing mix of housing types
  • § Employment Uses: Incidental
  • § Transportation Facilities: Rural crossroads of collectors and arterials
  • § Public Facilities: Neighborhood parks
  • § Commercial Services: Village center



5-2 Spatial hierarchy in the master plan of Al Ain city, 1986, UAE [12]:

Al Ain is considered the Garden City of UAE due to its green urban character. It is the second largest city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate and the fourth largest in the UAE. With a population of 374,000 (2009), it lies approximately 160 km east of the capital Abu Dhabi and about 120 km south of Dubai at the border with Oman (figure 2).


Figure (2): UAE map with the location of Al Ain city.

Source: 12


The master plan of 1986 was the first attempt to control urban development in the city through a comprehensive study of its elements and resources. It was also one of the distinguished plans to use the concept of spatial hierarchy for the spatial configuration and distribution of people and services in the city in order to preserve its special urban character distinguished not only among UAE cities but internationally. The master plan divided the city into the following hierarchies:

5-2-1 Kindergarten Community:

This is the smallest community unit with a population of 4,000 which is equivalent about 500 dwellings. It will include the following uses:

  • § a kindergarten for boys and girls
  • § three local mosques, and
  • § a local park or garden to include a children’s playground and kick about  area.
  • § A corner shop, or tow.

5-2-2 Neighborhood Community:

The basic residential unit of Al Ain community structure is derived from the primary school level, which provides populations of 8,000 and 5,350 for citizens and non-citizens, respectively. This is called the Neighborhood Community (NC) and in the case of citizens it can usefully be further divided into two Kindergarten Communities (KC) of 4,000 people each. The citizen Neighborhood will consist 2 kindergarten communities and will thus have a population of  8,000 in approximately 1,000 dwelling. Additional facilities at this level in the hierarchy will include the following: (figures 3, 4)

  • § 2 single sex primary schools
  • § A neighbiourhood mosque
  • § A neighbiourhood shopping centre
  • § A kickabout area, play  areas and multi-purpose ball games area.

5-2-3 District Community:

On the basis of intermediate and secondary school catchments, a new district unit will consist of 20,000 citizens and some 19,000 non-citizens for Al Ain . Such a district will comprise 2.5 citizen neighbiourhood, each containing two kindergarten communities, together with 3.5 smaller non-citizen neighbiourhood.

Services at the district level will incorporate the following :

  • § 2 intermediate schools for citizens ( 1 boys and 1 girls )
  • § 2 secondary schools for citizens ( 1 boys and 1 girls )
  • § 2 combined intermediate/secondary schools for non-citizen (1 boys and 1 girls)
  • § 1 district mosque
  • § 1 district shopping center ;
  • § Open space and recreation facilities to include swimming pool, multi-use sports hall, kickabout area, football pitch and tennis courts; youth club, miscellaneous uses including ;health clinic, government/ sub-municipality office, post office, telecommunications office, police station, fire station, library/community hall, petrol station, area for service industry.


5-3 Spatial hierarchy in the master plan of Dubai city,1993, UAE [13]:

Another classification for the hierarchy of residential communities applied in the city of Dubai, UAE. The urban development of Dubai has been shaped through different phases of fast economical growth since1960s until it became in the early 1990s, a major metropolitan area.  Its population grew from 1500 inhabitants in 1833 to 59,000 in 1968. In mid 1980s,  the number reached 370,788, and continued to grow to reach  689,420 in 1995.The Dubai Urban Area Strategic Plan 1993-2012 (figure 5) was prepared to direct the development of the provide a framework for the spatial structure of the city.

The city is divided into districts of 30,000 to 50,000 and districts are divided into communities of 5000 to 10,000. Communities in turn are divided into neighborhoods of 2000 t0 3000 (figures 6).

5-3-1 Neighborhood:

It differs from the neighborhood community in the master plan of Al Ain, 1986 where the population here ranges from 2000 t0 3000 and it depends on the kindergarten as the base for spatial and population configuration. Main services in the center of the neighborhood are illustrated in figure (7).

5-3-2 Community:

It depends on the primary school as the base for its spatial and population configuration. The population size ranges from  5000 to 10,000. Main services in the center of the community unit are illustrated in figure (8).

5-3-3 District:

Population of the district ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 and it depends on the secondary school as the base for its spatial and population configuration. Main services in the center of the community unit are illustrated in figure (9).


5-4 Islamabad Community structure, Pakistan:

Islamabad was planned as a new capital for Pakistan following the independence from India in 1947 and to provide a more protected site than that of Karachi at the southern edge of the country. In 1959, the Greece planner C.A. Doxiadis outlined his plan for the new city. It depended on a hierarchical system of communities of various classes, with functions distributed according to the size of each community. These communities are served by a transportation system linked to the wide corridors of the grid-iron configuration defining the higher class communities. Figure (10) illustrates four Class V Communities. “Each Class V Community has a population of 20.000 to 40.000 inhabitants and is divided into four Class IV communities, each composed in turn of four Class III Communities. Class V communities are spatially defined and accessed by major arteries at 2km. intervals. These arteries may be gradually upgraded to freeways,

depending on increasing traffic flows. They are developed within 180m wide transportation corridors where high speed public transport may also be accommodated. Short length minor arteries with 90m. right of way are spaced at about 1km distances, defining Class IV communities within which pedestrians can safely walk along a system of local roads, wide sidewalks and pedestrian roads, leading to the local centres and functions. By the extensive use of cul-de-sacs and loops, cars can move inside these “human communities” without interfering with pedestrians” [14].





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