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Urban development

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Atkins is a major force in urban development. We design cities throughout the world, delivering sustainable solutions to best meet the needs of modern populations.


As Europe’s largest multidisciplinary consultancy, Atkins is uniquely positioned to add value to every part of urban development and urban regeneration.

Masterplanning and project management

Our work includes projects in transport, energy, water and environment, building design, industry, communications, masterplanning and project management, health and education infrastructure. For every project, we have experts with insight and sensitivity to local community issues, the political and socio-economic climate and the imperative of providing urban development that makes a lasting legacy for future generations.

Urban development partnerships

We work in close partnership with local government organisations, developers and local communities to plan, design and enable projects that add value for all stakeholders. Our clients range from large public sector organisations and private/public partnerships to multinational corporations, as well as individual private developers such as those in the Middle East region.



Urban development consists of many different specialists coming together with one common goal – the development of inspiring and sustainable cities.

Some of our specialist areas of expertise in this sector include:


Our masterplanners’ emphasis is on design excellence, supported by a breadth of multidisciplinary skills and technical expertise at every stage of the process.

For more information on our masterplanning expertise, download our brochure

Landscape design

Atkins’ landscape designers have a flair for creating imaginative and memorable spaces, blending the technical demands of a brief with the natural constraints of location.

Transport planning

The transport system is an integral component of any modern development plan. If planned effectively, the transport system can make a major contribution towards the overall success of a development by providing efficient connections to existing neighbouring areas and helping to create a high quality environment within the development site itself.

Local development frameworks

Atkins has a strong track record of working with local authorities. We work by fostering excellent relationships with our clients and ensure we have a detailed understanding of our clients’ wider objectives, an in-depth understanding of key technical issues, and that we apply leading-edge thinking.

Public realm design

Atkins is passionate about creating innovative, elegant and practical solutions for all facets of public realm design. These solutions are informed by historic context and character to bring about a strong sense of identity and place.

Sustainability and environmental consultancy

We provide a comprehensive range of services to help public and private sector organisations characterise, assess, quantify and manage their relationship with the natural environment. We aim to respond to the environmental, social and resource challenges facing us today and into the future, as well as to prepare for a changing climate.

Infrastructure engineering

Infrastructure, utility services and enabling works are required for all successful developments. Atkins provides strategic planning, design, project management and procurement support for infrastructure works on developments both on land and at sea.

International planning

Our key services are:

  • Tourism masterplanning and resort development
  • Integrated township development
  • Industrial planning
  • Mixed-use masterplanning
  • Strategic planning and policy advisory
  • Infrastructure planning


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Matt Gamble
21 Mar 2017

On some occasions, residential estates and business parks have been planned and developed without enough consideration of how they will be served by buses. The result is usually a low level of bus service provision, a low level of passenger uptake, and a resultant high level of car dependency. The continued squeeze on local authority revenue budgets makes the provision of bus services in these circumstances even less likely. An alternative vision for bus services in new developments starts with the principle of prioritising passengers’ time. If buses are to succeed in attracting passengers, residents need to perceive bus services to be quick, punctual and frequent. The design of new developments directly influences all three attributes. Following this, is the principle of maximising the resources used to provide the bus service; since this also drives a quick, punctual and frequent service. Passenger-facing technology such as real-time information builds support for bus services but does not substitute for these basic components. In principle, the features required to give the bus service a fighting chance are straightforward. Roads should be of suitable width and geometry to allow two large vehicles to pass with ease, with consideration given to controlling kerbside car parking as required. Bus routes need to maximise the accessibility of bus services by ensuring bus stops are within a reasonable distance, and that the walking routes that serve them are direct and well-lit. Immediately we face a trade-off between bus service density and frequency. In cases where development design has failed to adequately

UK & Europe ,

Marc Woodall
21 Mar 2017

Studies by the World Health Organisation and Public Health England show that people who exercise every day for 15 minutes, are 30% less likely to suffer from illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Their risk of certain cancers also falls by up to 30%. But it's not only about good health; a greater number of people choosing to walk and cycle also makes good transport and urban planning sense. Transport users who walk or cycle better economise road space when travelling, in comparison to some other travel modes such as cars or taxis. Naturally this benefit extends to parking issues; you could store 20 bicycles in the same space as one car. Air quality and carbon emission benefits are well documented, and studies such as the Department for Transport's The Value of Cycling report suggest that people who the visit shops on foot or by bike spend more than people who drive. Beyond evidence based studies alone, the walking and cycling agenda has been supported by: industry collaboration, sharing of best practice, commitment at policy level by government funding schemes and the launch of their cycling and walking specific strategy. When you combine these benefits, encouraging walking and cycling as the mode of choice seems to be the silver bullet to some of the challenges that society is facing. Inevitably however, there are certain challenges and barriers to increasing levels of walking and cycling that require further consideration. There has been a real drive toward urban planning for all travel modes, but legacy

UK & Europe ,

Lisa Knowles
21 Mar 2017

Research by think-tank IPPR highlights that there are approximately 20 towns in the North with populations of more than 75,000. These towns represent nearly one-third of the North’s economy (£82 billion) and a similar amount of its population. Towns are a focal point for education, employment and cultural activities. This is highlighted by travel to work area geographies, highlighting the importance of UK towns (and surrounding districts) as self-contained labour market areas (e.g. where most people both live and work), and highlighting that cities are not the sole focus for jobs and economic activity. Steven Broomhead, CEO, Warrington Borough Council, understands and acknowledges the importance of successful towns in contributing to the wider productivity drive in the North of England.   Warrington has seen rapid economic and population growth. It has traditionally been overshadowed by its M62 neighbours to the East (Manchester) and West (Liverpool), but its location alongside the M6 provides a potential focus. Steven is developing the idea of bringing together several key towns along the M6 corridor to pool expertise and knowledge, drive economic growth, support each other, maximise inward investment and ensure that jobs and homes are available for local people.  The idea is to focus upon improvements required by collective areas, including connectivity, planning, public transport, roads, rail and housing. This proposal is being labelled ‘Northern Power Towns’. Bringing these Power Towns together rather than operating as single entities will improve productivity across the area. This requires the common areas and themes to be established. This includes:  economic

UK & Europe ,

Jonathan Foster-Clark
21 Mar 2017

Part of the challenge here is that infrastructure isn’t developed overnight. For instance, major transport tends to be decades in the making and works to five-year funding cycles. This can be at odds with the priorities and shorter timescales that are driving the creation of homes at a local or regional level. So closer alignment between homes and infrastructure will reap significant benefits for everyone.  Members of the public do not consider local authority boundaries when it comes to choosing where they live, where they work and how they travel. But they do assume that someone will be considering their needs. Problems start to arise though if this is being done by individual organisations in their traditional silos. Our experience has shown that a clear understanding of the roles of the local, sub-regional and regional / national networks is needed in planning for the needs of housing and growth. Take transport as an example. The rail network largely supports a wide range of travel needs, including leisure, commuting into the bigger cities and business journeys, whereas Highways England is focused primarily on business trips and movement of goods and often expresses concern about its roads being used for local commuting and junction hopping. Add to this the local authority’s perspective about the use of their local network and it is clear to see how failing to address the supporting infrastructure at a very early stage could lead to delays or cancellation of much needed housing projects. The right starting point is that

UK & Europe ,


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To prepare for the 2014 Youth Olympics, the Nanjing City called for an International Design Competition to revitalize a scenic waterfront and green belt zone along the Yangtze River. Atkins was awarded the first prize. The challenge of the project was finding a resilient solution to integrate the individual lots, open space and landscape features which stretched along the river for 30 km and covered 11 hectares of land into one comprehensive piece. Atkins’ proposal provokes innovative waterfront planning strategies to reclaim the lost space and provide diverse recreational opportunities. In line with the requirements of the 2014 Youth Olympics and new developments along the south shore of Nanjing, an iconic area in Nanjing’s riverfront comprising and consolidating recreation, tourism, ecology, transit and culture regimens will be completed in the near future.

China ,

The IMX project site lies within the world-class Hongqiao Transportation Hub, which connects the airport, high speed rail and Shanghai public transit system. The winning Atkins concept architecturally expresses international trade and creates places and spaces where people exchange goods and ideas, thus creating optimal opportunities for the IMX brand to create wealth. The contract will also see Atkins develop its iconic architectural designs for the IMX exhibition centre and supporting commercial development covering approximately 150,000 square metres. All buildings within the Atkins masterplan have been designed to meet or exceed China’s three-star Green Building Standard.

China ,

The Wessal Bouregreg project is a visionary scheme to transform the cultural and social landscape of Morocco’s capital, Rabat. We designed the masterplan for this inner city site, as well as two of its most iconic buildings - the Library of National Archives of the Kingdom of Morocco, and the House of Arts and Culture - for Wessal Capital, an investment fund for tourism and real estate projects in the Kingdom of Morocco. The masterplan will create a new national cultural hub for Morocco, and will enhance Rabat’s position on the world stage as a destination to enjoy internationally important historic archives as well as new arts and cultural offerings. The inspiration for the scheme began with an investigation into the rich cultural history of Morocco and its unique historic development of mathematical
With storm and flood damage creating chaos and headline news across the UK, it is crucial that we not only repair the damage, but protect ourselves against future occurrences. Atkins has been appointed to design a replacement for the 30 year old sea wall in Morecambe. The wall will be constructed in three stages, with the first part currently under way.  The project compromises a new one metre high wall, over 1.8 kilometres in length and once complete it will protect 13,000 properties in this Lancashire coastal resort. The wall will feature motifs reflecting local personalities, stories and references to flora and fauna. It has been designed to be robust as well as being beautiful in design and has been sloped back on the seaward side to give the impression of a wider promenade space. New surfacing, lighting and furniture will also enhance the promenade for residents, visitors and all users of this high profile seafront commission. 

UK ,

The Le Tour Way development in York provides large and spacious sustainable homes split 50/50 for council houses and homes for sale on the private market. We  designed the properties in response to feedback from residents on previous schemes, and all of the homes are built to ‘Lifetime Homes’ standards, which allows residents to stay in their homes longer and make adaptations at lower cost. Low water fittings and appliances, as well as rainwater collection for irrigation and flushing of WCs, help to minimise water use. Each home and apartment has individual facilities for recycling. As a result of the integrated design approach, the properties are inexpensive to run whilst minimising the impact on the environment. The design of the development strived to achieve ‘Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4’, meaning energy use was minimised through passive design before incorporating low and zero carbon technologies.   We provided multidiscipline services for the development, including architecture, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering, landscaping, masterplanning, project management and code for sustainable homes assessment.

UK ,

The primary tools for controlling and treating stormwater are referred to as stormwater best management practices (BMPs). BMPs include features such as detention ponds, rain gardens, and swales, which slow and treat stormwater as it moves through the system, helping to reduce flood risk during storms and also improve water quality. To help the city decide where BMPs should be placed for the best results, Atkins worked with Bonita Springs to develop the BMP Assessment Tool (BAT). The tool allows the city to simulate various scenarios for placing BMPs throughout the stormwater drainage system. Using a rainfall/runoff algorithm, the tool estimates pollutant loads across the network for each scenario, supporting informed decision-making on which BMPs to implement and where to place them. A challenge in evaluating pollutant levels is estimating the amount of directly connected impervious areas (DCIA) in a community. These areas include buildings, driveways, parking lots, and roads that contribute to high concentrations of pollution. Traditionally, the way to accurately estimate DCIA is to use aerial imagery—an expensive and labor-intensive process many communities cannot afford. The BAT uses a new process of “virtualizing” DCIA by interpreting available road and parcel databases to simulate its likely location, producing a more accurate (and less costly) estimate of DCIA than traditional land use-based methods. By creating what-if scenarios, based on existing conditions and proposed BMP plans, the city was able to reach consensus on their citywide BMP plan. The plan includes a new multi-million dollar park project, which will improve recreation

USA , North America ,

The Rocky Mountain Greenway connects three Denver metro area National Wildlife Refuges with a continuous trail system between the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Two Ponds, and Rocky Flats in the northwest Denver metro area. The project is part of a larger vision, the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which seeks to reconnect Americans with the country’s natural resources. The Rocky Mountain Greenway was first announced in 2011 by Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and then‐Interior Secretary Salazar to close gaps in existing trail networks and develop new trails. To support this project, Atkins coordinated across numerous jurisdictions and agencies. We completed feasibility studies to identify the best options to connect the wildlife refuges and extend Denver’s existing greenway trail network and prepared preliminary cost estimates to aid in prioritizing projects and developing improvement packages. Atkins also provided final design and completed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements for the seven-mile portion of trail spanning Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada and the Great Western Open Space in Broomfield.  The trail system is expected to extend to Rocky Mountain National Park in the future, creating an 80-mile long continuous route. The completed trail network would link thousands of acres of public lands together, connecting metropolitan residents to the vast natural areas surrounding them—passing through more than 10 municipalities, six counties, and four federal land areas. A grand opening ceremony for the completion of the continuous 25‐mile stretch between the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and the southeastern portion of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge took

USA , North America ,

This two-berth cruise terminal on the north coast of the Dominican Republic is capable of accommodating up to two post-Panamax cruise vessels, which translates to roughly 10,000 visitors a day. Carnival Corporation estimates eight of its brands will make 140 calls on the port, with 23 ships throughout its first year of operation. In addition to planning, landscape design, architecture, and engineering services for Amber Cove’s structures and amenities, we also designed roadways and the transportation hub that helps visitors take onshore excursions and explore outlying points of interest. The development also includes hillside waterslides overlooking the 5-acre pool/lazy river recreation area, a zipline, a series of shops and restaurants, a destination duty-free shop, and a hilltop food and beverage establishment with a 360-degree ramp access from below. Echoing the culture and existing architecture in the area, we incorporated modern interpretations of historical periods of significance for the Puerto Plata province. Visitors perusing the 25-acre waterfront development will enjoy an architectural nod to the fortified 16th century, classical-colonial 18th century, and Victorian late 19th century in 25 buildings and multiple landscapes. Atkins also incorporated features that promote self-sufficiency and sustainability including rooftop rainwater harvesting, seawater desalination, a wastewater treatment plant to minimize environmental impacts, and backup generators to ensure uninterrupted utility service.

Dominican Republic , North America ,



Ready to dig  

Atkins is the UK’s leading provider of utility reports. We also provide a wide range of utility management services across the lifecycle of a project.


In this section you can find technical papers and thought leadership articles produced by Atkins for the urban development sector.

Title Format Size
Carbon Critical Masterplanning pdf 256KB

In this section you can find thought leadership articles produced by Atkins for the urban development sector.

Title Format Size
Future Proofing Cities brochure pdf 7.4MB
Living Space: Tomorrow's City pdf 2.7MB


For more information on our work and experience in this sector please contact:

UK and International

Richard Alvey
International cities director
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7121 2264


North America

United States of America
Tel: +1 800 477 7275


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