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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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Paul Reynolds
13 Jan 2017

The reason is that public land is increasingly being seen as the panacea to our housing crisis. On the surface it is a win/win situation - cash-strapped public bodies and local authorities can monetise underused or surplus land assets, while the development market gets to pick up sites in often prime areas. However, there is the small issue of ‘best value’. This underpins any transaction involving public land, and while government guidance sets out a number of factors that need to be considered when evaluating if best value is being achieved, nine times out of 10 when it is applied to land transactions it is read as shorthand for top price. In recent years, many public bodies have had their government funding drastically reduced or cut altogether, and pressure has been placed on those with significant landholdings to look long and hard at how they can be monetised. In many cases, the best solution may be to retain the land and redevelop it, providing a long-term revenue stream. However, this is often not viable as they don’t have the capital funding or in-house expertise to undertake the redevelopment, and while some may partner with the private sector to do this, others look to sell the land instead. Financial & non-financial downsides The downsides to this are twofold. Firstly, it encourages over-development of sites. Potential purchasers will look to squeeze as much out of the sites as possible in order to realise the highest financial returns. Secondly, it often means that social value is ignored. The non-monetary benefits

UK & Europe ,

Claire Wansbury
09 Jan 2017

The government had previously committed support to seven garden cities. The change in policy is to draw in smaller developments, each delivering between 1,500 and 10,000 new homes. It is easy to assume that these ‘village’ developments must, by definition, be smaller scale than the garden cities originally envisaged by Howard, but in reality the largest will be similar in numbers of dwellings to Howard’s original theoretical proposals.   A key challenge in delivering the quality of living spaces envisaged under the garden cities movement comes from the density of each development. Howard’s vision involved cities supporting 32,000 people across 2,400 hectares. In modern developments the density of dwellings is far higher.   In any new garden village, the greenspaces should be multi-functional, benefitting human health, social cohesion, wildlife, and flood management. The benefits that people gain from the natural environment are termed ecosystem services. Obvious examples include food and fuel, but less obvious benefits are provided by services such as pollination and the contribution natural habitats make to flood control. Some of these services are effectively ‘free goods’, which people benefit from without paying for them overtly – the cost only becomes apparent when an ecosystem is degraded and the service declines. Ecosystem services valuation attempts to take account of these services in cost-benefit analysis. Some services can be valued by direct pricing (e.g. food and fuel); others are valued by proxy, such as willingness to pay for recreational use or the increase in house prices in areas with green space. True

UK & Europe ,

Neil Manthorpe
05 Dec 2016

With green space and public health so closely entwined, we must focus more funding towards increasing the quantity and accessibility of our green spaces. If we don’t act on this then public health is likely to worsen. Lack of movement is now the fourth leading risk factor for death according to the World Health Organisation and while we’re all familiar with the recommended 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, 37 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women aren’t achieving this. I believe this is mainly due to lack of opportunity, and that if more cycle routes and walkways were in place people would find it easier to incorporate their recommended daily amount of activity into their lives. With the incorporation of this regular exercise able to directly reduce the risk of strokes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, some cancers and type 2 diabetes, investing in green infrastructure (GI) and green space is an extremely worthwhile effort and gives us returns far greater than the investment it requires.  Atkins has been at the forefront of delivering GI for the past 30 years, opening up access to all the benefits that green space and connections can provide. A project I’m proud to be involved in is the creation of a network of cycle routes across the London Borough of Kingston. These routes will drastically improve connectivity across the borough for cyclists and provide a safe alternative to driving, benefiting residents and improving the liveability of Kingston.  While GI needs to be a country

UK & Europe ,

Liam Harrison
30 Nov 2016

Nowhere is this more important than in the Northern Powerhouse, where our clients are looking to use investments in transportation to not only create better connectivity to the rest of the UK, but to stimulate the jobs, housing and development the region needs to flourish. With so many people looking at stations to help advance their cause, it’s crucial that we develop a masterplan and concept design that works for infrastructure owners, local and strategic planners as well as developers and investors. It’s imperative that we ensure all stakeholders’ views are taken into account on a new station, particularly at the early stages of projects, to develop a scheme that works for both the city and the wider region and builds confidence in its ability to deliver the anticipated benefits. It’s vital that the station can benefit each and every stakeholder, without compromising the overarching objective, whether it be to deliver high speed rail or upgrade an existing station. It’s about creating partnerships with shared goals, where people understand both what is best for them and what is best for the greater good of everyone involved – where everyone works together to ensure a station achieves value for everyone. A great example of this is Leeds Station, where we’re working with a carefully selected team to develop the masterplan that will transform the station into a distinctive, modern destination and fully integrated national transport hub. This will be a true partnership, combining each company’s unique expertise to deliver an integrated masterplan

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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