The Westmorland Gazette ran today with a news piece about a project I’ve been working on at Garsdale Design Limited .   It’s been a really interesting project and a wonderful to know that our work from a very small family firm in Cumbria can have the potential to make such a big difference for people.

We’ve been working on the master planning project for Nasiriyah (a city in Southern Iraq, Dhi Qar) for over two years now, and you may have got hints from this blog that I was working on something interesting!

Iraqi Planners in Kendal

We also held training sessions here in the UK (in Liverpool) for the Iraqi planners that will eventually take ownership of the master plan.   This was a great opportunity to meet town planning and local government professionals from a very different environment.    Despite all the sad stories that news organisations like to print about Iraq they were all very upbeat confident professionals who wanted nothing but the best for their country.   It was a very positive and friendly experience for both parties.

As we are a small firm everyone needs multiple skills outside their specialisms.   I maybe a planner but I’m also the IT guy responsible for our website/social networking, general systems and backup procedures as well as a projects GIS, I’m often involved in CAD and word/Indesign production as well.   It’s not a boast its just what you have to do in a small team, and it certainly keeps you on your toes!

The Masterplan

Extract Map Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar, Iraq

My involvement has been with the many aspects of the Planning standards, GIS and mapping as well some of the report writing.

I did the research of existing Iraqi standards and master plans (from mainly Polish firms in the 1980s) as well as helped create the new planning standards.  

There were also instances where facts on the ground changed during the project for instance water and sewage treatment plants were being completed before whilst the project was just getting started!   This was not a problem (but it did require some updates to the GIS!) as to wait for planners to figure out where best to site these plants would be unfair and harmful to the local population.

The GIS for Nasiriyah

Here in the UK I have managed and updated the GIS for the Nasiriyah project.   It’s been a steep learning curve as although I know the capabilities of GIS and how it can add real value to a project some of the more technical/programming aspects I am not so familiar with.    

Capture those GCPs!

Our Iraqi partners (Iraqi Planners Group) did all the major surveying and photography in Iraq.  They collected together large datasets and sent them to us as geodatabases (ArcGIS).   Difficulties with the datasets were mainly down to language barriers.   Our Arabic being ‘limited’ meant that we relied on their English skills and our use of Google Translate which sometimes led to confusing labels and fields.   However we have close contact with our Iraqi counterparts and these were quickly ironed out.

Satellite Imagery was also purchased that covered Nasiriyah city’s existing size on the, this was georeferenced with appropriate Ground Control Points (GCPs).

Well that’s all for the moment about the project I’ve been working on obviously I can’t let you know everything but if you are interested you can visit Garsdale Design Limited’s website for experience sheets on the project.  

I’ll just leave you with extracts of some the mapping I’ve done for the project…. it would be nice if people had questions or comments about any aspects of the project.

Early Landuse Map

Issues with old Master Plan
Time in Residence


  1. Dear Elliot,
    I just came across your interesting blog.
    i am a planner and architect from Jordan. I worked on training for Iraqis as well.
    I might join a new project that is concerned of planing some areas in Iraq(Master Plans).
    I wonder if you can share more with me about your experiences. You have mentioned some research that you did for standards and in this part of the world, I know it is very difficult and different. Can you elaborate more about this issue please.
    Thank you in advance


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