Chapelton of Elsick is a visionary new town being constructed next to the A90 beside Newtonhill. It is being constructed by Elsick Development Company led by David Carnegie, Duke of Fife.

W M Donald has a long and proud record of work undertaken on the Elsick estate dating back to 1980s. The master architect of the Chapelton development is Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ). DPZ is one of the pioneers and leading advocates of New Urbanism, a movement which promotes the development of walkable, mixed-use communities.

The initial masterplan is for 4054 homes. When all the ‘neighbourhoods’ have been completed the final total will be in the region of 8000 homes.

Prior to construction starting on site, DPZ led a charrette. A charrette brings together the key decision makers – stakeholders and professionals – to collaborate with the DPZ team (to found out more about how charrette functions visit W M Donald was involved as an observer at the charrette and the ideas and feedback generated impacted on both the scope of works and the way in which those works were undertaken.

The first neighbourhood to be built is Cairnhill. W M Donald provided all the enabling works for the site including the construction of a new roundabout, access roads, hard landscaping including extensive use of SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems), construction of a 4km rising main, and access for utilities. W M Donald has subsequently undertaken the plot works for a large proportion of the first tranche of 250 properties, many of which are already occupied.

The international profile of this landmark project understandably attracted bids from the UK’s largest civil engineering contractors. W M Donald, using its extensive experience of local ground conditions combined with its state-of-the-art surveying equipment and software, focussed on optimising the use of excavated materials. This included extensive cut and fill planning.

Scope of Works

  • Bulk cut and fill earthworks
  • Construction of a new roundabout on the existing road network
  • Road construction, both core and distributor
  • Sewers
  • Sewage pumping station and rising main
  • SUDS basins
  • Water pumping station
  • Construction of all utility networks on site, including gas, water, electricity, street lighting and telecommunications
  • Connection of new services to existing utility network

"Our attention to detail, ability to see the first phase of construction as part of a long-term ‘bigger’ picture, and our track record of working with the client were the key factors in winning this prestigious project. "

David Morrison – Managing Director

Engineering Commentary

"This is a fascinating, challenging and rewarding project to work on. There is a collective commitment from all parties to create something lasting and truly unique.

Due to the scale of the project there are multiple professional  interfaces to be managed – developer, architect, landscape architect, consulting engineers and so on.

Challenges have included the construction of the 4km rising main which incorporated three dual carriageway crossings, and the management of surface water run-off using a wide range of SUDS approaches such as soakways, trenches and detention basins."

Ewan Riddoch – Technical Director

Learning Points

The eventual success of a civil engineering project is invariably down to the detailed planning and preparation undertaken before work starts on site. However, as Eisenhower said, plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy. The benefit of detailed planning is that it creates the knowledge and scope to respond quickly and effectively to unforeseen circumstances such as variations in ground conditions.

At Elsick, a planned excavation unexpectedly led to a breach in a natural rock bund. This caused the escape of ground water which threatened to overwhelm the detention basin forming part of the SUDS provision on site. The solution was to build a temporary rising main and distribute the water across an area of woodland. This area acted as a natural filter and enabled the water to trickle back down to the water course in controlled and manageable volumes.


Download this case
study as a PDF


Web Links
Official website of the Chapelton development.
Website of Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company
Information on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)