DD2242 Housing Design Supplementary Guidance to the London Plan

Type of decision: 
Director's decision
Date signed: 
18 May 2018
Decision by: 
Martin Clarke, Executive Director, Resources

Executive summary

The Mayor will be producing new supplementary planning guidance (“SPG”) on housing design standards (“Housing Design SPG“) to support the delivery of related policies in the new London Plan.

The Housing Design SPG will consist of: (i) a guide to help boroughs and others determine the appropriate density of development as part of plan making and development management; (ii) guidance for boroughs to facilitate the delivery of small sites, including the preparation of design codes; (iii) a housing typology guide to support and better communicate density optimisation at all scales of development and support enhanced design scrutiny arrangements at both the dwelling and neighbourhood scale; and (iiii) London Housing Design Guidance, detailing Housing design standards as set out in the new draft London Plan along with enhanced approaches to design scrutiny. These guides will be prepared by external consultants.


That the Executive Director of Resources approves:

Expenditure of up to £130,000 across Financial Years 2018/19 and 2019/20, on external consultant support to prepare guidance and accompanying studies to form part of the new London Plan’s Housing Design SPG.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

The London Plan is the overall strategic plan for London, setting out an integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of London over the next 20–25 years. It brings together the geographic and locational (although not site specific) aspects of the Mayor’s other strategies – including those dealing with: Transport, Economic Development, Housing, Culture, a range of social issues such as children and young people, health inequalities and food, and a range of environmental issues such as climate change (adaptation and mitigation), air quality, noise and waste. It is the framework for the development and use of land in London, linking in improvements to infrastructure (especially transport); setting out proposals for implementation, coordination and resourcing; and helping to ensure joined-up policy delivery by the GLA Group of organisations (including Transport for London).

The Mayor produces supplementary planning guidance (SPGs) to provide further guidance on policies in the London Plan that can’t be addressed in sufficient detail in the plan itself. They are initially published in draft for consultation. Supplementary guidance can be useful where the level of detail is inappropriate for a development plan - for example development briefs, design guides and master plans for areas of intensive change and where there is a need for an urgent policy response to an emerging issue.

The Mayor will be producing a SPG on housing design standards (the “Housing Design SPG”). This will be a user-friendly document (or series of documents) that graphically communicates guidance, regulations and related best practice to support the implementation of new London Plan policies on housing design. It will provide illustrated best practice examples of higher-density housing typologies to fulfil the Mayor’s ambition for good growth.

The Mayor launched the Good Growth by Design (GGbD) Programme in July 2017. The programme sets out an integrated programme of work to enhance the design of buildings and neighbourhoods for all Londoners and to ensure the benefits of growth are more evenly shared. As part of the Programme the Mayor announced a series of design inquiries to investigate key issues for architecture, urban design and place-shaping, to set clear policies and standards including a commitment to review housing design standards. To meet this commitment the GGbD Housing Design sounding board populated by Mayor’s Design Advocates, industry representatives and other experts will act as a reference group to support the development of the Housing Design SPG – supporting the development and delivery of the consultancy work outlined in this report.

Following the preparation of the draft new London Plan, the Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills and the GLA’s Planning team led a formal statutory consultation (1 December 2017 to 2 March 2018) to ascertain professional, public and wider stakeholder response to the document – See MD2184 (Draft New London Plan — public consultation). The consultation has highlighted that there is concern that borough planning authorities lack the skills and capacity to effectively implement the London Plan housing design policies on small sites and optimising housing density.

Approval is therefore sought for expenditure of up to £130,000 on external consultant support to prepare the guidance that will form the London Plan’s Housing Design SPG, that will help inform borough planning authorities on how to implement the proposed housing design policies. Related elements of this consultancy commission will be prioritised to ensure the boroughs are ready for the London Plan Examination in Public (EiP) and to broaden understanding and implementation of related London Plan policies.

The development of the Housing Design SPG follows collaborative working between Development, Enterprise & Environment (Planning and Regeneration teams) and Housing and Land directorates and responds to the Mayor’s call for a Good Growth by Design inquiry into housing design standards and best practice more generally.

The Housing Design SPG will be developed by Planning/Architecture consultants who will be procured with the support of TFL Commercial.

Objectives and expected outcomes

The new Housing Design SPG will be delivered following the appointment of consultants who will support the preparation of the following guidance:

Optimising housing density – guidance to boroughs

Consultants will be asked to produce a guide for determining the appropriate density of new development on a site (implementing Policies D2, D6 and H1B.2 in the draft London Plan) at the plan-making and application stages. Specifically:

a) This should include a practical guide for boroughs to assess site capacity of large and small sites by undertaking urban design appraisal of opportunities and constraints, and producing simple briefs or design codes for sites to provide certainty of the nature (scale, height, layout and land use and resultant density) of development that is acceptable on the site. Consultants are to prepare a template brief or design code with accompanying guidance in the form of an explanatory back up document pitched at three levels of detail:

i. High-level capacity assessment and design guidance produced for all allocated development sites for a Local Plan
ii. More detailed capacity assessment and design guidance provided for sites in an area strategy/Opportunity Area
iii. Detailed capacity assessment and design guidance provided for a single development site which take account of pressures on the ground floors of development and the key factors that determine or limit the quantum of development on a site: limit of any building heights. unit mix requirements, land use mix; any non-residential requirements: car parking requirements, cycle parking requirements, rights of way, easements, no build zones, rights of light, factors that give rise to the amount of public realm required, ie access requirements, public open space, play and so forth. Identifying these key factors that will generally require engagement with partners who have extensive knowledge of the site and its context.

b) This guidance should link to, reference and refine the approach taken to assessing site capacity in Opportunity Area Planning Frameworks by the GLA.

c) This guidance should reference other guidance on assessing infrastructure needs and capacity.

d) The density measures required for new development by Policy D2 part D and E should be applied to a range of existing areas and sites across London to provide developers and borough planners a context and understanding of what these different density measures are for existing parts of London.

- Small sites delivery – guidance to boroughs.

Consultants will be asked to set out the context for and guidance to support the delivery of small sites (up to 25 units) across London, outlining the ambition for a significant and related net increase in housing numbers. The small sites guide should clearly show through worked examples and case studies how the skilful development of small sites can have a positive impact on the local neighbourhood as well as provide new housing. The guide should demonstrate that good, creative design can overcome some of the challenges associated with small sites such as parking, private amenity space, overlooking etc. The guide should provide the necessary guidance and assurance to boroughs and others to support an acceleration of housing delivery and give small housebuilders more certainty regarding residential development. Consultants are therefore to prepare guidance on implementing draft London Plan Policy H2, to include:-

A guide to producing design codes (including template examples) for small site developments, including sample design codes to intensify all common London housing types (e.g. Victorian terraces, 1930s semi-detached houses, etc), that can be adopted and used directly by London boroughs or amended for local circumstances. These design codes should clearly illustrate the scale and type of development considered appropriate, taking into account typical street and plot layouts, including:

i. Back land sites in terraced streets
ii. Mews sites
iii. Garage sites on estates
iv. Sites adjacent to railway lines
v. Increasing density of existing housing
vi. Extensions – including building on roof space
vii. New buildings within the curtilage of a house
viii. Conversions and hidden homes - including garages in existing blocks

Guidance on achieving no net loss of overall green cover in line with the draft London Plan policy.

Case studies of best practice to act as guidance / creative solutions to the common challenges of:

i. Parking – in particular parking requirements in outer London boroughs
ii. Refuse disposal and collection and wider servicing (ie deliveries,) cycle parking, storage, communal access.
iii. Private outdoor amenity space
iv. Overlooking
v. Efficiency - how to design efficient housing when under 25 units.
vi. Construction – access, neighbours – examples of offsite construction that limits disruption.

- Housing and Mixed-use Typology Guide.

Consultants will be asked to compile a guide of existing and emerging built form housing types with commentary on their relative performance at varying density levels. The guide should clearly illustrate the defining characteristics and positive attributes of each type; how each is physically composed and spatially laid out, how each can be sensitively introduced into existing contexts and importantly how each performs at the higher density ranges in terms of quality of life and urban design quality (with reference to 2.1.4 below). This could be achieved through literature review, case study research and or through theoretical modelling and by explaining the key design considerations, including surrounding amenities, that are important in successfully delivering each type, as part of high-quality housing and strong and mixed neighbourhoods. However, the guide and associated guidance should avoid promoting one approach over another and should not suggest a limited number of set ways of doing things. Specifically, consultants are expected to:

- Develop a graphically-communicated typologies guide illustrating prominent built form types (and their variants) at various densities along with:

i. Case studies of best practice for all types and approaches (historic and contemporary)
ii. Consideration of design issues related to families, children and young people living at density and at height
iii. Consideration of the implications on a series of quality of life indicators as densities increase for each type (see 2.4 b,c)
iv. Consideration of the contextual issues that could determine the choice of type. To some extent the choice of type can be driven by consideration of context, e.g. the need to establish a new urban grain in the area.
v. Consideration of the different building types’ ability to allow for future flexibility in terms of layout and use
vi. Reference to best practice construction techniques for each typology? (to link with small sites – some typologies might be better suited to off-site manufacture such as deck access linear blocks).

- Produce guidance for housing design when it is part of a mixed-use development or in close proximity to traditionally ‘unneighbourly’ uses for example:

i. Housing over retail or/office
ii. Housing over or next to leisure, community and entertainment uses
iii. Housing over or next to industrial uses
iv. Housing over or close to health centres and hospitals
v. Housing over or next to schools (with a focus on secondary schools)
vi. Housing over or next to transport infrastructure.

The typology guide will exist as a standardised library / resource of open access case studies which will continue to be developed beyond the lifetime of this commission. Consultants will be able to draw on the network of MDAs to populate the guide with best practice examples.

The London Housing Design Guide.

The draft new London Plan policy incorporates a range of policies and guidance for housing design, specifically Policy D4, along with measures to support residential quality at the neighbourhood scale. The Plan also advocates a greater level of scrutiny in terms of design quality. To support implementation of Plan guidance and develop approaches to scrutiny and compliance, there is a clear need to set out these policies and approaches in greater detail supported by clear diagrams illustrations and implementation guidance.

Consultants will be asked to prepare a highly graphical housing design guidance manual to reflect proposed policy and guidance and to provide a highly usable resource for designers, planners and developers of housing in London. It should cover as a minimum:

- A graphic representation of minimum housing space standards and other housing design guidance as set out in Policy D4.

- Guidance on (inc. graphic representation of) key urban design considerations that are needed to ensure quality at the neighbourhood scale and to successfully integrate new housing (inc. mixed use residential types) into the existing urban context and to support mixed neighbourhoods. For example:

i. safety and inclusivity
ii. accessing and servicing of the development
iii. interaction of the development with the surrounding public realm
iv. creating active frontages; (including legible and generous/welcoming residential entrances/foyers to provide strong street-based address for residents)
v. clearly defined fronts and backs to buildings
vi. creating a coherent pattern of streets and blocks
vii. necessary levels of supportive infrastructure
viii. opportunities for informal social interaction assessing the quality of the private and communal outside space – including access to greenspace and play opportunities.

- Reference to most pertinent environmental / quality of life standards, including:

i. Guidance assessing daylight and sunlight in and around new development (including impact of new development on existing housing)
ii. Guidance on using BRE standards in the London context
iii. Potential solutions to delivering good daylight and sunlight in high density large sites and on small sites – e.g. looking at best practice mitigation regarding unit depth, width, ceiling height. (This will have links to the typologies guidance)
iv. Guidance on ensuring comfortable internal temperature (thermal comfort ) of private and communal areas
v. Noise mitigation/management from communal areas and between dwellings.
vi. Guidance on air quality impacts of layout and site planning.
vii. Consideration and cross reference to environmental policies elsewhere in the London Plan e.g. the impacts of flood risk on the ground floors of development.

- Advice regarding Design Quality Management – to include guidance on how to scrutinise the design quality of a proposed development, with reference to the space standards compliance (establishing a consistent way of ensuring conformity) and in the absence of the London Plan density matrix, the delivery of the more qualitative urban design aspects detailed in the draft London Plan (not subject to guidance). Where possible it will provide minimum thresholds that relate to the quality of the design.

Equality comments

Under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, as a public authority, the GLA must have ‘due regard’ of the need to:

• eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation; and
• advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who have a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The Housing Design SPG will be developed and delivered in compliance with relevant GLA Codes of Practice and in line with the public-sector equality duty. In particular there will be advice to clients to pay due regard to the quality of consultants’ Equality and Diversity policies.

The Mayor’s vision for Good Growth is to enable everyone to fulfil their potential, by providing inclusive access to transport and other public services, by ensuring that communities see the benefits of growth, and by enabling broader public participation in how the city changes. Good Growth by Design is a call to everyone engaged in London’s architectural, design and built environment professions to help realise the Mayor’s vision and to create a built environment for all Londoners. As part of this programme the Housing Design SPG will support higher standards of architecture and planning and set standards to better ensure all Londoners access the benefits of growth more equally.

Pillar 4 of the programme ‘Supporting Diversity’ highlights the Mayor’s ambition to work towards a more representative sector and to ensure that the sector is designing for different needs. This aspiration will be reflected in the commissioning, development and application of the Housing Design SPG.

All documents produced will comply with Mayor of London branding guidelines, themselves based on guidance from the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

Other considerations

The development of the Housing Design SPG will support the Mayor’s draft London Plan and its ‘Good Growth’ priorities and provide guidance to boroughs and the wider property development sector.

The work should help to encourage higher quality residential and mixed-use environments and design solutions that work for developers and residents alike. The consultants undertaking the study will be required to consult with key players in the sector, including developers, RPs, house builders, the Mayor’s Design Advocates, professional bodies such as RIBA, RICS, along with financiers and others to ensure deliverability is considered alongside the development of design quality ambition.

Financial comments

The estimated cost of this consultancy project is £130,000 to be phased over two financial-years from 2018-19 to 2019-20 (£65,000 and £65,000 respectively), and will be funded via a combination of budgets from the Development, Enterprise & Environment (DEE) and Housing & Land Directorates, specifically the Good Growth by Design, London Plan and H&L Management & Consultancy Programme budgets.

Activity table



GGbD Sounding Board –

Consultants brief finalised

Procurement initiated

April 2018


Procurement of contract completed / Inception meeting

May 2018

Production of first sections of new draft Housing Design SPG with a focus on the small sites and optimising housing density sections and initial work on typologies section.

May – Aug 2018


Draft sections of the Housing Design SPG covering small sites and optimising housing density published in time for EIP of draft London Plan

Sep 2018


All sections of Housing Design SPG completed


Mid 2019

Consultation on guidance

Review of consultation comments and redrafting of Housing Design SPG

Final Housing Design SPG published


Mid - late 2019