Policy 3.4 Optimising housing potential


Strategic, LDF preparation and planning decisions

A  Taking into account local context and character, the design principles in Chapter 7 and public transport capacity, development should optimise housing output for different types of location within the relevant density range shown in Table 3.2. Development proposals which compromise this policy should be resisted.

Supporting text

3.28  A rigorous appreciation of housing density is crucial to realising the optimum potential of sites, but it is only the start of planning housing development, not the end. It is not appropriate to apply Table 3.2 mechanistically. Its density ranges for particular types of location are broad, enabling account to be taken of other factors relevant to optimising potential – local context, design and transport capacity are particularly important, as well as social infrastructure (Policy.3.16), open space (Policy 7.17) and play (Policy 3.6). These broad ranges also provide the framework within which boroughs can refine local approaches to implementation of this strategic policy through their LDFs[1]. Where appropriate, they can also provide a tool for increasing density in situations where transport proposals will improve public transport accessibility in the future. It is important that higher density housing is not automatically seen as requiring high rise development.


Table 3.2 Sustainable residential quality (SRQ) density matrix (habitable rooms and dwellings per hectare)


Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL)


Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL)


0 to 1

2 to 3

4 to 6


150–200 hr/ha

150–250 hr/ha

200–350 hr/ha

3.8–4.6 hr/unit

35–55 u/ha

35–65 u/ha

45–90 u/ha

3.1–3.7 hr/unit

40–65 u/ha

40–80 u/ha

55–115 u/ha

2.7–3.0 hr/unit

50–75 u/ha

50–95 u/ha

70–130 u/ha


150–250 hr/ha  

200–450 hr/ha

200–700 hr/ha

3.8 –4.6 hr/unit

35–65 u/ha

45–120 u/ha

45–185 u/ha

3.1–3.7 hr/unit

40–80 u/ha

55–145 u/ha

55–225 u/ha

2.7–3.0 hr/unit

50–95 u/ha

70–170 u/ha

70–260 u/ha


150-300 hr/ha   

300–650 hr/ha

650–1100 hr/ha

3.8–4.6 hr/unit

35–80 u/ha

65–170 u/ha

140–290 u/ha

3.1–3.7 hr/unit

40–100 u/ha

80–210 u/ha

175–355 u/ha

2.7–3.0 hr/unit

50–110 u/hr

100–240 u/ha

215–405 u/ha


Notes to Table 3.2

Appropriate density ranges are related to setting in terms of location, existing building form and massing, and the index of public transport accessibility (PTAL). The setting can be defined as:

  • central – areas with very dense development, a mix of different uses, large building footprints and typically buildings of four to six storeys, located within 800 metres walking distance of an International, Metropolitan or Major town centre.
  • urban – areas with predominantly dense development such as, for example, terraced houses, mansion blocks, a mix of different uses, medium building footprints and typically buildings of two to four storeys, located within 800 metres walking distance of a District centre or, along main arterial routes
  • suburban – areas with predominantly lower density development such as, for example, detached and semi-detached houses, predominantly residential, small building footprints and typically buildings of two to three storeys.

3.28A  Geographically specific guidance on implementation of policy 3.4 is provided for Opportunity and Intensification Areas in paragraphs 2.61 and 2.62; for Town Centres in Policy 2.15 and paragraphs 2.72B – 2.72H and 4.42A-B; for surplus industrial land in paragraphs 2.85 and 4.23 and for other large housing sites in paragraph 3.42.  More general guidance on implementation of Policy 3.4 is provided in the Housing SPG including exceptional circumstances where densities above the relevant density range may be justified.

3.29  The form of housing output should be determined primarily by an assessment of housing requirements and not by assumptions as to the built form of the development.  While there is usually scope to provide a mix of dwelling types in different locations, higher density provision for smaller households should be focused on areas with good public transport accessibility (measured by Public Transport Accessibility Levels [PTALs]), and lower density development is generally most appropriate for family housing.

3.30  Where transport assessments other than PTALs can reasonably demonstrate that a site has either good existing or planned public transport connectivity and capacity, and subject to the wider concerns of this policy, the density of a scheme may be at the higher end of the appropriate density range. Where connectivity and capacity are limited, density should be at the lower end of the appropriate range. The Housing SPG provides further guidance on implementation of this policy in different circumstances including mixed use development, taking into account plot ratio and vertical and horizontal mixes of use.

3.31  Residential density figures should be based on net residential area, which includes internal roads and ancillary open spaces. Family housing is generally defined as having three or more bedrooms. Car parking provision should be in accordance with the standards outlined in Chapter 6. The Housing SPG provides guidance on addressing the relationships between car parking provision, development density and levels of public transport accessibility in different types of location.

[1]     CLG NPPF 2012 op cit para 58