Policy 3.5 Quality and design of housing developments



A  Housing developments should be of the highest quality internally, externally and in relation to their context and to the wider environment, taking account of strategic policies in this Plan to protect and enhance London’s residential environment and attractiveness as a place to live. Boroughs may in their LDFs introduce a presumption against development on back gardens or other private residential gardens where this can be locally justified.

Planning decisions and LDF preparation

B  The design of all new housing developments should enhance the quality of local places, taking into account physical context; local character; density; tenure and land use mix; and relationships with, and provision of, public, communal and open spaces, taking particular account of the needs of children, disabled and older people.

C  LDFs should incorporate requirements for accessibility and adaptability[1], minimum space standards[2] including those set out in Table 3.3, and water efficiency[3]. The Mayor will, and boroughs should, seek to ensure that new development reflects these standards. The design of all new dwellings should also take account of factors relating to ‘arrival’ at the building and the ‘home as a place of retreat’. New homes should have adequately sized rooms and convenient and efficient room layouts which are functional and fit for purpose, meet the changing needs of Londoners over their lifetimes, address climate change adaptation and mitigation and social inclusion objectives and should be conceived and developed through an effective design process[4].

D  Development proposals which compromise the delivery of elements of this policy may be permitted if they are demonstrably of exemplary design and contribute to achievement of other objectives of this Plan.

E  The Mayor will provide guidance on implementation of this policy that is relevant to all tenures.

Supporting text

3.32  Securing new housing of the highest quality and protecting and enhancing residential neighbourhoods are key Mayoral priorities. The number of new homes needed to 2036 will create new challenges for private developers and affordable homes providers, but also brings unique opportunities for new housing which will be remembered as attractive, spacious, safe and green and which help to shape sustainable neighbourhoods with distinct and positive identities.

3.32A Since 2011 the London Plan has provided the basis for a range of housing standards that address the housing needs of Londoners and these are brought together in the Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG). The options and process recently provided by Government aim to improve the quality of housing nationally[5] and provide an opportunity to reinforce the status of the standards already in place for London. They have been consolidated and tested to ensure that they are sound in terms of need and viability.

3.33  New housing development should address the wider concerns of this Plan to protect and enhance the environment of London as a whole. New development, including that on garden land and that associated with basement extensions, should avoid having an adverse impact on sites of European importance for nature conservation either directly or indirectly, including through increased recreation pressure on these sites. New development should also take account of the Plan’s more general design principles (policies 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6. 7.7, 7.8, 7.9, 7.10, 7.11 and 7.12) and those on neighbourhoods (Policy 7.1), housing choice (Policy 3.8), sustainable design and construction (Policy 5.3), as well as those on climate change (Chapter 5), play provision (Policy 3.6), biodiversity (Policy 7.19), and flood risk (Policy 5.12).

3.35  The quality of individual homes and their neighbourhoods is the product of detailed and local design requirements but the implementation of these across London has led to too many housing schemes in London being of variable quality. The cumulative effect of poor quality homes, and the citywide benefits improved standards bring, means this is a strategic issue and properly a concern of the London Plan. Addressing these issues is an important element of achieving the Mayor’s vision and detailed objectives for London and its neighbourhoods set out in Chapter One.

3.36  The Mayor regards the relative size of all new homes in London to be a key element of this strategic issue and therefore has adopted the Nationally Described Space Standard[6]. Table 3.3 sets out minimum space standards for dwellings of different sizes. This is based on the minimum gross internal floor area (GIA) required for new homes relative to the number of occupants and taking into account commonly required furniture and the spaces needed for different activities and moving around. This means developers should state the number of bedspaces/occupiers a home is designed to accommodate rather than, say, simply the number of bedrooms. These are minimum standards which developers are encouraged to exceed. When designing homes for more than eight persons/bedspaces, developers should allow approximately 10 sq m per extra bedspace/person. Single person dwellings of less than 37 square metres may be permitted if the development proposal is demonstrated to be of exemplary design and contributes to achievement of other objectives and policies of this Plan.

Table 3.3 Minimum space standards for new dwellings[7]

Number of bedrooms

Number of bed spaces

Minimum GIA (m2)

Built-in storage (m2)

1 storey


2 storey


3 storey dwellings



39 (37)*







































































Notes to Table 3.3

  1. * Where a one person dwelling has a shower room instead of a bathroom, the floor area may be reduced from 39m2 to 37m2, as shown bracketed.
  2. The Gross Internal Area of a dwelling is defined as the total floor space measured between the internal faces of perimeter walls[1] that enclose a dwelling. This includes partitions, structural elements, cupboards, ducts, flights of stairs and voids above stairs. GIA should be measured and denoted in square metres (m2).
  3. The nationally described space standard sets a minimum ceiling height of 2.3 metres for at least 75% of the gross internal area of the dwelling. To address the unique heat island effect of London and the distinct density and flatted nature of most of its residential development, a minimum ceiling height of 2.5m for at least 75% of the gross internal area is strongly encouraged so that new housing is of adequate quality, especially in terms of light, ventilation and sense of space.

3.37  Other aspects of housing design are also important to improving the attractiveness of new homes as well as being central to the Mayor’s wider objectives to improve the quality of Londoners’ environment. To address these he has produced guidance on the implementation of Policy 3.5 for all housing tenures in his Housing SPG, drawing on his design guide for affordable housing[8]

3.38  At the neighbourhood level this SPG addresses the relationship between strategic density Policy (3.4) and different local approaches to its implementation; the spaces between and around buildings; urban layout; enclosure; ensuring homes are laid out to form a coherent pattern of streets and blocks; public, communal and private open spaces; and the ways these relate to each other and neighbourhoods as a whole. It will respond to the needs of an ageing population by including the principles for inclusive design and those to develop and extend Lifetime Neighbourhoods set out in Policies 7.1 and 7.2.

3.39  For individual dwellings the SPG covers issues such as ‘arrival’ -  including the importance of creating active frontages, accommodating footpaths and entrances and shared circulation spaces; size and layout including room space standards as well as the dwelling space standards set out in Table 3.3; the home as a ‘place of retreat’ (especially important in higher density development); meeting the challenges of a changing climate by ensuring homes are suitable for warmer summers and wetter winters, and mitigating the extent of future change; and ensuring easy adaptation to meet the changing and diverse needs of occupiers over their lifetimes. The importance of an effective design process to make sure that the quality of schemes is not compromised as the development proceeds will also be highlighted. This guidance provides a strategic, functional basis for a new vernacular in London’s domestic architecture which also places greater weight on complementing and enhancing local context and character.

[1]     Requirements M4 (2) and M4 (3) of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010. HM Government 2015.

[2]     Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard. DCLG 2015

[3]     London Plan Policy 5.15

[4]     Mayor of London, Interim Draft Housing SPG Supplementary Planning Guidance 2015 Note: this document has been superseded – please now see 2016 Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance

[5]     New national technical standards, Eric Pickles written statement to Parliament 25 March 2015: “Steps the government is taking to streamline the planning system, protect the environment, support economic growth and assist locally-led decision-making.”

[6]     Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard. DCLG 2015

[7]     New dwellings in this context includes new build, conversions and change of use

[8]     Mayor of London. London Housing Design Guide (LHDG) 2010 Note: this document has been superseded – please now see 2016 Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance