Policy 7.5 Public realm



A  London’s public spaces should be secure, accessible, inclusive, connected, easy to understand and maintain, relate to local context, and incorporate the highest quality design, landscaping, planting, street furniture and surfaces.

Planning decisions

B  Development should make the public realm comprehensible at a human scale, using gateways, focal points and landmarks as appropriate to help people find their way. Landscape treatment, street furniture and infrastructure should be of the highest quality, have a clear purpose, maintain uncluttered spaces and should contribute to the easy movement of people through the space. Opportunities for the integration of high quality public art should be considered, and opportunities for greening (such as through planting of trees and other soft landscaping wherever possible) should be maximised. Treatment of the public realm should be informed by the heritage values of the place, where appropriate.

C  Development should incorporate local social infrastructure such as public toilets, drinking water fountains and seating, where appropriate. Development should also reinforce the connection between public spaces and existing local features such as the Blue Ribbon Network and parks and others that may be of heritage significance.

LDF preparation

D  Boroughs should develop local objectives and programmes for enhancing the public realm, ensuring it is accessible for all, with provision for sustainable management and reflects the principles in Policies 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 7.4.

Supporting text

7.16  The quality of the public realm has a significant influence on quality of life because it affects people’s sense of place, security and belonging, as well as having an influence on a range of health and social factors. For this reason, public and private open spaces, and the buildings that frame those spaces, should contribute to the highest standards of comfort, security and ease of movement possible. This is particularly important in high density development (Policy 3.4). Open spaces include both green and civic spaces, both of which contribute to the provision of a high quality public realm (see Policy 7.18). The character of the public realm that leads into major green spaces, especially for pedestrians is key to the integration of green infrastructure and landscape into the urban fabric. Legibility and signposting can also make an important contribution to whether people feel comfortable in a place, and are able to understand it and navigate their way around. Ongoing maintenance of this infrastructure should be a key consideration in the design of places and secured through the planning system where appropriate. Managed public spaces in new development should offer the highest level of public access.

7.17  The public realm should be seen as a series of connected spaces that help to define the character of a place. Places should be distinctive, attractive, vital and of the highest quality, allowing people to meet, congregate and socialise, as well as providing opportunity for quiet enjoyment. They should also, wherever possible, make the most of opportunities to green the urban realm through new planting or making the most of existing vegetation. This will support the Mayor’s aims for two million trees to be planted in London by 2025 and, to secure additional greening in the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) to help mitigate the urban heat island effect (Policy 5.10). Encouraging activities along the waterways can also contribute to an attractive townscape and public realm.

7.18  The effects of traffic can have a significant impact on the quality of the public realm in terms of air quality, noise and amenity of a space. The negative effects of traffic should be minimised to ensure people’s enjoyment of public realm is maximised. The principles of shared space should be promoted in line with Policy 6.10 on Walking and in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. They should be implemented to accord with local context and in consultation with relevant stakeholders (including organisations of disabled and visually impaired people).

7.19  The lighting of the public realm also needs careful consideration to ensure places and spaces are appropriately lit, and there is an appropriate balance between issues of safety and security, and reducing light pollution.

7.20  The public realm does not necessarily recognise borough boundaries. Cross- borough working at the interface of borough boundaries should therefore be maximised to ensure a consistent high quality public realm. There is a range of guidance such as Better Streets[1], Manual for Streets[2], Manual for Streets 2[3], Principles of Inclusive Design[4], and Streets for All[5] which can help inform the design of the public realm.  This should be part of a wider strategy based on an understanding of the character of the area.

[1]     Mayor of London, Better Streets, Transport for London, November 2009

[2]     Department for Transport (DfT), Manual for Streets, Thomas Telford Publishing, March 2007 (

[3]     Department for Transport (DfT), Manual for Streets 2, Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), September 2010 (or any subsequent replacement guidance).

[4]     Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), The principles of inclusive design (They include you), 2006 op cit

[5]     English Heritage, Streets for All: A Guide to the Management of London’s Street, English Heritage, March 2000

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