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Policy D1 London's form and characteristics


Development Plans, area-based strategies and development proposals should address the following:

  1. The form and layout of a place should:
    1. use land efficiently by optimising density, connectivity and land use patterns
    2. facilitate an inclusive environment
    3. be street-based with clearly defined public and private environments
    4. deliver appropriate outlook, privacy and amenity
    5. achieve safe and secure environments
    6. provide active frontages and positive reciprocal relationships between what happens inside the buildings and outside in the public realm to generate liveliness and interest
    7. provide conveniently located green and open spaces for social interaction, play, relaxation and physical activity
    8. encourage and facilitate active travel with convenient and inclusive pedestrian and cycling routes, crossing points, cycle parking, and legible entrances to buildings, that are aligned with peoples’ movement patterns and desire lines in the area
    9. help prevent or mitigate the impacts of noise and poor air quality
    10. facilitate efficient servicing and maintenance of buildings and the public realm, as well as deliveries, that minimise negative impacts on the environment, public realm and vulnerable road users.
  2. Development design should:
    1. respond to local context by delivering buildings and spaces that are positioned and of a scale, appearance and shape that responds successfully to the identity and character of the locality, including to existing and emerging street hierarchy, building types, forms and proportions
    2. be of high quality, with architecture that pays attention to detail, and gives thorough consideration to the practicality of use, flexibility, safety and building lifespan, through appropriate construction methods and the use of attractive, robust materials which weather and mature well
    3. aim for high sustainability standards
    4. respect, enhance and utilise the heritage assets and architectural features that make up the local character
    5. provide spaces and buildings that maximise opportunities for urban greening to create attractive resilient places that can also help the management of surface water
    6. achieve comfortable and inviting environments both inside and outside buildings.

Good design and good planning are intrinsically linked. The form and character of London’s buildings and spaces must be appropriate for their location, fit for purpose, respond to changing needs of Londoners, and make the best use the city’s finite supply of land. The efficient use of land requires optimisation of density. This means coordinating the layout of the development with the form and scale of the buildings and the location of the different land uses, and facilitating convenient pedestrian connectivity to activities and services (see also Policy D6 Optimising housing density).

Developments that show a clear understanding of, and relationship with, the context of the site are more likely to be successful. Buildings should be of high quality and enhance, activate and appropriately frame the public realm. Their massing, scale and layout should help make public spaces coherent and should complement the existing streetscape and surrounding area. Particular attention should be paid to the design of the parts of a building or public realm that people most frequently see or interact with in terms of its legibility, use, detailing, materials and location of entrances. Creating a comfortable pedestrian environment with regard to levels of sunlight, shade, wind, and shelter from precipitation is important.

Measures to design out exposure to poor air quality and noise from both external and internal sources, should be integral to development proposals and be considered early in the design process. Characteristics that increase pollutant or noise levels, such as poorly-located emission sources, street canyons and noise sources should also be designed out wherever possible. Optimising site layout and building design can also reduce the risk of overheating as well as minimise carbon emissions by reducing energy demand.

Maximising urban greening and creating green open spaces provides attractive places for Londoners to relax and play, and helps make the city more resilient to the effects of climate change. Landscaping and urban greening should be designed to ecologically enhance and, where possible, physically connect, existing parks and open spaces.

Measures to design out crime should be integral to development proposals and be considered early in the design process. Development should reduce opportunities for anti-social behaviour, criminal activities, and terrorism, and contribute to a sense of safety without being overbearing or intimidating. Developments should ensure good natural surveillance, clear sight lines, appropriate lighting, logical and well-used routes and a lack of potential hiding places.

The design and layout of development should reduce the dominance of cars, and provide permeability to support active travel (public transport, walking and cycling), community interaction and economic vitality.

New developments should be designed and managed so that deliveries can be received outside of peak hours and if necessary in the evening or night-time without causing unacceptable nuisance to residents. Appropriate facilities will be required to minimise additional freight trips arising from missed deliveries.

Shared and easily accessible storage space supporting separate collection of dry recyclables, food waste and other waste should be considered in the early design stages to help improve recycling rates, reduce smell, odour and vehicle movements, and improve street scene and community safety.

Buildings and spaces should be designed so that they can adapt to changing uses and demands now and in the future. Their lifespan and potential uses or requirements should be carefully considered, creating buildings and spaces that are easy to maintain, and constructed of materials that are safe, robust and remain attractive over time.

To minimise the use of new materials, the following circular economy principles (see also Figure 3.1) should be taken into account at the start of the design process:

  • building in layers - ensuring that different parts of the building are accessible and can be maintained and replaced where necessary
  • designing out waste - ensuring that waste reduction is planned in from project inception to completion, including consideration of standardised components, modular build and re-use of secondary products and materials
  • designing for adaptability
  • designing for disassembly
  • using materials that can be re-used and recycled.

Large-scale developments in particular present opportunities for innovative building design that avoids waste, supports high recycling rates and helps London transition to a circular economy, where materials, products and assets are kept at their highest value for as long as possible. Further guidance on the application of these principles is provided in London’s circular economy route map[23].

[23] London’s circular economy route map, GLA & London Waste and Recycling Board. 2017

Figure 3.1 shows a hierarchy for building approaches which maximises use of existing materials. Diminishing returns are gained by moving through the hierarchy outwards, working through refurbishment and re-use through to the least preferable option of recycling materials produced by the building or demolition process. The best use of the land needs to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to retain existing buildings in a development.