You are here

Policy D2 Delivering good design


  1. To identify an area’s capacity for growth and understand how to deliver it in a way which strengthens what is valued in a place, boroughs should undertake an evaluation, in preparing Development Plans and area-based strategies, which covers the following elements:
    1. socio-economic data (such as Indices of Multiple Deprivation, health and wellbeing indicators, population density, employment data, educational qualifications, crime statistics)
    2. housing type and tenure
    3. urban form and structure (for example townscape, block pattern, urban grain, extent of frontages, building heights and density)
    4. transport networks (particularly walking and cycling networks), and public transport connectivity (existing and planned)
    5. air quality and noise levels
    6. open space networks, green infrastructure, and water bodies
    7. historical evolution and heritage assets (including an assessment of their significance and contribution to local character)
    8. topography and hydrology
    9. land availability
    10. existing and emerging development plan designations
    11. existing and future uses and demand for new development, including housing requirements and social infrastructure.
    12. Determining capacity for growth
  2. The findings of the above evaluation (part A), taken together with the other policies in this Plan should inform sustainable options for growth and be used to establish the most appropriate form of development for an area in terms of scale, height, density, layout and land uses. The outcome of this process must ensure the most efficient use of land is made so that development on all sites is optimised.

Design analysis and visualisation

  1. Where appropriate, visual, environmental and movement modelling/assessments should be undertaken to analyse potential design options for an area, site or development proposal. These models, particularly 3D virtual reality and other interactive digital models, should, where possible, be used to inform and engage Londoners in the planning process.

Design quality and development certainty

  1. Masterplans and design codes should be used to help bring forward development and ensure it delivers high quality design and place-making based on the characteristic set out in Policy D1 London’s form and characteristics.

Design scrutiny

  1. Design and access statements submitted with development proposals should provide relevant information to demonstrate the proposal meets the design requirements of the London Plan.
  2. Boroughs and applicants should use design review to assess and inform design options early in the planning process. Design review should be in addition to the borough’s planning and urban design officers’ assessment and pre-application advice. Development proposals referable to the Mayor must have undergone at least one design review early on in their preparation, before a planning application is made, if they:
    1. are above the applicable density indicated in Part C of Policy D6 Optimising housing density; or
    2. propose a building defined as a tall building by the borough (see Policy D8 Tall buildings), or that is more than 30m in height where there is no local tall building definition.
  3. The format of design reviews for any development should be agreed with the borough and comply with the Mayor’s guidance on review principles, process and management, ensuring that:
    1. design reviews are carried out transparently by independent experts in relevant disciplines
    2. design review comments are mindful of the wider policy context and focus on interpreting policy for the specific scheme
    3. where a scheme is reviewed more than once, subsequent design reviews reference and build on recommendations of previous design reviews
    4. design review recommendations are appropriately recorded and communicated to officers and decision makers
    5. schemes show how they have considered and addressed the design review recommendations
    6. planning decisions demonstrate how design review been addressed.

Maintaining design quality

  1. The design quality of development should be retained through to completion by:
    1. having a sufficient level of design information, including key construction details provided as part of the application to ensure the quality of design can be maintained if the permitted scheme is subject to subsequent minor amendments
    2. ensuring the wording of the planning permission, and associated conditions and legal agreement, provide clarity regarding the quality of design
    3. avoiding deferring the assessment of the design quality of large elements of a development to the consideration of a planning condition or referred matter
    4. local planning authorities using architect retention clauses in legal agreements where appropriate.

The processes and actions set out in Policy D2 Delivering good design will help ensure development delivers good design. The responsibility for undertaking a particular process or action will depend on the nature of the development or plan; however, the outcome of this process must ensure the most efficient use of land is made so that the development on all sites is optimised.

Understanding the existing character and context of individual areas is essential in determining how different places may develop in the future. An evaluation of the current characteristics of a place, how its past social, cultural, physical and environmental influences have shaped it and what the potential opportunities are for it to change will help inform an understanding of an area’s capacity for growth.

This evidence gathering and evaluation of alternative options, alongside an understanding of the requirements for growth, should form the foundation of Local Plan preparation or work on an area strategy. This process will be fundamental to inform decision making on how places should develop, speeding up the development plan process and bringing about better quality development

Applicants will primarily be responsible for undertaking design analysis through the use of various digital modelling techniques as part of a wide range of design and presentation techniques. These techniques can also be used as part of the plan-making process to assess growth options and forms of development, as described in part B.

To enable the design of a proposed development to be fully assessed, applicants must provide the necessary technical information in an agreed format. The detail and nature of this should be commensurate with the scale of the development. All outline applications referred to the Mayor should be accompanied by thorough design codes, ensuring exemplary design standards are carried through the planning process to completion.

The Mayor’s Design Advocates will play a key role in helping to deliver good design. They will help champion design across the GLA Group and beyond, through research, design review, capacity building, commissioning and advocacy.

The Mayor has produced guidance on design reviews, including how panels and processes should be managed. All development proposals should follow this guidance, and be subject to a level of scrutiny appropriate to the scale of the site. This design scrutiny should include work by planning case officers and ongoing and informal review by qualified urban design officers as well as formal design review.

The scrutiny of a proposed development’s design should cover its layout, scale, height, density, land uses, materials, architectural treatment, detailing and landscaping. The design and access statement should explain the approach taken to these design issues and be used to consider if a scheme meets the requirements of Policy D1 London’s form and characteristics (see also requirements of Policy D3 Inclusive design).

It is important that design quality is maintained throughout the development process from the granting of planning permission to completion of a development. What happens to a design after planning consent can be instrumental to the success of a project and subsequent quality of a place. Changes to designs after the initial planning permission has been granted are often allowable as minor amendments. However, even minor changes can have a substantial effect on design quality, environmental quality and visual impact. The cumulative effect of amendments can often be significant and should be reviewed holistically. Sufficient design detail needs to be provided in approved drawings and other visuals material, as well as in the wording of planning permissions to ensure clarity over what design has been approved, and to avoid future amendments and value engineering resulting in changes that would be detrimental to the design quality. Assessment of the design of large elements of a development, such as landscaping or building façades, should be undertaken as part of assessing the whole development and not deferred for consideration after planning permission has been granted.

It is generally beneficial to the design quality of a completed development if the architectural design team is involved in the development from start to finish[24]. Consideration should be given to securing the design team’s ongoing involvement as a condition of planning permission, or as a design reviewer where this is not possible.

[24] Mayor’s Design Advisory Group. Shaping London: How can London deliver good growth? 2016