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Policy H2 Small sites


  1. Small sites should play a much greater role in housing delivery and boroughs should pro-actively support well-designed new homes on small sites through both planning decisions and plan-making in order to:
    1. significantly increase the contribution of small sites to meeting London’s housing needs
    2. diversify the sources, locations, type and mix of housing supply
    3. support small and medium-sized housebuilders
    4. support those wishing to bring forward custom, self-build and community-led housing.
  2. Boroughs should:
    1. recognise in their Development Plans and planning decisions that local character evolves over time and will need to change in appropriate locations to accommodate additional housing provision and increases in residential density through small housing developments
    2. prepare area-wide design codes to promote good design and to proactively encourage increased housing provision and higher residential densities on small housing developments. Design codes should provide clear guidelines and parameters for small housing developments and show how additional housing provision can be accommodated in different locations, drawing on the principles set out in this policy and Supplementary Planning Guidance provided by the GLA.
  3. Boroughs should increase planning certainty on small sites by:
    1. identifying and allocating appropriate small sites for residential development
    2. listing these sites on their brownfield registers
    3. granting permission in principle on specific sites or preparing local development orders.
  4. To deliver the small sites targets in Table 4.2, boroughs should apply a presumption in favour of the following types of small housing development which provide between one and 25 homes:
    1. infill development on vacant or underused sites
    2. proposals to increase the density of existing residential homes within PTALs 3-6 or within 800m of a Tube station, rail station or town centre boundary through:
      1. residential conversions
      2. residential extensions
      3. the demolition and redevelopment of existing buildings
      4. infill development within the curtilage of a house
    3. the redevelopment or upward extension of flats and non-residential buildings to provide additional housing.
  5. For the purposes of part D, the presumption in favour of small housing developments means approving small housing developments which are in accordance with a design code developed in accordance with part B. Where there is no such design code, the presumption means approving small housing development unless it can be demonstrated that the development would give rise to an unacceptable level of harm to residential privacy, designated heritage assets, biodiversity or a safeguarded land use that outweighs the benefits of additional housing provision.
  6. The presumption in favour of small housing developments should not be applied to:
    1. statutory listed buildings
    2. developments providing more than 25 homes
    3. proposals that do not provide net additional housing
    4. sites of more than 0.25 hectares in size
    5. non-self contained housing schemes
    6. mixed-use proposals within the Central Activities Zone (CAZ)
    7. estate regeneration schemes.
  7. New build homes on sites capable of accommodating ten units or fewer which are on the ground floor should meet M4(2) standard for ‘accessible and adaptable dwellings’ and provide step-free access. New build homes on these sized sites that are not on the ground floor do not need to meet M4(2) standards and can comply with the M4(1) standard, which does not require step-free access.
  8. Boroughs wishing to apply affordable housing requirements to sites capable of delivering ten units or fewer and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000 sqm should only require this through a tariff approach to off-site contributions rather than seeking on-site contributions. Boroughs are strongly encouraged to provide the flexibility for payments to be collected prior to the occupation of development, rather than prior to commencement of development.

For London to meet its housing needs, small housing developments of between one and 25 homes must make a substantially greater contribution to new supply across the city. Therefore, increasing the rate of housing delivery from small housing sites is a strategic priority. Achieving this objective will require positive and proactive planning by boroughs both in terms of planning decisions and plan-making. 

Increasing housing output of this scale can also help to support a number of related housing and planning policy objectives. This includes:

  • reviving the role of small and medium-sized developers in delivering new homes in London
  • diversifying the sources, locations, type and mix of housing supply and the type of sites available in addition to large brownfield sites
  • increasing housing provision in accessible parts of outer London to help address the substantial housing need in these areas and deliver market homes in more affordable price brackets
  • providing opportunities for custom-build housing and community-led housing projects[38]
  • supporting town centre economies
  • as with large sites, providing opportunities to support the use of modern methods of construction.

[38] See Glossary

The one to 25-unit threshold set out in Policy H2 Small sites which triggers the application of this policy is considered to be representative of small housing developments across London and for this reason differs from that used in Planning Practice Guidance[39] and the definition of ‘major development’ in planning legislation[40].

[39] DCLG, Planning Practice Guidance, Planning obligations, Paragraph: 031 Reference ID: 23b-031-20161116

[40] The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, Article 2

The small sites targets in Table 4.2 are informed by the 2017 London SHLAA and show the potential capacity for additional housing on sites of less than 0.25 hectares in size. The targets are based on trends in housing completions on sites of this size and the estimated capacity for net additional housing supply from intensification in existing residential areas, taking into account PTAL, proximity to stations and town centres, and heritage constraints. The small sites targets are a component of, and not additional to, the overall housing targets.

Incremental intensification of existing residential areas within PTALs 3-6 and within 800m of a Tube station, rail station or town centre boundary is expected to play an important role in meeting the housing targets for small sites, particularly in outer London. This can take a number of forms including new build, infill development, conversions, demolition and redevelopment or extension of existing buildings, where this results in net additional housing provision. Within these areas, there is a need for the character of some neighbourhoods to evolve to accommodate additional housing. Therefore, the emphasis of decision-making should change from preserving what is there at the moment towards encouraging and facilitating the delivery of well-designed additional housing to meet London’s needs.

The Mayor will set out design principles for small housing developments across London as part of his review of GLA design guidance, which boroughs should draw on and supplement when preparing design codes. Design codes can be combined with local development orders, where appropriate.

Special attention will be required within conservation areas to ensure that increased housing provision is accommodated in a way that also complements and enhances an area, taking into account conservation area character appraisals and management plans.

Table 4.2 - 10 year targets (2019/20 -2028/29) for net housing completions on small sites (below 0.25 hectares in size)

Planning AuthorityTen-year housing targetAnnualised average
Barking & Dagenham5,190519
City of London74074
Hammersmith & Fulham2,980298
Kensington & Chelsea1,690169
London Legacy Development Corporation80080
Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation 606
Tower Hamlets5,660566
Waltham Forest8,890889

Small housing developments are envisaged to be within close proximity to existing homes. These should be carefully and creatively designed to avoid an unacceptable level of harm to the amenity of surrounding properties in relation to privacy, for example through the placement and design of windows and the use of landscaping. Environmental and architectural innovation should be supported and schemes should achieve good design and ensure that existing and proposed homes benefit from satisfactory levels of daylight and sunlight. All homes must meet the housing standards in Policy D4 Housing quality and standards, including the provision of private open space.

Loss of existing biodiversity or green space, as a result of small housing developments, should be mitigated through measures such as the installation of green roofs, the provision of landscaping that facilitates sustainable urban drainage, or off-site provision such as new street trees in order to achieve the principle of no net loss of overall green cover. Rainwater attenuation features should be incorporated to achieve greenfield run off rates.

Small sites can be particularly suitable for well-designed community-led housing[41] projects. Boroughs should support such projects where these developments are integrated with existing neighbourhoods and support mixed and inclusive communities.

[41] See Glossary

Where the amalgamation of separate flats into larger homes is leading to the sustained loss of homes and is not meeting the identified requirements of large families, boroughs are encouraged to resist this process.

As demonstrated by the 2017 SHMA, London has significant unmet need for affordable housing. For some boroughs, sites of ten or fewer units are the main source of supply and play an important role in contributing to affordable housing delivery, often via cash in lieu contributions which are then used as part of borough-wide affordable housing programmes. Given the important role these sites play, the Mayor believes that boroughs should be capable of securing cash in lieu contributions for affordable housing contributions from such sites. Therefore, boroughs are encouraged to include policies requiring affordable housing from such sites of ten or fewer units in their Development Plans.

For practical reasons associated with on-site provision of a small number of affordable units (such as management), contributions on sites delivering ten or fewer units should be asked for as a cash in lieu contribution. Boroughs should have an identified programme through which additional affordable homes will be delivered. Flexibility should be allowed in the timing of payments in recognition of the distinct economics of small and medium-sized housebuilders and to reduce their up-front costs.