PPS 7: Quality Residential Environments
Policy QD 1: Site Context
4.6 Proposals for new residential development must take account of the specific circumstances of each site. The Department will expect developers in preparing layouts to have greater regard to the site context, in particular the characteristics of land form and the townscape or landscape setting, and the need for these elements to be integrated into the overall design concept.
4.7 In recent years, many developers have ignored the local context and have failed to produce designs and layouts that draw inspiration from the special characteristics of an area. The design for a housing development should seek to reinforce and evolve local characteristics that are considered positive and attractive, while those urban design features that undermine the overall character of an area should not be replicated nor used as a precedent.
4.8 The Department considers that analysis of context is particularly important for infill housing, backland development or redevelopment schemes in established residential areas. While such development can usefully contribute to housing supply, great care will be needed to ensure that the individual or cumulative effects of such development proposals do not significantly erode the character and amenity of existing areas, for example through inappropriate design or overdevelopment. Although the majority of residential areas do not have the distinctive character of Conservation Areas or Areas of Townscape Character, this does not mean that their quality of residential environment is unimportant. It will often be of great and legitimate concern to local residents. In assessing housing proposals in established residential areas the Department will therefore need to be satisfied that unacceptable harm will not be caused to the local character, environmental quality or residential amenity of the area. Particular account will be taken of the spacing between buildings, the safeguarding of privacy, the scale and massing of buildings, the use of materials, impact on existing vegetation and landscape design.
4.9 Infill housing in established residential areas will not always be appropriate, particularly in many older residential areas with distinctive townscapes, often dating from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Here people are attracted by the high quality of these areas and developers will often seek to maximise the amount of floorspace that they can fit onto any given plot. Intensifying the scale and massing of buildings in such areas can however adversely affect local character and lead to a loss of valued open garden spaces, mature trees and shrubs. When combined with the impact of ancillary activities such as car parking and refuse storage, such development, if unchecked, can undermine the qualities that people value, and damage our built heritage.
4.10 Accordingly in assessing housing proposals in Conservation Areas and Areas of Townscape Character, the protection of the existing character and distinctive qualities of the area will be paramount. Notwithstanding the Department’s broader policy to promote more housing within urban areas, proposals in the primarily residential parts of these designated areas which involve intensification of site usage or site coverage will not normally be acceptable. Such proposals usually involve demolition, plot sub-division or plot amalgamation which can be particularly detrimental to their character and appearance. Proposals involving intensification in these areas will only be permitted in the following exceptional circumstances:
- an extension in keeping with the scale and character of the dwelling and its surroundings; or
- the sympathetic conversion of a large dwelling in appropriate locations to smaller units; or
- the development of a significant gap site within an otherwise substantial and continuously built up frontage provided this would be of a density and character prevailing in the area.
4.11 In all cases developers should note that the demolition of existing property will not create a presumption that permission for more intensive and high density development will be granted. Inappropriate development cannot be justified to remedy an eyesore caused by demolition and the deliberate creation of waste land.