Making the case for residential development in high density locations

We continue to be in the midst of a housing crisis and our cities bear the brunt.  Taking London as an example, current figures suggest 49,000  new homes a year are needed to keep up with a growing population.

Innovative design and housing solutions are needed more than ever but, regardless of need, development projects in any city need to be carefully handled.

There are a myriad of considerations to be analysed and negotiated, including: local and national policies; density rates; restrictive site designations; precedent and height issues; overstretched community resources;  limited parking and accessibility to public transport.  

The fine line that planning departments frequently tread is the need to provide more housing in a limited amount of space whilst ensuring quality of life and amenity is maintained for residents.

Creating developments that respect local character:

As a team we have a keen interest in helping to create developments that respect the local character, make efficient use of the site, and provide for the needs of the local community.  Our experience in this field is wide-ranging and examples include:

  • obtaining planning permission for 6 contemporary flats in a tight urban infill plot in Newham;
  • turning a disused pub into a new hotel near London City Airport;
  • redeveloping a dilapidated site into a 791 bed student village in a residential area in Cheltenham;
  • we are currently working on the redevelopment of a commercial site in London, for 18 flats and associated community space.

All of these projects involve the redevelopment and regeneration of existing commercial / community buildings in tight urban settings.

When preparing an application for development in a dense urban environment there are a wide variety of factors which need to be considered and some of the key stages are outlined below.

But central to it all is the importance of preparation – which is all about minimising issues at application stage.

Site context and the feasibility of development:

Establishing the pitfalls and benefits of your site is a crucial starting point to any development. A feasibility study will help you to understand what you can do with your site and whether your development aims are attainable.  

The study assesses relevant local and national policy considerations, the planning history of the site, its context and any restrictive site designations. It can include design guidance and consider factors which will help to shape your development project.

Establishing the principle of development:

You need to weigh up the pros and cons of a site, provide evidence to justify the benefits and mitigation measures to negotiate the negatives.  Essentially you are seeking to justify why this development in this location and how it meets local need and policy requirements.  

Whilst developers are not required to engage in pre-application discussions before submitting an application, early engagement with the Council sets a very positive tone and will help provide insight into their stance on your proposed development, further helping to establish whether the principle of development will be acceptable.   

Design and density issues:

We are often asked by architects to asses their design proposals, to ensure plans adhere to local and national policy considerations.  It is also our job to essentially ‘sell’ the design concept and the proposed development to the council in planning terms.

Councils are very wary of the over intensification of a site and the impact of any new build on neighbouring amenity.  Yet the challenges of a complex site can bring forth some inspiring design solutions. We work with some impressive and innovative architects across London and further afield,  whose schemes have responded well to challenging site contexts and have presented innovative approaches to space, minimising the impact on the street scene, and preserving local context.

Third party reports:

Transport and waste management are just two examples of very key material considerations to examine when preparing an application for development.  Third party documentation and specialist reports will be required along with sustainability assessments, all of which will need to be reviewed and produced to strict deadlines.  

In this regard we often act as lead consultant, working with the project team to co-ordinate the necessary reports to enable a timely and effective planning submission

Communicate and engage:

Any development in a high density location is going to impact on the community. Therefore it is vital to ensure neighbours and relevant stakeholders are kept up to speed with your proposals. They can also provide a useful alternative view and encourage you to consider your application from different standpoints.

How Plainview Planning help?

We work with small to medium sized developers helping to demystify the planning system and enable them to achieve their development goals. We work hard to ensure that through thorough preparation, anticipation and engagement, issues are minimised at application stage. To learn more about how we can help, please contact