6.1 Residential development, for the purposes of the policies in this Plan, is taken to mean, unless otherwise stated, a development including the use of a building as a dwelling house (whether or not as a sole or main residence) by:
- a single person or people living together as a family or
- by not more than six residents living together as a single household, including a household where care is provided for residents.
Such development includes extensions to existing dwellings.
6.2 The policies in this chapter apply to all the areas defined for primarily residential use on the Proposals Map. Where appropriate, the policies also apply to housing in areas covered by other notations or by no notation.
6.3 The substantial increase in house building activity recently has highlighted several issues. These include:
- the need to resist unsuitable infill and backland development within existing housing areas, particularly where this is not in keeping with the street scene;
- the pressure for higher density of development with implications for the residents of the development and their neighbours
- the impact of conversions and extensions on the local character in general and adjoining residents in particular;
- the need to ensure that large developments include adequate infrastructure and community provision;
- the increased pressure for sheltered and similar dwellings; and housing land supply in the south‑east of England.
The policy response is to introduce policies that directly address these issues and, in so doing, to set a clearer framework for decisions on applications for planning permission.
The principle of residential development is accepted on the sites on the Proposals Schedule (Appendix F2 - sites capable of accommodating ten or more dwellings).
6.4 Strategic Guidance states that boroughs should have regard to the objectives of national guidance for housing land supply given in PPG3, whilst accepting that the requirement to identify a five-year supply of sites does not apply in London. The sites, in Policy H1, represent substantially the housing land supply in the borough.
Development will normally be resisted where it would result in:
- the loss of all or part of a dwelling or the site of a demolished dwelling
- to non‑residential development; or
- the non‑residential development of land identified on the Policy H1 proposals schedule.
6.5 The contribution of new dwellings and conversions to meeting housing provision will be frustrated if the existing stock or sites identified for residential development are used for other purposes without replacement. Where appropriate, the Proposals Schedule (Appendix F2) refers to exceptions to this policy.
Residential development and other development in primarily residential areas should be compatible with the character or appearance of the area in which it is located and the following criteria should all be satisfied:
- the layout, scale and massing, elevational treatment, and materials of building should be compatible with the local character or appearance;
- the spaces around buildings (including roads) and their hard and soft landscaping and plot separations should be compatible with the local character or appearance and fulfil clear and useful functions;
- the development should pay special regard to the setting of any listed buildings or the character and appearance of a Conservation Area where appropriate; and
- where appropriate, landscape and nature conservation features of interest, such as trees, hedgerows and ponds, should be preserved.
Residential development will not normally be permitted in locations which are, or are expected to become, subject to excessive noise.
The actual or potential cumulative effects of a development should be given sufficient weight in applying this policy.
6.6 This is in order to ensure that residential development is satisfactory in terms of its impact on the character or appearance of the area in which it is located in the interests of the visual amenities of an area, the amenities of nearby occupiers and the privacy and outlook of nearby residents. Policy H3 applies Policies G7 and G15 in Part One of this Plan. The term "be compatible with" is intended to place the character or appearance of an area within which a development is proposed in a position of substantial importance in considering the principle of a residential development as well as details of siting, design, external appearance, landscaping and access. The character of an area is made up of the nature of both the buildings and the spaces around them, so the policy criteria address each of these. Similarly the importance of trees is recognised even where they are not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order. The "area" within which character is to be assessed will include adjacent buildings and most weight will normally be given to the area in close proximity to a site.
6.7 The reference to features of nature conservation interest is made in support of Policies G1 and G6. The reasoning is further detailed in relation to Policy H8 below. The reference to cumulative effects is made because whilst the detrimental impact on the character of an area of a single development may be limited, the cumulative effect might be substantial, if the same type of development were to be repeated in the area. The criteria for noise is intended to ensure that annoyance of residents from noise is minimised, having regard to Policy G7 and Planning Policy Guidance Note No.24 (Planning and Noise 1994). In addition, the design and development control guidelines offer applicants more detailed guidance on the expectations of the Council.
Subject to the overriding requirements of Policies H3 and H5, the density of family housing should normally be in the range of 120-210 habitable rooms (30-53 dwellings) per hectare and the density of non-family housing should normally be in the range 170-250 habitable rooms (57-83 dwellings) per hectare.
6.8 If there is a divergence between the dwelling density per hectare and the habitable rooms per hectare, the habitable rooms per hectare requirement will prevail.
6.9 The definition of density standards is considered to be an important safeguard to local character and amenity, to be of assistance to developers in putting forward acceptable proposals, and to be a means of ensuring efficient use of land. Nevertheless, only if all other residential and environmental policy requirements have been met should densities reach the maximum of the range.
6.10 The above density measurement is based on net residential density, where the area of land includes dwellings and gardens, incidental open space and half the width of surrounding highways (up to a maximum 6 metres) and excludes local shops, primary schools and substantial open spaces. "Family housing" should normally be taken as referring to dwellings suitable for households that include children, with two or more bedrooms and private garden space. "Non‑family housing" refers to other dwellings. The definition of habitable room includes all rooms used for living purposes except kitchens with a floor area of less than 13m², bathrooms, toilets, corridors and halls. Rooms of 28m² or more will be defined as two habitable rooms.
Residential Areas of Special Character
Residential Areas of Special Character are identified on the Proposals Map. In these areas Policy H3 applies but in addition residential development should be similar in character or appearance to that of the area in which it is located and at a density no greater than its surroundings in terms of both dwellings per hectare and habitable rooms per hectare.
6.11 These residential areas have been identified as having a special character worthy of retention, based on the features described in Appendix F3. They are areas where the Council consider that the pressure, existing or potential, for development and redevelopment threatens the special character of the area. These areas tend to be areas of lower density housing. This policy seeks to protect the character of these areas. By its reference to density, it aims, amongst other things, to deter the speculative demolition of sound housing or clearance of vegetation. The thrust of this policy is, therefore, in support of PPG3.
6.12 In selecting areas for designation, only substantial areas have been considered for inclusion and these closely reflect the Bexley Borough Plan designations "Low Density Areas". Boundaries have been based on clear changes in the character of development or other prominent features such as roads or open spaces. The areas may include patches of development that do not possess the identified "special character" and it is often the case that these have been the reason for introducing the policy.
6.13 The spaces around the buildings are of importance, as well as the buildings themselves. The policy is intended to maintain a similar relationship of dwellings and spaces around them through its reference to density because this relationship has been frequently given as the source of the special character.
6.14 The policy refers to a similar character or appearance as again these existing features are highlighted as the source of the special character. In assessing proposed development, most weight should be given to the character or appearance and density pattern of the dwellings giving rise to the special character as defined in Appendix F3 and nearby dwellings lacking such character should not be used as a precedent.
6.15 Policy H6 supports Policies G7 and G15 and aims to protect the amenities and privacy of future occupiers and their neighbours. To achieve this an adequate amount of amenity space is necessary. Amenity space also makes an important contribution to the character of an area through the setting of buildings in their locality. The measure of this space should exclude areas for vehicle circulation or parking, and should include gardens, balconies, terraces and roof gardens. In considering the adequacy of usable on site amenity space, regard will be had to the standards set out in the appended Design and Development Control Guidelines.
Residential development should provide a reasonable degree of privacy and outlook for space within and outside dwellings.
6.16 This policy supports Policies G7 and G15 and aims to protect privacy and to provide a reasonable outlook as well as contributing to the character of the area through the setting of its buildings. In assessing the reasonableness of privacy and outlook within and outside dwellings, regard will be had to the standards set out in the Design and Development Control Guidelines. These are minimum standards appropriate to level ground and may be increased where this is not the case.
Infill, backland and similar development
Residential development consisting of new dwellings to the side or rear of existing dwellings and sited on gardens or incidental open space should accord with Policy G27, other residential policies and additionally fulfil all of the following criteria, i.e. that:
- adequate and safe access for vehicles and pedestrians is provided, with no adverse effects on the amenities of adjacent dwellings and their gardens;
- the proposed dwellings are adequately separated from other dwellings in terms of their amenities, light, privacy and garden space;
- there is no adverse effect on the character of the area, including cumulative effects; and
- landscape and nature conservation features of interest, such as trees, hedgerows and ponds, should be preserved.
6.17 With a declining number of large sites available for housing development, smaller sites across the borough have increasingly become subject to development pressures. Such proposals may include side or back garden land or incidental open space and, if permitted, could lead to a substantial loss of amenity for the residents of those existing dwellings in the vicinity. The character of an area can be adversely affected by infill, backland and similar developments both individually and cumulatively.
6.18 The Council's concern about such development was reinforced by research carried out by the London Ecology Unit which demonstrated the wildlife amenity value of back garden land and the effects of development there on the natural environment. Many back gardens in the borough combine with adjacent gardens to form a block, separated by a row of houses and front gardens from the nearest street. They offer an environment relatively free of vehicles and their associated noise and pollution, and thus make an important contribution to the quality of life in the borough, both in terms of their amenity and recreational value, and in terms of their ecological function. Since the largest proportion of back gardens consist of soft landscaping with lawns, trees and shrubs and flower beds, they have important environmental benefits in terms of:
- providing shelter and feeding stations for a diverse fauna, particularly bird species;
- a positive influence on the local microclimate because trees and shrubs absorb water and release it over time, maintain comfortable humidity levels and allow water to soak away into the ground, helping to complete the local water cycle; and
- absorption of carbon dioxide emissions, the most prolific greenhouse gas, and filter emission gases and dust, thus providing a counterbalance to air‑borne pollution from cars, etc.
6.19 For these reasons, the Council considers that backland areas in the borough should normally be excluded from development. In the limited circumstances, where a development proposal may meet the criteria in Policy H8, the new development will need to ensure enhanced quality of soft landscaping. It is unlikely that a tandem layout of one house behind another, sharing the same access, will meet the criteria of this policy. Further design considerations are to be found in the appended Design and Development Control Guidelines.
Extensions and alterations
Residential development consisting of extensions or alterations should accord with other residential policies and also fulfil all of the following criteria:
- the siting, design and external appearance of development should be compatible with the character of the existing building and adjacent buildings;
- the development should not adversely affect the privacy and amenity of residents of adjoining properties including daylight and sunlight and outlook; and
- the development should not result in over development in terms of scale and mass, car parking and remaining amenity area.
6.20 Extensions to dwellings can result in adverse effects on the character of a building or an area and the amenities of neighbours if not adequately controlled. This is particularly important in the case of historic buildings or buildings in Conservation Areas. Over development can often occur, particularly where the original development was at high density. Further explanation of the Council's approach is set out in the Design and Development Control Guidelines.
6.21 Conversions are taken to mean, for the purposes of Policies H10 and H11, the development of one or more properties from a non‑residential to residential use and/or the development of two or more dwellings from a lesser number of dwellings, in each case through the substantial adaptation of existing buildings.
Conversions will normally be resisted where such development would result in adverse effects on the character and amenities of the area, especially of a Conservation Area or the character or appearance of a listed building or its setting, particularly in terms of the impact of associated car parking, loss of vegetation, detriment to visual amenities and the cumulative impact of such development.
6.22 Conversions of some of the borough's larger housing to meet the demand for smaller units can provide an alternative to redevelopment. They may assist in making the best use of existing infrastructure as well as in the preservation of Metropolitan Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land and other open land. However, conversions can sometimes give rise to adverse effects on an area, particularly where there are already a number of other converted properties in the street, where properties are unsuitable for conversion or it is not possible to provide off-street parking spaces. These will particularly impact on existing residents who may suffer loss of amenity as a consequence. Conversions may also adversely affect the character and appearance of historic buildings, with alterations to internal properties of rooms and the loss of original features (see also Policy ENV52). Regard will also be had to the standards set out in the Design and Development Control Guidelines.
As well as meeting the requirements of other residential policies, conversions should achieve all of the following criteria:
- conversions of an existing dwelling should only take place in a dwelling of at least 110m² gross internal floor area as originally built;
- each new dwelling unit should have a minimum gross floor area of 50m²;
- self-contained accommodation that is satisfactory in space and layout should be provided;
- adequate noise insulation and a layout that minimises noise disturbance between dwellings should be provided;
- provision should be made for vehicular parking in accordance with Policy T17 within the site whilst protecting the amenities of adjoining properties from the impact of parking and vehicular movement by retaining or enhancing existing screening and landscaping;
- vehicular parking spaces should be sited behind the building line wherever possible;
- adequate amenity space arrangements should be made; and
- provision should be made for adequate, well screened, refuse storage areas.
6.23 To protect the stock of small to medium sized dwellings, the character of the area in which the dwellings are located and to ensure an adequate space standard, a minimum dwelling size of 110m² gross internal area is required for conversions where two dwellings are to be produced from an existing dwelling with, in direct proportion, larger dwellings where three or more dwellings are to be produced.
6.24 The requirement for self‑contained accommodation of satisfactory space and layout is intended to secure a genuine long-term improvement of the housing stock when conversion takes place. The Council has provided guidelines for residential conversions as part of this Plan, relating to internal space and layout, vehicle parking and amenity space in the interests of lasting improvements to the housing stock, good quality housing conditions and the protection of residential amenities. The noise related requirements are necessary due to the inadequate internal standards frequently existing in properties to be converted, and so as to ensure that proper regard is given to noise.
6.25 The criteria for the quantity and manner of provision of vehicle parking reflect the difficulty often encountered in conversion projects. So as to minimise adverse impacts on the street scene, neighbouring occupiers and other users of the highway, the intention is to secure vehicular parking to the side or rear of the property whilst ensuring that vehicles are adequately screened.
6.26 The requirement for adequate amenity space for each dwelling reflects problems previously seen where some family dwellings have no access to external amenity areas. The criterion for refuse storage is to ensure that proper provision is made and to avoid an unsightly refuse area.
In locations suitable for large developments, proposals that are piecemeal in nature will normally be resisted unless it is shown that the proposal will fit satisfactorily into a larger development.
6.27 This is to ensure that piecemeal development does not prejudice the proper planning of a large development whether or not the large development site is formally identified in a development plan. In most cases, it is expected that layout, open space, access and infrastructure will be the prime issues.
Large residential developments
Residential developments of over 25 dwellings should, where appropriate:
- provide recreational open space, or contribute to the cost of off-site provision (see also Policies TAL6, TAL7 and para. 6.28);
- provide adequate highway and other infrastructure to serve the development prior to the need for its use in accordance with Policy T6;
- incorporate a mix and balance of dwelling types and size to cater for a range of housing needs;
- have adequate provision of or access to shopping and community facilities, to serve the development;
- have good access to public transport facilities to serve the development in accordance with Policies T12 and G17 and;
- provide for the needs of disabled and less mobile people in the layout and, by negotiation, provide a suitable proportion of dwellings designed for people with special housing needs, including housing for people with disabilities, having regard to market and site conditions.
The Council will seek to secure these provisions through planning obligations, in accordance with Policy G3.
6.28 The requirement for recreational open space, as provided for by Policies TAL6 and TAL7, additionally applies to all new residential development. In support of Policies G2, G3, G7 and G15, this policy aims to ensure that larger residential developments adequately provide for the requirements of future residents, particularly where a later sub‑division of land ownerships may lead to their omission. Furthermore, Strategic Guidance states that planning authorities must make allowance for special needs housing, such as housing for disabled people, and the policy applies this guidance to residential developments. The Council is to undertake further assessments and monitoring of the need and demand for homes suitable for people with special housing needs, including people with disabilities. This policy addresses large residential developments and does not alter the effect of other policies on smaller residential developments.
The Council will seek to secure the provision of affordable housing in suitable residential developments of 15 dwellings or more. Affordable housing is housing designed to meet the needs of households whose incomes are not sufficient to allow them to access decent and appropriate housing in the Borough. Affordable housing comprises social housing, intermediate housing and low cost market housing.
Where the provision of affordable housing is for rent, it should be secured by a Registered Social Landlord and/or through legal agreements and integrated with general housing development in terms of access and design.
6.29 Policy G6 provides for a proportion of housing to meet the needs of people who cannot afford to rent or buy houses generally available on the open market. Research in Bexley Borough indicates that over 3,500 households will need affordable housing in the Plan period. In determining whether a development is suitable, the prevailing government and strategic guidance on affordable housing will be taken into account. Affordable housing will include tenures controlled by Registered Social Landlords. Low cost market housing may be included where applicants can demonstrate that it is possible to access that housing on the resource levels set by Housing Corporation guidelines. Reflecting the supply of land in the Borough, provision on-site is normally sought, rather than payments in lieu. The Council will require the integration of affordable housing into general market schemes to encourage the development of mixed and balanced communities, consistent with Circular 6/98. Having regard to local circumstances, under this policy, some 35% of homes on each site should normally be affordable housing. This target is indicative. It will be applied flexibly. It will be assessed using the GLAs Development Control Toolkit. The amount of affordable housing sought will depend on local constraints and the development costs that apply to a particular site. The amount of affordable housing, therefore, may be higher or lower than the indicative target. The policy is expected to yield approximately 1,082 additional affordable dwellings over the period 1997-2016.
6.30 The Council regards "affordable housing" as including that which is accessible to people whose incomes are insufficient to enable them to afford adequate housing locally on the open market. The Council recognises its enabling role in this field and also acknowledges that it does not operate in isolation. Housing Associations in particular have an important role to play in providing affordable housing and the Council will continue to work in partnership with such organisations. The Council also recognises that the involvement of Housing Associations is a straightforward way of ensuring the affordable housing will be enjoyed by successive as well as initial occupiers of property.
6.31 The Council is committed to achieving increased provision of affordable housing, wherever possible. It will undertake further assessments of the scale and nature of affordable housing need and will also take the opportunity to respond to any further guidance from the Government on affordable housing. It is intended that the results of this further work will be built into Supplementary Planning Guidance. The precise scale of provision of affordable housing associated within a particular site will be a matter of negotiation on a case by case basis, using the framework of this policy.
Sheltered dwelling proposals will be subject to other residential policies and will not qualify for sheltered dwelling car parking standards (Policy T17), unless they satisfy all of the following criteria:
- they are specifically designed as dwellings for the elderly and built to a standard which will allow adequate mobility for all people, including those with visual and movement handicaps;
- adequate communal facilities are provided, including a common room within the scheme;
- there is easy access to community facilities such as shops, post office, doctors, pharmacy and public transport;
- they comprise one or two bedroom dwellings;
- provision of a 24 hour emergency cover by means of a warden (resident or non-resident) and provision of a central alarm system; and
- an enforceable means of restricting occupation of such dwellings to persons aged sixty years or more.
6.32 Sheltered dwellings are defined for the purposes of this policy as dwellings designed for the elderly and having the services of a warden (resident or non‑resident) and/or a link to a central alarm system. The policy aims to take into account the requirements of small households of retirement age. The provision of sheltered housing, well related to urban services, can reduce the extent of greenfield land required. The relaxed car parking standards for sheltered dwellings are based on assumptions of low car ownership and use. Evidence to support these assumptions comes from the 1981 Census where car ownership amongst the elderly of Bexley Borough is shown to be significantly lower than the adult population generally (around 40% of households with pensioners have cars, whilst 70% of all households have cars). It follows that dwellings designed specifically for the elderly, with community facilities either on site or within easy access and with an age restriction on occupancy, may reasonably be expected to attract residents with a lower rate of car ownership than the population generally. The requirements for a predominance of small, one‑bedroom dwellings and a warden/alarm service are intended to reflect the probability that occupation of such dwellings will be biased towards those persons requiring more care and being at a later stage of the retirement age span, where car ownership is lower than in younger, more active age groups. Designs for the elderly should include features such as wider doors and corridors, ramps and lifts, waist level power sockets. Occupation will be restricted by means of planning obligations unless the Council is satisfied that there is another enforceable means of suitably restricting occupation, otherwise the relaxed car parking standard will not be appropriate.
Housing for small households
Subject to other residential policies, the development of dwellings suitable for small households will be encouraged.
6.33 A substantial proportion of the projected growth in numbers of households consists of newly formed, small households.
The Council will keep under review the provision of small official travellers' sites, having regard to its statutory obligations.
6.34 There is a need for further travellers sites to be provided in Greater London. The Council has an existing site at Powerscroft Road, Foots Cray, and this has been upgraded. The Council will keep under review the demand for further accommodation in the borough in order to meet its statutory obligations.
The Council, when considering:
- a determination of whether prior approval will be required for a proposed method of demolition and any proposed restoration of a site; or
- a prior approval for a proposed method of demolition and any proposed restoration of a site; or
- serving an article 4 direction to prevent demolition taking place;
will have particular regard to whether a proposal would be detrimental to the character and appearance of an area or to the amenities of the occupiers of nearby property.
6.35 This policy has regard to advice of Circular 10/95. The policy seeks to ensure that development is carried out in a manner which has due regard to its surroundings. The demolition of a building may cause a detrimental change to the character and appearance of an area, for example by creating a gap in the street scene or by contributing to the impression of a run-down or declining area. Therefore, a criterion to address this matter is included. The amenities of nearby occupiers may suffer not only through wider changes in character and appearance but also through the process of demolition and the condition in which the site is left. Thus, detriment to amenities of nearby occupiers may be caused by the appearance of a demolition site or through the tendency for such sites to become poorly secured and maintained. Under this policy, it is unlikely that piecemeal demolition of parts of terraced or semi-detached dwellings would be approved.
6.36 This policy is not applicable to listed buildings, buildings in Conservation Areas and scheduled monuments, which are the subject of separate controls.
Where the Council is considering a proposed demolition and any proposed restoration of a site, it will normally require:
- that the process of demolition is controlled through restrictions, including periods of working and noise emissions;
- the appropriate disposal of waste material;
- the restoration of a site to a suitable standard commensurate with its surroundings, including a suitable boundary treatment; and
- in the case of sites with several dwellings or occupiers, the control of the commencement or phasing of demolition.
The Council will seek to effect these requirements either as part of a written description of a proposal or by way of planning conditions or obligations.
6.37 These purposes are included with the objectives respectively: of minimising the disturbance and noise experienced by nearby occupiers, so as to ensure that the waste materials are removed from the site; to ensure that the site does not become an eyesore; and in order to limit piecemeal demolition leading to an impression of a run down area. Piecemeal demolition may also result in detriment to the amenities of remaining occupiers or a perception of intimidation, which the Council seeks to avoid.