Before drawing up development proposals, you should research the site thoroughly, to allow you to identify if we would accept development in principle. It will also help you work out what type and form of development is appropriate.
Your proposal should take account of the unique nature of a site and its surroundings. It needs to:
- respect the context
- make best use of the land
- improve accessibility, connectivity and safety
- minimise the environmental impact of the development
A site and context analysis can also save money, as it can help you avoid costly late changes.
This site appraisal work typically involves both desktop studies and site visits, and comprises three main stages:
Whether or not your proposed development is acceptable in principle will depend on both national and local planning policy. You can find full details of policies and designations that may relate to a site in our Local Plan and the Policies Map that accompanies it.
Other local strategies and assessments may also apply to your proposal, depending on its type and location. You can find more detail in Section 3 of the Making Places SPD.
You should also look at the planning history for the site and surrounding area, in case someone else has already submitted a similar proposal. It will also show how other pending applications may affect the surrounding area in the near future.
The National Design Guide sets out best practice and issues to consider when analysing the context of a site.
In following the National Design Guidance, we would expect you to consider the following topics in more detail, for both the site itself and its wider context.
Natural and historic environment
- topography and orientation of site (falls and levels of the site)
- ecology (wildlife habitats and protected trees or species)
- national or local designated sites (Site of Special Scientific Interest, Local Nature Reserves or Local Wildlife Sites)
- geology (soil type)
- flood risk and drainage
- heritage (conservation areas, listed buildings, buildings of local value, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens)
- local facilities, such as shops, schools, pubs, libraries, health care, open spaces, employment
- surrounding land use, including noise
- existing land use on site
Movement and accessibility
- access (existing and potential vehicular, cycle and pedestrian access points)
- Public Rights of Ways and informal paths (cycle, walkways and bridleways crossing the site and how the site connects with the existing network)
- public transport (nearest bus stops/routes and their frequency, train stations)
- road network
- existing equipment (utility cables, pipelines, pylons or utility boxes on or next to the site)
- easements (clearing distance needed around utilities)
- views into and out of the site (including any views that you need to protect, enhance or screen)
- landmarks (including important landmarks on or off the site that can provide identity and orientation for the area)
Context analysis and character of the surrounding area
- street layout and block pattern (straight or irregular, connected or with cul-de-sacs, size and shape of the blocks)
- building footprints
- building line and relationship of buildings to the street
- boundary treatments (such as walls, fences and hedges)
- spaces between buildings/continuity of frontage
- plot sizes
- car parking
Built form and style
- building heights
- building types (shapes and types of buildings, such as narrow or wide)
- character of buildings (age, roof form, windows and materials used in surrounding buildings)
- open spaces
- trees and hedges
- water features
You should present the main findings of the analysis in a series of plans at appropriate scales. The National Design Guide includes examples of such plans.
You should also include a plan covering a wider area for a full appreciation of the site’s context.
After you have carried out Stages 1 and 2, you should be able to identify the main opportunities and constraints that will influence how you can develop your site.
Opportunities may include:
- views of local landmarks and open countryside
- site features
- improved cycle and walkways.
Constraints may be:
- a busy road near the site
- heritage assets
- protected trees
- utilities within or near to a site
You should illustrate these on the drawings, as they will form the basis for the first concept plans and design principles.