How to Stop Zero Plotting

House of Lords Built Environment Report on Meeting Housing Demand

Zero plotting is when housebuilders plot streets using suburban house types
as tightly as possible. Design for Homes informed us that these schemes allow
no space for soft landscaping at the front of the house and the streets tend
to have no verge or tree planting. This allows the developer to maximise
their land bid and win the tender. David Birkbeck explained that these
homes were previously built at 12,000 square feet to the acre and are now
built at 17,000 square feet to the acre. He remarked that builders “work
out how to build the maximum number of units with absolutely nothing
except for the minimum depth of garden allowed … and enough space for
two parking bays on plot to the front of the property” and suggested that
the business models of several companies are based on this practice. Homes
England does not allow its land to be sold to developers who adopt zero
plotting. We heard evidence that mid-rise developments use space effectively
to provide medium density dwellings and have less of a harmful impact on
the surrounding environment

Zero Plotting meaning Zero land left over after roads, footways, rear gardens and front parking.

If you assume two storeys then clearly the developer who pushes closest to zero plotting will achieve the greatest number of units and most likley to win a tender. Zero plotting is a symptomn of basic bulk zoning controls in British Planning that would guarantee space for greenspace on the frontage of the public realm. Of possible controls density is the crudest and least effective. Next is floospace area ratio, though that is only moderately less crude. Next and best is a proper design code (form based) with rules on Street Row (guaranteeing trees on appropriate non urban typologies) and front gardens on units with a villa or urbs in rus identity. Finally Urban Greenspace Factors and maximum plot coverage ratios can be effective, but like sensible FAR controls they should be based on measures which include half of the width of the frontage road added to the plot size denominator.

It is perhaps indicative of the failure of design controls in Engalnd that they became reduced to measures which only controlled adjoining amenity, and not quality (like minimum garden depth), and then mandated suburban solutions.

The Times Gets it Wrong no Planning White Paper U Turn

The Times typically bad reporting on planning

Homeowners will still be able to object to individual planning applications after the government confirmed a U-turn on its intended reforms to the system.

Homeowners will still be able to object to individual planning applications after the government confirmed a U-turn on reforms to the system.

Ministers had planned to replace the planning application process with a zonal system and mandatory housebuilding targets, stripping homeowners of their right to object.

The Times reported in September that the shake-up of planning laws was to be abandoned after a backlash from voters and Conservative MPs in southern England. A change of approach from the government, however, was contained in a submission to the Lords built environment committee.

In the report it said: “There will be a continuing role for public consultation as part of the planning application process. Even where the broad principle of development is agreed . . . all the details would still need to be consulted on with communities and statutory consultees, and approved by officers or committees where appropriate.”

The government’s submission added: “Our reforms will give communities a greater voice from the start of the planning process … We also want to see more democratic accountability, with communities having a more meaningful say on the development schemes which affect them, not less.”

In response to the move, Tom Fyans, director of campaigns at the countryside charity the CPRE, said: “It appears the government now genuinely understands the need for local communities to have a powerful voice in planning decisions. These are encouraging signs that suggest a fundamental change of approach when it comes to determining what gets built where.”

The Lords report warned that ministers would not hit their target of building 300,000 new homes a year unless they stopped dithering over planning reforms. The cross-party committee said that uncertainty and delays in overhauling the system had had a “chilling effect” on housebuilding.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, chairwoman of the committee, said: “The most important aspect in terms of housing supply is planning. Frankly all the twisting and turning over reform has had a chilling effect, creating uncertainty for housebuilders and planners.

“The government needs to bite the bullet and actually build housing of all types and tenures.”

The report said: “The challenges facing the housing market have been well documented: too many people are living in expensive, unsuitable, poor-quality homes. To address these complex challenges in the long term it is necessary to increase housing supply now.”

Local councils should be forced to come up with a plan for their area, Neville-Rolfe said, as more than half do not have an up-to-date strategy for building more homes.

Help to Buy, the government’s flagship homeownership scheme, is criticised for pushing up prices. The £29 billion cost of the scheme would “be better spent on increasing housing supply”, the committee said.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We share the ambition to reform the planning system to meet the demand for more high-quality homes and create a fairer housing market. We delivered more than 216,000 homes in England in 2020-21, well above the 186,500 forecast for the whole of the UK, and are investing a further £12 billion in affordable housing over the next five years.”

What this shows is no u-turn – it simply was the Planning White Paper was so badly drafted the point wasnt clear. In zoning system you still need permission for a design, unless, as now, a design code would grant you permission on compliant design. This is simply doing what the government botched in drafting the White Paper – selling what a zoning system is and how it works. In fact this is the first full indication from Gove that he is not ditching a zoning system – whilst spinning to Nimby backbencher that it is a u-turn. It isnt.