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.

One thought on “How to Stop Zero Plotting

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of local plans / SPDs. Speaking as an LPA planner (personal views) at DM application stage we can normally secure whatever standards we have had the forethought to put into policy.
    Some outcomes become quite predictable. Standards for back-to-back distances but not front-to-front across the street = houses pushed to front of plots. Back-to-back distances but no minimum garden sizes = rear parking courts. If you want to have it all – you have to specify it all – and as much as possible in the LP.

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