From a planning perspective, density is a complex matter. There are several planning considerations to take into account – not all of them consistent. One consideration is the need for councils to demonstrate that they can help bring forward enough housing for their area.

Tracy Lovejoy

Tracy Lovejoy

Related to this is the need to make efficient use of land in planning applications for housing, bearing in mind the national shortage. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) acknowledges this need, but it also requires local plans and planning decisions to take into account an area’s prevailing character and setting. Planning for high-density housing can, therefore, be refused because a scheme fails to respect the character of an area.

The latest consultation for revisions to the NPPF indicates that the government intends to elevate the importance of respecting an area’s character and make it easier for councils to refuse high-density housing that would clash with it, even where there is a failure to identify sufficient housing.

The idea that an aversion to high-density apartment blocks could lead to less available housing in cities and towns, driving people to rural areas, is an interesting one. But good-quality affordable housing that will keep local people in rural areas is in short supply, so it is hard to envision people seeking this kind of housing outside cities.

There are policies intended to boost affordable housing in rural areas, including building affordable rural housing as an exception to policies related to building in the open countryside. This is in addition to areas for public transport, facilities and houses for farm workers, which have conditions to prevent them being used by anyone else.

Members of the public, in particular, need to be encouraged to embrace diversity of housing and to regard higher densities as capable of blending into their area, as well as playing the important role of providing much-needed housing.

Developers should continue to give thought to design and to market houses that are suitable for diverse groups alongside buildings communities can be proud of.

Tracy Lovejoy is a senior associate at Irwin Mitchell