Replacement Dwellings (Guidance for Developers)

Please note that this guidance was produced by the former Macclesfield Borough Council and therefore relates only to the area that it previously covered.

Introduction

There have been recent concerns expressed by members of the Borough Council that replacement dwellings schemes have often resulted in adverse impacts to the character of areas. A perceived problem is that the character of such areas will be cumulatively detrimentally changed. The corporate policy outlined in this Guidance Document was approved by the Environment Policy Development Committee on 9th October 2006.

Perceived Problems with the Current Situation

The SPG that restricts the supply of new housing allows replacement dwellings on a one-for-one basis. Although not all dwellings are the same size, small and large dwellings are each assessed as a single residential unit. This has increased the pressure for redevelopment of small dwellings, located on a comparatively large site.

It is recognised that the impact of replacement dwellings has not been experienced consistently across the Borough. Some towns and villages (e.g. Prestbury, Alderley Edge, Mottram-St-Andrew, Wilmslow and Mobberley) have been subject to greater pressure for replacement dwellings than others. High numbers of replacement dwellings can cumulatively have a significant impact on the character and appearance of settlements.

However, replacement dwelling proposals can offer the opportunity to employ innovative design solutions, including basements, which allow additional floor space to be provided without necessarily significantly increasing the visible height, width or mass of the building.

Existing Local Plan Policies

There are already different tiers of policies in the adopted Macclesfield Borough Local Plan relating to replacement dwellings. The most restrictive policies relate to listed buildings, then, in approximate order of severity, locally important buildings, Conservation Areas, Green Belts, Low-Density Housing Areas and, finally, dwellings within built-up areas without special protection. It is more important to protect the fabric of listed buildings and dwellings within conservation areas than the fabric of dwellings that are not specifically protected. In all other cases, it is more important that the impact of the resultant dwelling on the character of the area is acceptable.

Most policies allow an element of flexibility in the consideration of applications. Limited exceptions may sometimes be made if warranted by the characteristics of the site but, generally, proposals should comply with the policy requirements of the Local Plan. The criteria for assessing replacement dwellings in Conservation Areas and Low Density Housing Areas, under policies BE3 and H12 respectively, are more restrictive than those for replacement dwellings elsewhere. In all cases, it is important that a replacement dwelling should be built on the site where the demolition has taken place.

Communities and Local Government Circular 01/2006

This document contains guidance relating to the requirement for Design and Access Statements, which must now accompany applications for certain types of planning permission and consent (including replacement dwellings). This new requirement came into force on 10 August 2006. The purpose of a Design and Access Statement is to explain the process that has led to the development proposal and should cover both the design principles and concepts that have been applied and explain how issues relating to access to the development have been handled. Paragraph 62 states:

“The level of detail required in a Design and Access Statement will depend on the scale and complexity of the application, and the length of the statement will vary accordingly. Statements must be proportionate to the complexity of the application, but need not be long.”

The design and access principles that must be considered are:

  • The amount of the development proposed (number of units if residential, otherwise the amount of floor space for each proposed use).
  • The layout – the way in which buildings, routes and open spaces (both public and private) are provided and orientated in relation to each other and buildings and spaces surrounding the development.
  • The scale – the height, width and length of the building in relation to its surroundings.
  • Landscaping – the treatment of private and public spaces through hard and soft landscaping measures and how the landscaping will be maintained.
  • The appearance of the development – the external built form of the development, its architecture, materials, decoration, lighting, colour and texture.
  • Access – relates only to “access to the development” and does not extend to internal aspects of individual buildings. Statements must explain how access arrangements will ensure that all users will have equal and convenient access to buildings and spaces and the public transport network.

Of particular importance in the case of replacement dwellings is the impact that the new building will have on the overall character of the surrounding area. Paragraph 97 deals with appraising the context and states:

“A Design and Access Statement must demonstrate the steps taken to appraise the context of the proposed development. It is important that an applicant should understand the context in which their proposal will site, and use this understanding to draw up the application. To gain a good understanding of context and to use it appropriately applicants should follow a design process, which includes:

  • Assessment of the site’s immediate and wider context in terms of physical, social and economic characteristics and relevant planning policies. This may include both a desk survey and on-site observations and access audit. The extent of the area to be surveyed will depend on the nature, scale and sensitivity of the development.
  • Involvement of both community members and professionals undertaken or planned. This might include, for example, consultation with local community and access groups and planning, building control, conservation, design and access officers. The statement should indicate how the findings of any consultation have been taken into account for the proposed development and how this has affected the proposal.
  • Evaluation of the information collected on the site’s immediate and wider context, identifying opportunities and constraints and formulating design and access principles for the development. Evaluation may involve balancing any potentially conflicting issues that have been identified.
  • Design of the scheme using the assessment, involvement, and evaluation information collected. Understanding a development’s context is vital to producing good design and inclusive access and applicants should avoid working retrospectively, trying to justify a pre-determined design through subsequent site assessment and evaluation.”

Procedural Changes to Replacement Dwelling Schemes

In accordance with recent legislation, every new planning application for replacement dwellings on a one-for-one basis must now include a Design and Access Statement, prior to registration. Existing policies of the adopted local plan also indicate that the impact of such schemes upon street scenes and the overall character of areas will be of particular significance. However, the Borough Council now requires that, in addition to a Design and Access Statement, applications for replacement dwellings shall also include a Visual Impact Assessment prior to registration. This is an assessment of the existing character and appearance of the immediate locality, showing how the proposed scheme may be incorporated into the neighbourhood without resulting in significant harm being caused to either visual or neighbouring residential amenities.