Small Sites

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Backland

Lobis-Hill was established with the mission to redevelop underutilised land and buildings found across the capital in order to create unique and exceptionally designed luxury living.  We work with a first class professional team to deliver our projects such as the award winning architect and small site specialist Remi Connolly-Taylor director of  REMI C.T. STUDIO who we have comissioned for our current small site project.  For more information about that project click here:

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What are small sites?
Small sites, as defined in the Draft plan policy for M20 for small sites and small houses are those that fall below 2500 square metres in size or 0.25 acres. To visualise, this is approximately one-third the size of of a football pitch.or alternatively about 8 tennis courts in size.  

Types of small site

Given the government definition above, this can been further subdivided into the following categories by local authorities with some crosover in each category:

  • Infill: Are those sites with typically one street frontage but are found between gaps in existing buildings or infrastructure. Often these gaps are overlooked as traditionally they would have been considered to small or difficult to build on. The term Infill is often loosely used to refer to all types of small site development. 

  • Backland: Sites with no street frontage often hidden from main carrageways such as blocks of garages, a yard or mews alley. These sites can contain low density buildings such as industrial premises where demolition and redevelopment can provide additional homes.

  • Garden: Depending on location and layout, garden development can be a form of backland or infill development . Unfortunately previous 'Garden Grabbing' government policies have now meant that planning authority guidlines set out in the National Planning policy Framework have determined that these types of development could be considered inappropriate and will therefore be resisted.

Infill Example

This infill deisgn was done by the award winning Satish Jassal Architects, and demonstrates how a constrained garage site in the london borough of Haringey can be turned into a well thought out home.

Infill Site
Infill Site

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Step House Tottenham 1
Step House Tottenham 1

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Step House Tottenham 5
Step House Tottenham 5

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Infill Site
Infill Site

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Backland Example

This deisgn was done by the award winning Stockwoll. The scheme which backs onto a mews road containing garages rejuvanates empty space behind an existing detached block that had previously seen issues with dumped cars and fly tipping.

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Why build on small sites?

As of 2021, there is a huge housing shortfall in London that the government is trying to manage. The government recognises that 25% of the housing capacity in London could be on small sites with the London plan mandating that small sites should play an essential part in local planning respective housing targets. The Governments National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF) determines that each local planning authority should allocate at least 10% of its housing target to small to medium sized sites.

With the majority of the remaining land in London within the Green Belt or otherwise unavailable for development (for example, designated parks), there is simply very little capacity for greenfield housing development in London.

While brownfield developments (namely Opportunity Areas) have been a focus of regeneration, these sites alone cannot overcome London’s housing shortage as highlighted in an independent report by  planning consultancy Quod for the homeless charity Shelter. The report highlights that two thirds of brownfield land is already used for housing with the remaining used for vital infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and transport links, or already earmarked for development.

green spaces london
green spaces london

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industrial uses london_edited

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quod green belt map by borough_edited_edited
quod green belt map by borough_edited_edited

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green spaces london

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Small site development such as Infill or backland, makes use of the remaining capacity that exists within the built up fabric. Very often these sites are scraps of forgotten or underutilised land but with the benefits of having some supporting communities and infrastructure in place. 

Challenges of small site design

Maryland House is the birthchild of Archetect Remi Connolly-Taylor and her demonstration of how infill sites can be used to construct sustainable homes that are highly crafted to maximise site potential, creating grandeur within small spaces. This design set out to create a space that reflected the needs of modern young professionals with the ability to have a beautifully crafted live-work space.

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This particular site had struggled to gain planning permission from 2002. With constraints of a 8.5m x 9m plot size, Remi turned her attention to digging down rather than looking up. The design skillfully creates a three storey layout where the careful consideration of natural light sources has created a basement saturated in natural light by way of the garden and the staircase enclosed by glass blocks.  Desptie what on paper seems like a limited plot size, Remi has created a space which contains tall 3.1m ceilings, a double and single bedroom with en-suits, a studio workspace and a teraced garden space. 

Designing for small sites requires often unconventional solutions due to the constraints defined by the existing urban typology. Some factors for consideration are:

  • Viability. Identifying suitable sites as many may be unsuitabe for practical reasons. There may be a reason that the gap exists due to existing infrasturucture below ground that is costly to remove.

  • Neighbourhood Character. Designing to conform to the character of the surrundings is another important consideration. 

  • Material selection.  Essencially a sub category of Neighbourhood character. This can be a real challenge, either with a need to integrate with surrounding buildings or stand out.

  • Access to light. This is normally a major factor and will determine placement of windows and skylights while observing issues with overlooking and privacy.  

  • Garden Grabbing. There is often local authority resistance to garden developments but carefull planning can mitagate against issues, 

  • Community resistance. Benefits for residents may not be clear and there are still  cultural and social attitudes around density that need to be confrunted. Despite many sites being unloved or in a state of disrepair,  developer disruption and the possibility of outsiders filling the new homes, suddenly makes these negleted sites suddenly become precious assets to be protected.

Despite the many possible limits,  development for small sites provides an opportunity to explore innovative design ideas that can transform an area and establish a turning point in its history. It can help celebrate what’s good about the existing historic urban forms.

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