Maximising Development Potential Without Wasting Time

Property Development | FORM Design architects Surrey

FORM’s Design Director, Chartered Architect, Mike Chidzey BA (Hons) DipArch RIBA, explains why over-development isn’t always the best way to get a good – and timely – return on your investment.

Developers and landowners regularly ask us to design schemes that will maximise the development potential of their site. For residential schemes, this is often interpreted as getting the greatest number of units on a site.

However, cramming in the greatest number of units is not necessarily the best route to achieving value on return, either in terms of financial investment or time. A positive outcome depends on a considerable number of factors such as the site’s constraints, local and national planning rules and even the proclivities of the planning committee!

Our approach to maximising the development potential starts with a review of the site constraints and planning constraints – before embarking on design feasibility studies.

Our approach to maximising development potential starts with a review of the site and planning constraints - before embarking on design feasibility studies.

Blending Planning and Design

Preparing design studies that have a high chance of failing at planning is a waste of time and money!

We head off potential issues well before the design phase by considering a variety of top-level design options with our in-house planners. This means we can identify the best and most likely positive outcome for any given design.

Having in-house planners allows us to be proactive and responsive to our clients’ ambitions so we can achieve the best outcome in the shortest timeframe, from submission to a positive planning decision.

Residential Site Among Large Houses

In one recent example, we had an enquiry from a client who asked us to look at maximising the value of a site for residential use.

The site lay within an area of medium to large residential plots, but the client initially wanted to build flats as they felt that this would provide the best return.

After reviewing the site, we advised the client that in all likelihood the planners would probably oppose flats as there were height restrictions and the increase in parking would raise opposition from local residents.

There were also a significant number of trees on the site, making this option a more challenging proposition.

The alternative was to run with clusters of semi-detached houses that would be compatible with the scale of the surrounding large Edwardian properties.

By recommending semi-detached properties, we overcame the local planners’ moratorium on large 4-bedroom detached developments and restrictions on developing as a consequence of the density and location of the trees. This solution provided the client with a better return on the investment and prevented unnecessary delays in the planning process.

High-Speed Planning Consent

In another scheme, we achieved planning consent within a very short timeframe following the refusal of planning prepared by another company.

A design for a block of flats had been refused consent on a very tight, town centre corner site. The reasons for refusal were primarily on the grounds that the height scale and mass were out of character with the architecture of the local area.

The client was very keen on getting planning consent in the shortest possible period of time to realise his investment, so our approach was to assess the reasons for refusal in detail and propose an alternative design and planning strategy.

We also recommended that the client entered into a Planning Performance Agreement with the Council to fast-track the planning process.

This agreement with the local planning department meant that the typical time frame to develop the design was significantly reduced and the design process consequently condensed. This approach meant we needed to have a clear design strategy to avoid delaying the planning process.

The site was constrained on two sides with adjacent built form and on the other two sides by two main roads. The new design could only be provided with a built form that occupied the whole site up to all the boundaries, with balconies providing the amenity space.

Our brief was to develop a new scheme proposal that would maintain the accommodation and the limited-on site parking. The greatest challenge was to address the issue of bulk and mass and find a way to assimilate and reflect the design of the new scheme into the character of the local area.

We addressed the principle issue for refusal of the previous scheme by breaking up the mass with a series of folded pitched roofs and thus reducing the height in places.

This created a more varied and interesting skyline and the variation of rise and fall of the new roof design reflected the character of the existing surrounding roofscapes – which was another reason for the previous refusal.

Brick and tile were chosen for the new design with tall, fully-glazed gables to give a modern twist to the old Victorian loft-living aesthetic.

The final design reflected the architectural charter of the local buildings and the dramatic skyline created by the pitched roofs gave the impression of a smaller, less bulky building. Despite this, we actually achieved a significant increase in floor area for the same site footprint and with the same number of units.

The scheme was given consent by the Council, with the majority voting in favour.

Our design scheme provided the client with an increase in nett sales area on a highly constrained site to a very tight timescale.

Maximising the Development Potential of Your Sites

Fed up with schemes which fail to pass planning?

For an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to successful scheme developments, please get in touch to discuss your project.