The Interim LHDG and the London Plan: What are the differences?

The LHDG was interim guidance to generate better aspirations in housing for London, the London Plan is a statutory strategy required by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Both have been around for quite a few years but the LHDG has mainly been absorbed into the London Plan now in the March 2021 London Plan.

The LHDG was not a formal part of planning policy with the main planning guidance documents remaining the London Plan and the Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance documents. The London Housing Design Guide was instead aimed at complementing planning documents and encouraging designers to aim for the highest quality. Around aspirations for attractive, individual spacious and sustainable housing. The central focus of the guide is setting minimum space standards along with policies on various aspects affecting the home environment such as daylight and noise.

There were 6 particular areas the guide focused on:

  1. Shaping good places: getting the building right and its relationship with the area it is within.
  2. Housing diversity; both in terms of a variety of housing types and the needs of those occupying them
  3. Street to door: access to homes
  4. Dwelling space: raising minimum space standards
  5. Home as a place of retreat: in particular light and privacy
  6. Climate change: considering future sustainability

The LHDG specifically defined aspects in many respects are part of the core foundation of the London Plan. However, the very nature of the first Interim document being written by the then Mayor of London – Boris Johnson, being written back in August 2010, is fire safety. In the wake of the awful tragedy at Grenfell Tower, it would not seem fit for a London Plan issued in March 2021 not to talk about fire safety. In the interim London Housing Design Guide, the only time the word Fire is used is under the contributors where it lists London Fire Brigade, the London Plan 2021 has a dedicated policy relating to fire safety. (Policy D12)

Dual aspect requirements in the LHDG/London Plan

 Guidance from the old August 2010 interim LHDG (London Housing Design Guide)

The intro to 5.2 specifically references “The Mayor believes dual aspect should be the first option that designers explore for all new developments” two of the particular points specified which relate to dual aspects were:

5.2.1 Developments should avoid single aspect dwellings that are north facing, exposed to noise exposure categories C or D, or contain three or more bedrooms.

5.2.2 Where single aspect dwellings are proposed, the designer should demonstrate how good levels of ventilation, daylight and privacy will be provided to each habitable room and the kitchen.

With the introduction of the London Plan, the interim LHDG has changed guidance from what used to be under the classification of a ‘home being a retreat’ and now is part of the ‘housing quality and standards section’ it is slightly revised to drop the North facing comments and make it more of a general requirement (this was an area previously considered by some to be misleading and by others as a loophole).

The new clauses relating to dual aspect views in the London Plan are:

D6 C. Housing development should maximise the provision of dual aspect dwellings and normally avoid the provision of single aspect dwellings. A single aspect dwelling should only be provided where it is considered a more appropriate design solution to meet the requirements of Part B in Policy D3 Optimising site capacity through the design-led approach than a dual aspect dwelling, and it can be demonstrated that it will have adequate passive ventilation, daylight and privacy, and avoid overheating.

3.6.4 Dual aspect dwellings with opening windows on at least two sides have many inherent benefits. These include better daylight, a greater chance of direct sunlight for longer periods, natural cross-ventilation, a greater capacity to address overheating, pollution mitigation, a choice of views, access to a quiet side of the building, greater flexibility in the use of rooms, and more potential for future adaptability by altering the use of rooms.

How does dual aspect affect balconies?

Previously we used to find that Architects at an early stage paid very little attention to its correlation with balconies under the LHDG. Some specifiers would design a bay window or a step in a façade with a window or classified their balconies as having a dual view because theoretically if you stand 1.5m out from the building on a balcony you can see considerably more than if you were inside the building. It was considered an area with a few easy fixes. This however in the London Plan 2021 is defined as:

“A dual aspect dwelling is defined as one with openable windows on two external walls, which may be either on opposite sides of a dwelling or on adjacent sides of a dwelling where the external walls of a dwelling wrap around the corner of a building. The provision of a bay window does not constitute dual aspect.”

What other aspects of the London Plan affect balcony design?

D3 10 achieve indoor and outdoor environments that are comfortable and inviting for people to use.

D6 Table 3.2 (5) Private amenity space for each dwelling should be usable and have a balance of openness and protection, appropriate for its outlook and orientation.

D6 9. Where there are no higher local standards in the borough Development Plan Documents, a minimum of 5 sq.m. of private outdoor space should be provided for 1-2 person dwellings and an extra 1 sq.m. should be provided for each additional occupant, and it must achieve a minimum depth and width of 1.5m. This does not count towards the minimum Gross Internal Area space standards. In the absence of this being carried forward into the national standards, this part is still commonly referred to by designers even outside of London.

D6 3.6.9 Private outside space should be practical in terms of its shape and utility, and care should be taken to ensure the space offers good amenity. All dwellings should have level access to one or more of the following forms of private outside spaces: a garden, terrace, roof garden, courtyard garden or balcony. The use of roof areas, including podiums, and courtyards for additional private or shared outside space is encouraged.

More general guidance

The fire advice essentially goes further than other documents scope in essentially specifying “best practice in fire safety” (D11) and “highest standards” (D12) which is not height related.

D11 3.11.2 New developments, including building refurbishments, should be constructed with resilience at the heart of their design. In particular, they should incorporate appropriate fire safety solutions and represent best practice in fire safety planning in both design and management. The London Fire Commissioner should be consulted early in the design process to ensure major developments have fire safety solutions built-in.

D12 A

  1. are designed to incorporate appropriate features which reduce the risk to life and the risk of serious injury in the event of a fire; including appropriate fire alarm systems and passive and active fire safety measures.
  2. are constructed in an appropriate way to minimise the risk of fire spread.

Tall buildings

These are defined as not less than 6 storeys or 18m.

D9 C2 B buildings should be serviced, maintained and managed in a manner that will preserve their safety and quality, and not cause disturbance or inconvenience to the surrounding public realm. Servicing, maintenance and building management arrangements should be considered at the start of the design process

Is the London Housing Design Guide (LHDG) still relevant?

The quick answer is, no, although the guidance it contains is still relevant it is now covered elsewhere.

In essence, where guidance from the LHDG has been added to further documents, it is those which are now referred to, for example, internal space is now more commonly referred to from the national technical standards. This has taken table 3.1 from the London Plan/LHDG, although it has missed the recommended private outdoor space requirements of 5sqm of space for a one or two person dwelling and an extra one meter for each extra person. There was a set of national technical standards published in March 2015 (Housing: optional technical standards – GOV.UK (, however, this is defined by the government MHCLG as “Guidance on how planning authorities can gather evidence to set optional requirements and the nationally described space standard”.