Planning Advice Note 67: housing quality

Planning Advice Note (PAN) 67 explains how Designing Places should be applied to new housing.

Planning Advice Note PAN 67 Housing Quality


Those involved in planning and providing housing should start by asking: what sort of place do we want this to be? What sort of place does it have the potential to be? How can we create a framework for providing what we want? How can we deliver what we want?

The answers will be rooted in an understanding of the physical location, but also what people value about it. The answers will be based on a sound knowledge of the local economy and the particular characteristics of the local housing market. They will reflect an appreciation of the context - what is distinctive about both the locality and the region, and how the design of the buildings can subtly reflect the local as well as the Scottish identity.

The design of a successful place will begin with understanding how new housing can be connected to the movement patterns (street and routes) and settlement patterns (street blocks and layouts) of an area. The combination of layout of buildings, streets and spaces should create local identity, and contribute positively to the character of Scotland's cities, towns and villages.

Five aspects of the built form will help this - layout, landscape, scale and mix, details and materials and maintenance. These factors should inform a development plan's design policies, urban design guidance, design statements and discussions between developers and planners.

For each factor, there are a number of issues to consider. No development will have all the characteristics listed. The planning and design process will determine which of them are appropriate, and in what way, for the specific development on the particular site. This is a list, not of requirements, but of possibilities. The art of planning and design is to make the most of the opportunities that every proposed development provides, taking into account the different perspectives of the various interests involved.

Anyone planning or designing housing should consider in relation to each item on the checklist

a) how it is to be achieved in a particular development?


b) why it is not appropriate?

It is not possible to be prescriptive on design: good design will not be produced by slavishly following rules, irrespective of place or context. The benefit derived from going through this process - in a development brief, in a design statement, in negotiations between developers and planners, or in any other form - will depend on the skill of the planners, architects, house builders, developers or housing associations involved, and their commitment to working together.

layout landscape scale & mix details & materials maintenance

1. Layout

The creation of good places requires careful attention to detailed aspects of layout and movement. Developers should think about the qualities and characteristics of places and not consider sites in isolation. New housing should take account of the wider context and be integrated into its wider neighbourhood. Vehicle and pedestrian routes should connect the housing with facilities and spaces within the development, to the local area and more widely.

The layout of a housing development determines the character of streets and public spaces, and influences patterns of movement. It is also the key to other important issues such as security and privacy. Modest differences in the layout of buildings, pedestrian routes, street and junction design, open spaces and play facilities can have an impact on the quality of new development. For example, buildings (particularly the position of windows and doors) can contribute to making interesting, active and safe streets and public places.

Meeting the road engineering requirements can, at times, result in wasted space, and a failure to create any sense of place or identity. Residents, parking can also be visually intrusive.

Issues to consider


  • The topography of the site and its relationship to adjacent sites
  • Natural and built features including landmark buildings and other landscape features
  • Respect for its surroundings, for example, in terms of views in and out of the site
  • Site drainage and potential flood risk
  • Established building heights and lines
  • Orientation of buildings that are adjacent to the site
  • Relationship with established housing and other development, including ease of pedestrian and vehicular movement


New development which respects its surroundings, King's Park, Stirling

Streets and spaces

  • Boundaries between public and private space that are clearly defined by walls, fences, planting or other means
  • Streets whose existing building lines are reinforced by new development, creating continuous street frontages
  • Setbacks to the building line to create useable pedestrian spaces, not forgotten scraps of land
  • Relatively dense urban development may be developed in the form of perimeter blocks, whose frontages face public space, creating more or less continuous building frontages along the streets, making any back gardens less accessible to intruders.
  • Streets and other public spaces whose sense of enclosure is created by buildings of a size that relates to the scale of the space
Streets and spaces which relate to the scale of the buildings, Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross

Accessibility and managing traffic

  • Buildings whose access is from the street
  • Routes connected to existing routes and patterns of movement
  • Well connected or have the potential to be well connected to public transport
  • Pedestrian and cycle routes, which may be streets with vehicular traffic, that are continuous and connected, with no dead ends
  • Routes which are safe and convenient for people with limited mobility
  • Parking provision that does not overwhelm the development's visual appearance
  • Traffic managed so that the road requirements do not detract from the quality of the development, and with roads designed to control traffic speeds without the need for traffic-calming devices such as speed humps and chicanes
Safety for pedestrians, cyclists and cars, Craigmillar, Edinburgh

Safety and security

  • Best practice in designing out crime, including 'Secure by Design' and PAN 46: Planning for Crime Prevention should be reflected
  • Rear gardens should generally back on to other gardens, not on to publicly accessible space such as streets or footpaths
  • Back gardens or inner courtyards of private or communally shared space should be enclosed by the backs of buildings
  • Streets, routes and other public spaces should be overlooked by buildings
  • Good quality lighting should contribute to environmental quality as well as safety and security
  • Every effort should be made to ensure privacy
Secure family housing with fencing and curtilage, Camlachie Burn, Glasgow

Energy efficiency

  • Energy efficient forms of housing such as tenements and terraces, where appropriate to the local context, should be favoured
  • Houses shelter one another and should generally be positioned to take account of the prevailing wind direction
  • Service spaces should generally be on the north side and habitable rooms on the south
  • Design of public spaces should take account of the local micro-climate
All habitable rooms located on the south side

2. Landscape

Landscape - the character and appearance of the land including its shape, form, ecology, natural features, and the way they combine - is a key to designing housing that makes the most of its setting. It can contribute to the distinctive character of a new housing development and provides insulation and shelter. Retaining existing trees and new planting should contribute a sense of place and identity to the development. Restrictions may be placed on the height of planting.

Hard landscaping such as the treatment of paved surfaces, street furniture and boundaries help in creating distinctive spaces.

Public, private and communal spaces require careful attention so that the boundaries between the different types are clearly defined. Open space can provide a development with a sense of identity as well as provide the community with a valuable local facility. As part of the communal space, the layout and treatment of roads will also influence the appearance of the development. Left over space is wasted space and a wasted opportunity.

"Landscape design can make a significant contribution to environmental quality, particularly when planting begins to mature, but it cannot compensate for poor layout and design. Developers should consider landscape as a part of the design and layout from the outset of the development process".

SPP 3: Planning for Housing

Issues to consider

  • Resource use should be minimised through siting and design in response to the shape of the landscape
  • Natural features should generally be conserved and emphasised
  • New tree and shrub planting should complement the area's natural features
  • Species that grow well locally and easy to maintain should be used
  • Landscaping proposals should promote bio-diversity
  • Where a SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System) scheme is required, it should be an integral part of the landscape and open space framework
  • Open space and play facilities should be integrated into the layout and wider network of routes, rather than tucked away on undevelopable sites at the edge of the development or as an afterthought
  • Public spaces should link to a network of pedestrian routes
  • Streets should be designed as public spaces, not just traffic routes, with appropriate surfaces and street furniture
  • Opportunities should be taken to enhance local views and creates landmarks
  • Gateway features should mark significant area entrances
Care has been taken to conserve the natural landscape, Colinton, Edinburgh
SUDS is an integral part of the open space framework, Adam Brae Parks, West Lothian
Bold gateway features, Irvine, South Ayrshire
Well designed landscape with attractive water feature, Mains Estate, East Dunbartonshire

3. Scale and mix

Too many recent developments have a rigid and standard layout. A development's mix of housing types and uses and its three-dimensional physical form are important in determining what sort of place is to be created.

The density of the development should support the intended intensity of uses. Developments should provide for a mix of uses, and housing types and sizes that will contribute to the place's intended qualities. This variety and mix will help the neighbourhood support different types of activity at different times of the day, and adapt to changing circumstances without having to be completely rebuilt. A successful mix of uses is influenced by a range of factors, only some of which are subject to planning control. They include a fine-grain scale of development; diversity of ownership; appropriate tenure; location on streets that are sufficiently busy; appropriate density; buildings with a flexible form; an interface between two types of building or activity; a compatible mix of uses; and positive attitudes towards urban living.

Sensitive scale set in landscape setting, Crookfur Cottages, East Renfrewshire
Variety in scale and mix of housing types, Valleyfield, Midlothian
Creation of places, streets and courtyards, Raploch, Stirling

Issues to consider

A mix of dwelling sizes and types (feasible in the light of market conditions) and land uses (at least at the scale of the wider neighbourhood) should be sought

The scale and form of housing development will be influenced in part by the internal layout of the dwellings. For example, developers should aim to maximise the potential for daylight penetration

The scheme should be developed to appropriate densities to allow sufficient pedestrian use to support the viability of non-housing uses

4. Details and materials

The quality of development can be spoilt by poor attention to detail. The development of a quality place requires careful consideration not only to setting and layout and its setting, but also to detailed design, including finishes and materials.

Important aspects include building styles, the detailed design of features such as doors, windows and porches; and the texture, colour, pattern, durability and ease of maintenance of materials.

Mixture of details and materials, Dalgety Bay, Fife
Attractive street furniture, Adam Brae Parks, West Lothian
Integrated bollards and canopies designed by an artist, with braille and the phonetic alphabet etched into the glass, Cube Housing Association, Berkley Street, Glasgow
Balcony details, Abbey Road, Stirling

Issues to consider

  • The development should reflect its setting, reflecting local forms of building and materials
  • The aim should be to have houses looking different without detracting from any sense of unity and coherence for the development or the wider neighbourhood
  • Street furniture should be designed and sited with individual and community safety and convenience in mind
  • Main entrances should open on to the streets that they front
  • The development should be easily accessed by people with limited mobility
  • The neighbourhood should generally be designed without the need for detailed signage

5. Maintenance

Issues to consider

When preparing new housing proposals, the planning process needs to address how the quality of the development will be maintained in the longer term.

Pavements and street lighting should be to adoptable standards. The nature of future maintenance, adoption and responsibilities for services such as open space and communal parking areas therefore needs to be addressed. Elements such as bin and bike storage should be an integral part of the design.

  • Common areas and facilities - walls, fences, open spaces - should be designed to be well managed and maintained
  • Materials should be robust and wear well
  • Management arrangements should secure effective maintenance
Gartloch Road, Glasgow
Continued maintenance enhances the environment, Crown Street, Glasgow

The Gartloch Road development integrates mainstream housing with housing for those who have disabilities - the landscaping has been carefully considered to create a sense of place - but at the same time it is robust and easy to maintain.


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