Framework and structure

Goal: Use an appropriate scale and density to create a place of human scale

  p49. The appropriate size for a perimeter block should strike a balance between adequate provision for amenity space and parking, while allowing a permeable street pattern for all modes.

  p50. Density should be appropriate to the location and respond to and/or enhance the character of the existing settlement. For larger development proposals, a range of densities, building types and forms will be required. Increased densities should be focused on key movement intersections, along strategic routes, where public transport facilities are provided, overlooking public spaces, or within the geographical centre of neighbourhoods, communities and villages. This varied density profile adds character and interest, supports local facilities and public transport and can provide the building mass to create strong framing of public spaces.

  p51. Successful communities require a full range of local services and facilities, including commercial, live-work, educational, health, spiritual and civic uses. These need to be conveniently sited and connected to residential areas by safe routes. Facilities are to be clustered around a high-quality public realm or public space, as a central focus. This could range from a village green or, a small public square, to a simple widening of the street.

Identifying patterns of development

Tile Historic (organic) pattern
Tile Dispersed
(cul-de-sac) pattern
Tile Perimeter block
Tile Commercial/industrial

  Figure 21:
Identifying the structure of an area, its density and character

Working with block structures

Tile Locate site
Tile Identify block structure
Tile Work with existing densities
Tile Ensure development retains structure and character

  Figure 22:
Understanding and working with specific block characteristics and densities

Applying structure and density

 figure 24

  Figure 23:
Setting out blocks and defining density, density is considered as the quantity of dwellings within a set (measured) area.

Working with a perimeter block

 Figure 24

  Figure 24:
Design example of perimeter blocks


Inform your design:

Identify the existing grain (pattern of development) in the vicinity of the site;

Identify the density of existing development in the vicinity of the site;

Characterise the general type and tenure of properties in the vicinity of the site.

Communicate your design:

Provide a plan indicating the existing pattern and scale of development within the relevant context of the scheme;

Prepare a statement on density, setting out how the development makes an effective use of land;

Provide a plan showing the distribution of uses, as well as the mix of house types and tenures. It is useful to also prepare a table showing the following information;

Provide a plan showing the location of landmark buildings and focal points;

Provide a plan showing the walking routes and related distances to local facilities and services (not ‘as the crow flies’).

Support your design:

National Design Guide (2019)

Building for a Healthy Life (2020)

Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2013)


An historic core, more dense and compact development structure (Faringdon)
An historic village core (Wheatley)
An historic core, more dense and compact development structure (Abingdon)
Countryside edge (Sutton Courtenay)

Ensure the scheme:

    1. uses a range of appropriate densities that do not detract from the character of the local area and uses land effectively. Increased density is focused around key movement intersections, along strategic routes, and overlooking public spaces, or within neighbourhood, community, and village geographical centres. Higher density sustainable developments are encouraged;
    2. has a mix of local services and facilities, uses, housing types, and tenures that meet local and district needs and are justified in terms of planning policy and viability;
    3. consists of perimeter blocks that respond to the grain of the existing settlements taking cues from block sizes, plot patterns, and the relationship between built and open space;
    4. back-to-back distances are a minimum of 21 metres between facing habitable rooms; back to boundary a minimum of 10.5 metres; back to side a minimum of 12 metres; front to front a minimum of 10 metres. Where these distances are not met, demonstrate how the design proposals ensure that privacy is maintained. These distances may not be sufficient when adjacent uses are of a sensitive nature (i.e. school, hospital, nurseries, leisure and recreation, etc.);
    5. places landmark buildings and focal points in prominent locations that help people to navigate;
    6. provides a sense of enclosure appropriate to the street hierarchy and to achieve a human scale;
    7. positions buildings to make the most of daylight and sunlight, wherever possible, and provide a sun angle diagram to illustrate how this would be achieved;
    8. addresses the edges of the site in a positive way by facing properties outwards and not placing side and rear fences next to the open space or open countryside. Applicants (where applicable) will be required to demonstrate how their proposals provide a positive edge with a clear and well-defined external image;
    9. considers the existing plot pattern. If smaller than the Design Guide standards, develop to stated standards; if it is bigger, proportionally match the existing plot pattern (where development is adjoining);
    10. provides a clear distinction between private and open space. Boundary treatments between private and open space or open countryside can take many forms including: planting, hedges, walls, and fencing. The chosen boundary treatment should reflect the character of the area whilst being secure and of high quality. Depending on the adjacent land use, estate railing/stock proof fencing and hedge planting may be appropriate;
    11. avoids awkward or vulnerable corners within the design proposal to ensure land efficiency, and a clear definition of public and private space.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications