Policy and ResearchLewisham Small Sites SPD

Small sites have a vital role to play in addressing the housing crisis, but the scale of the opportunity is often overlooked.

RCKa is an expert in small site development—not just designing new homes, but also the wider strategic and policy context too.

In the summer of 2020, we were appointed to help Lewisham Council prepare a small site design guide to help it meet its London Plan housing targets. Working as part of a team with Ash Sakula Architects and the council’s planning policy team, we used site visits, desktop mapping studies, data analysis and interviews with residents and community groups to truly get under the skin on the borough.

Lewisham's London Plan small sites target is 3,790 homes

22% of Lewisham's housing target to be delivered on small sites

89% of Lewisham's area falls within the London Plan policy H2 zone

"The level of understanding and a precise ability to capture a myriad of conflicting views led to a concise and brilliantly detailed planning document."

Tom Atkinson, Growth and Place Manager, London Borough of Lewisham

Armed with in depth knowledge of Lewisham’s unique architectural character and our knowledge of housing policy, we identified the types of site that were likely to come forward for development. With this information we were able to craft site-specific guidance which applicants could use to improve their chances of a successful planning outcome.

One of the most significant barriers to small site housing development is the varying interpretations of local planning policies, and to so we included dimensional information and unambiguous diagrams setting out how designers should approach challenging urban sites to optimise the number of homes whilst also meeting the council’s environmental and sustainability objectives.

The output of our work was a suite of three toolkits that can be used as practical guides by developers, homeowners, planning officers and built environment professionals to unlock development potential on small sites.

Each section of the SPD addresses a different aspect of small site development including a comprehensive guide to how new homes can help address the climate crisis, contribute to placemaking, respond to local character, enhance wellbeing and create uplifting and attractive places to live.

"I’d like to say that I just think that this document is absolutely fantastic. I think it’s written in brilliant language that is really easy to understand...it’s really quite inspiring, it almost makes me want to form a company and find a small site and do some work."

Councillor Krupski, Sustainable Development Sub-Committee, Lewisham Council

As well as the formal policy documents, our commission included the publication of the guidance on a standalone website, which was designed by RCKa’s in-house graphic design team.

London Borough of Lewisham


Project Team
Russell Curtis
Lee Jesson
Samuel Letchford
Daria Szmucer
Robin Turner
Zack Wellin

Ash Sakula Architects
Catherine Croft
Green Consult-Global

Project list