Built Form


The illustration can be used to guide the built form of houses to ensure appropriate density and efficient use of land.

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1. New housing developments should make efficient use of available land by:

1a. Minimising space reserved for road vehicles (highways, drives, parking) to a safe minimum.

1b. Increasing density around shops, services and public transport nodes.

  • Making best use of space above shops and other commercial premises.

2. The densities should be adjusted in order to:

2a. Maintain the character of the area

2b. Re-use existing buildings

2c. Increase distances between buildings due to the sloping topography of the site.

2d. Retain or strengthen the presence of trees, hedges or other important planting.

2e. Retain or create amenity or open space that improves the overall quality of the design.

  • Provide SUDS or other flood prevention / attenuation measures.
  • Provide solar gain.

3. The context and character of the site must inform whether new buildings join, and the design of joined dwellings. For example, in response to composed or uniform terraces, or irregular organically developed terraces, detached or semi-detached villas or farmsteads. These can be divided to form smaller dwellings.

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Efficient Land Use

The prevailing density and character of the site should be identified through the site context assessment and used to inform the design of new development.

The context assessment should inform the density of a proposed development. However, higher densities will be considered where:

  • There is good access to local shops and services
  • There is good public transport and active travel infrastructure
  • It enables the delivery of non-market housing such as affordable or social housing
  • It enables the sustainable re-use of historic buildings and site layouts

Whether Buildings Join

The context and character of the site must inform whether new buildings join, and the form and design of joined dwellings. For example, in response to composed or uniform terraces, or irregular organically developed terraces, detached or semi-detached villas or farmsteads. These can be divided to form smaller dwellings.

In terms of embodied energy, the joining of dwellings or buildings uses fewer resources in terms of structures, walling and facing materials. Terraced dwellings use less embodied energy to build than semi-detached houses of the same size, and semi-detached houses require fewer resources to build than detached house of the same size. The dwelling types that are more efficient in terms of their embodied energy and the efficiency of construction also make efficient use of land as required by Policy 02 Spatial Strategy. Consequently, joining houses in rows or clusters is encouraged as it is more resource and land efficient. Joining buildings also reflects the vernacular of the Lake District: neighbouring houses often share load-bearing walls, as do houses and their outbuildings and farmhouses and farm buildings.

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  • The compactness of Lakes villages and hamlets is often a key part of their character. Hawkshead.

  • The close grouping of houses and terraces allows for the provision of a meaningful area of amenity landscaping. Hawksgarth, Hawkshead.

  • High density can look reposed if space is given to gardens and soft landscaping rather than cars. Hawksgarth, Hawkshead.

  • Some parishes are characterised by dispersed built forms. Borrowdale.

  • Detached houses with generous soft landscaping to all sides is a characteristic of the few suburbs in the Lake District. Windermere.

  • Buildings can join on one or more sides to create enclosed spaces such as this small square. Hawkshead.

  • In this development, two apartments have been disguised as a small, detached cottage. Hawkshead.

  • Buildings can join to differing degrees and be set at different orientations rather than have basic plan forms. Hawkshead.

  • By joining up the houses in short terraces and semi-detached pairs, this development avoids sprawling and so sits better in the landscape.

  • The terrace on the right is a single build but slight variations give and organic rather than an urban character.

Building Types and Forms


Applicants must identify the urban grain of the area surrounding their site.

Urban grain is the street pattern, block size and building pattern in a settlement.

The grain of an area will vary depending on the type of settlement, location within the settlement and historic origins. Traditional street patterns should be maintained and reinforced by new development.

New development should 'knit into' the existing urban grain by respecting its character. Specifically:

  1. Finer urban grains of smaller building footprints and higher densities should be reserved for infill development within town centres and villages with existing fine grain.
  2. Looser urban grains with larger gaps between dwellings should be used in suburban and settlement edge locations.
  3. Scattered urban grains should be used where large plots and relaxed patterns persist.

Exceptions: Coarser grains with larger plots and large footprint dwellings will not deliver in terms of housing numbers and will not provide the same variety and visual interest that a larger number of smaller buildings (a finer grain) will create. Some looser grain suburban characteristics, such as winding cul-de-sacs, will erode the distinctive grain of urban and rural areas.

Where possible, new development should repair the prevailing urban grain where it has been lost, for example by filling in gap sites or replacing out of scale buildings and plots with finer grain development.

Additional guidance of identifying building types and forms can be found in the National Design GuideBuilding for a Healthy Life provides guidance on how to apply best practice when designing various urban grains.

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  • Farmsteads are a key landscape feature of the National Park. This example is a lowland farm near Staveley.

  • The closeness of farmstead buildings contrasts with the openness of the countryside.

  • Suburban areas tend to have a uniform grain and consistent building types. Keswick.

  • Terraced streets also have a uniform grain: long terraces composed of small units. Keswick.

  • Houses and flats new and old, all built on a consistent grain. Staveley.

  • In places where entire streets are planned, houses present active frontages to the street while private rear gardens are hidden. Coniston.

  • The different house types all face the street, creating a ‘block’. Hawkshead.

  • Terraced streets are a classic example of houses forming blocks. Keswick.

Active Frontage


To achieve the safety and security benefits of active frontages new development must incorporate: windows to principal rooms such as living rooms or bedrooms or secondary rooms such as kitchens, studies or home offices facing the street and the principal approach to the building. Main entrances to buildings that face the street or principal approach.



Applications for new dwellings, including conversions and adaptations, must demonstrate that the practical guidance in Part M Volume 1 of the Building Regulations has informed the design.

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Housing for All

Where there is a mix of housing ownership and tenures in a development, there should be no visual distinction between the tenures by virtue of their appearance or location on the site.

Mix of Uses

In mixed use developments, the function and use of each element should be clear from its design, including which areas are public and private.

Building Line


Based on the site context and historic environment assessments:

  • New development should reinforce the level of enclosure along the existing space or street.
  • The set-back distance(s) of new development must respond positively to the uniformity or variance of the building line that it forms part of.
  • New development must reinforce the prevailing degree to which plot widths are occupied by buildings in the site’s context.

Where new set-back zones are created, these must consist of front gardens and vegetation that can help to soften new development, as opposed to hard landscaping or spaces for car parking.

Unless the established character of set back zones is open plan (i.e., lacking front boundaries) set back zones should be enclosed by low boundary features no more than one metre in height. The sensitive integration of cycle parking and bin storage can also positively contribute towards the character of the set back zone.

Exceptions can be applied to deviate from the common building line and level of enclosure where there is good reason to align with best practice design, for example:

  • Where a mature tree interrupts the existing building line;
  • Where a new public space is created;
  • Where emphasis of marker buildings is desired at key intersections and gateways;
  • Where the setting of a listed or locally important building should be preserved; or
  • Where a key view is to be framed and celebrated.

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  • This strong building line has a little variation. It provides a decisive edge to the streetscene. Hawkshead.

  • On both sides of this street, irregular building lines are formed by the different set backs and angles of the buildings. Hawkshead.

  • Buildings and hedges create parallel edges to the street. Ambleside.

  • Close building lines can slow traffic and create attractive vistas. Rosthwaite.

  • A staggered building line gives an informal character to the street. Glenridding.

  • The setback distances vary, but this street nonetheless has strong building lines. Glenridding.

  • Any infill development along high streets or main streets where plot widths are fully occupied with buildings with a uniform set-back must mimic the existing building line and mix of active frontages.

  • Towards the settlement edge, building lines become more organic and set-back increases, therefore, new development can explore more varied responses to building lines. However, the reasoning for deviations and the function of the subsequent spaces must be clearly defined.

  • Within historic cores where irregular geometric building lines prevail with staggered set-back, new development should mirror the pattern and knit into the common building line.

  • Within rural situations, fragmented and diverse building lines are common. New development should contribute towards this diverse character and the intimate spaces which a staggered building line can create.

  • When streets and rooflines follow topography, it can help to integrate development into the surrounding landscape. Dry stone walls and front gardens can also help to soften the settlement edge whilst giving it rural characteristics.

  • A variety of dry stone walling, hedges, and some post and wire fencing can create an attractive settlement edge with rural characteristics. This is particularly successful when accompanied with green front gardens.

  • Post and wire fences, although rural in nature, can produce abrupt settlement edges when not accompanied with ample greenery. Dry stone walls or hedges would be preferable boundary treatments.

  • Settlement Edge

    Mature rows of hedgerow trees and street trees help to soften settlement edges in both proximity and distant views.

Height of Buildings

 Framing the view and building design

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  1. The height of new buildings must be informed by the context assessment and historic environment assessment, which will identify the prevailing building height(s) and the variety of building heights in the site’s context.

2.  In determining the height of new development based upon the site’s context.

2a. Particular attention must be paid to eaves heights, as well as overall building heights, of the site’s context.

2b. Features such as the chimneys, aerials or masts must not be factored into the assessment of building height.

2c. The uniformity or variety of building heights should inform the height of new or extended buildings.

2d. Atypical landmark buildings such as church towers or hotels should be excluded from the assessment.

  • Particular attention should be paid to whether existing buildings are built into the hillside or otherwise respond to the topography.

3. Acceptable exceptions to the prevailing building height of the site will include circumstances where:

3a. Particular dwelling types are required, such as bungalows.

  • There are landscape or townscape benefits in providing an assertive settlement edge or waterside frontage.

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  • The buildings are all 2 or 2.5 storeys in height, but the differences in height and roof form create visual interest. Ambleside.

  • This broad and tall building is built into the hillside, disguising its scale except from the street. Ambleside.

  • Low-lying buildings are less dominant, allowing the landscape and tree canopies to dominate. Windermere.

  • Particular attention should be paid to the overall and eaves heights of new buildings in areas of distinctive landscape character.

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Context and Character





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