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Settlement Boundaries: A strategic advantage for property developers


If you're a property professional, surveyor, or new homes developer, it's essential to understand settlement boundaries and their impact on your work. Here's a comprehensive guide to settlement boundaries and how they affect where new housing can be built, including the role of local planning authorities (LPAs).

What are settlement boundaries? 🏙

Settlement boundaries are defined lines (or boundaries) on a map that indicate where local councils or planning authorities believe new housing should be built. These boundaries are defined by LPAs and can show which areas are more likely to receive planning approval for new housing.

Why are settlement boundaries important?

Settlement boundaries play a critical role for property developers as they determine where new housing can be considered for development. They also highlight locations that are easier to develop, making reducing the amount of red tape for developers to receive planning approval.

Settlement boundaries may be defined by the council as sustainable areas where infrastructure such as schools and hospitals are already in place, making them ideal for new housing developments. Alternatively, settlement boundaries may be used to protect the character of a town or city and manage population growth.

How can settlement boundaries help property developers?

For property developers, settlement boundaries provide a strategic advantage when looking to build new housing. By understanding where settlement boundaries are, you can identify areas where councils are more likely to approve planning applications for new housing.

By using Nimbus developers can overlay council settlement boundaries on a map, showing which areas councils would like to see more housing built in. This data can be used to identify areas where it will be easier to get planning approval and build new housing.

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Common attributes of settlement boundaries

  • Enough infrastructure to support people living there, i.e. pubs, shops, and public transport.
  • Usually, in villages with more than 700 residents.
  • Developers will get an easier route to planning within settlement boundaries.

Areas outside settlement boundaries are usually considered open countryside, where development would be regulated with stricter planning policies than within settlement boundaries. This is because they are considered to be of greater environmental value and have higher biodiversity than areas within settlement boundaries.

How are the council and local planning authority involved?

In the creation of sustainable settlements, the council and local planning authority play vital roles. They are responsible for planning and overseeing residential projects and ensuring that new homes meet current standards and regulations. With ample green space and everything residents need within walking distance, housing development in sustainable settlements is critical to building a stronger future for the borough.

To get an easier route to planning, developers are always looking for opportunities to build new homes within settlement boundaries. The Local Planning Authority (LPA) assesses proposals against planning policies contained in the development plan and other material considerations and one common policy tool used by LPAs is the settlement boundary.

Generally, development plans support the principle of development within settlement boundaries as they are sustainable locations. However, each LPA can apply settlement boundaries as they see fit in response to their particular circumstances. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the policies within the development plan that govern development inside or outside settlement boundaries.

By understanding settlement boundaries and the role of LPAs in the planning process, property developers can better align their proposals with planning policies and increase their chances of getting planning approval.

Why is this important?

The UK has a housing shortage, which is expected to continue over the coming years. The government has set out a plan to build 300,000 new homes every year until the mid-2020s, which will help tackle the housing crisis. However, investors need to consider where these homes will be built and how easy it will be to build them.

Planning ahead and considering infrastructure such as roads and utilities significantly impact a project’s success.

Settlement boundaries have enough infrastructure to support people living there, i.e. pubs, shops, public transport and schools. We’re not saying it’s impossible to build new homes in areas with insufficient infrastructure, but developers may have to pay for it themselves if the council doesn’t provide any funding.  

If developers have to pay for infrastructure, it will be more expensive for them to build new housing estates. It’s not just about the amount of money spent on infrastructure but also about where that money is being spent.

Developers can use our integrated features alongside the settlement planning layer to build the right kind of homes in the right place, so they won’t have to spend as much money building infrastructure later. The government’s planning guidance says that local authorities should consider several factors when considering whether or not to grant planning permission for new homes, including the ability of infrastructure in an area to support new housing and how it will affect neighbouring communities. This means that if a developer wants to build a new estate on the outskirts of town, they will need to go through more hoops than if they wanted to build within the settlement boundary. This is because many other planning regulations apply outside of settlement boundaries, such as environmental impact assessments and heritage assessments.

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Take a look at the new Settlement Boundaries map layer today, as well as the other innovative features within Nimbus Maps. If you don’t already have a Nimbus Maps subscription, sign up for a free trial.

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