The LI argues that a landscape-led approach to new housing development is in the public interest

The Accordia Living housing development in Cambridge. Photo: Grant Associates

The Landscape Institute (LI) believes that a landscape-led approach to new housing development is in the public interest, said LI President Merrick Denton-Thompson.

‘Landscape professionals work across our communities to develop a common vision for places that makes the best use of the land,’ Mr Denton-Thompson said. ‘They use landscape as critical infrastructure to provide character and beauty, as well as multifunctionality.

‘Our profession can provide solutions to a wide range of issues such as economic development, climate resilience, flooding, health and well-being, and air and noise pollution.

Mr Denton-Thompson urged the government to acknowledge that quality of life is as important as providing a roof over people’s heads.

We want to places that support the health and well-being of everyone.

‘The LI accepts the urgent need for building more houses more quickly, but it must be done in a way that secures great places to live. We want to see homes, not just houses, in places that are safe and resilient to climate change; places where children can play and make friends for life; places where older people can lead fulfilling lives; places that are teeming with wildlife; places that support the health and well-being of everyone.’

The comments come as part of the LI’s response to February’s housing white paper. Kate Bailey, Chair of the LI Policy and Communications Committee, said: ‘The response reflects the wide range of views, experience and case studies provided by our expert members and I want to thank them all for their contributions.’

The LI issued a call for members’ comments on the white paper in April. Its response concentrates on six points:

  • the present state of the housing market
  • the importance of landscape
  • green belt policy
  • landscape assessments
  • funding landscape infrastructure
  • responses to specific consultation questions

The LI has also offered to meet with planning policy officials to discuss the how the profession can assist deliver landscape as infrastructure linked directly to creation of new homes.

Titled fixing our broken housing market, the white paper included a consultation on changes to planning policy and legislation. The consultation ran from 7 February until 2 May. The full consultation response from the LI can be viewed here.



  1. Excellent comments from the LI as usual here. I want to pick up on one position though, not to disagree but more to explore why: The LI strongly supports higher density housing (and adds some caveats so it is not at any cost). Can we be clear as to why we think this? Do we really think higher density makes better places to live or are we just acknowledging the reality that now we are a far more urban society and parts of England are so populated that we just have to make serious compromises to our personal space and squash up closer in order to fit everyone in? And in so doing, modern estate houses pretty much don’t have gardens, other than a small yard at best, which means a much greater effort has to be placed on better public park areas and streets, which somehow have to service the needs that might 120 years ago have been supplied via private gardens – Like growing food, having outdoor rooms, private escape, children playing, enabling horticultural and creative past times etc. Is that what we are saying? If so, the higher the density, the more intensive and generous our efforts need to be on designing and managing the quality, diversity and extent of parks and greenspace for people.

  2. I think the problem with 2 storey estate housing is that it is land hungry and houses tend to be mean in terms of interior space sizes too. Cars end up dominating what ever external space is left because we have inadequate public transport (provision/frequency/limited timetable) in so many places. Medium density such as 3-4 floor apartments/duplexes seen in Holland and in some Germany developments like Vaubin or Reisenfelt in Freiburg show that streets can be greener and there can be more green public open space overall. They are also built close to good public transport and have reduced car usage. Cars are either relegated to parking houses or placed under the building – something developers seem reluctant to do here. A problem in the UK is that there must also be a will to look after that public realm in a good way if it is installed – it is not always the case – and frequently the best intentions from our profession get cut out/significantly watered down, between design stage and implementation. Value engineering is not necessarily good value in terms of creating healthy places for people, for SUDS/WSUD/Urban heating, lower carbon, climate change adaptation etc etc. This needs revisiting as does the value of land! I agree with you that more respect is needed for the quality, diversity and extent of parks, and would suggest that this should extend to making better streets that are for people first – a greater investment in our Natural Capital that can then deliver high quality Ecosystem Services. We all need to push for this pragmatic Nature Based Solutions approach if we want healthier/happier cites to live in. We also need to challenge the governments description of ‘affordable housing’ which is being 80% of market rates rather than being based on the united nations definition as it being linked to median salaries….

  3. The debate about density is a difficult one. I can think of a number of Eco-developments in the UK and abroad, which feel incredibly crammed , to the point of airlessness! Not for me, to live in those over-dense developments. Car parks under blocks?. I though that these end up as no go areas in about 50% of cases ! I would, however, accept that 2 storey houses should not always be the answer, although in many parts of the UK, land is not scarce. The real answer , in my view, is for us to look at every village and town, and look at the scope for making MIXED communities, with work places, comprising of a mix of flats, 1 , 2 and 3 bedroom, plus sheltered independent accommodation for old people,and a mix of 2 storey and 3 storey houses with 3 or 4 beds. Self build ? Yes, some would be great. Flat pack houses– houses where the buyer finishes them –there are loads of options.

    In the Green Belt, the key concept to my mind is to have thriving, living “nucleated settlements’, set in a rura landscape. There are some lovely and socially thriving existing villages and small towns, but also too many that are stuck in a development rut, consisting of a small, pre-Victorian village core, then Victorian and Edwardian / suburban ribbon developments, and maybe an ex council estate, or enclave of exec homes. On the fringes, bungalows extending along main roads in woodland lots– the uglification which is the reason why people who care about the open countryside managed to set up the Green Belt.

    Many of these settlements can’t support a shop or pub, or school, and with the demise of real farming are now very dead in sound and feeling. Thoughtful redevelopment of, and addition to, these places can and should include replacing areas of large houses with greater numbers of homes, and some expansion. We need to create, mixed, living places– neither dead dormitory suburbs, nor monocultures of executive homes, or monocultures of social housing, or” little boxes on the hillside”. This must mean making most places slightly denser, but this not need be bad. It all depends on design and layout, architecture and landscape

    There is undoubted scope in all Green Belt villages and towns for a combination of renewal and proportional, sensitive expansion. The Nimbies are usually ready with the objections to any development, even if their own children have nowhere of their own to to live. I can think of several Surrey villages that would actually be enhanced and made more viable (to support a shop and pub and some work places) with a village extension of appropriate scale and good design — and with excellent landscape.

    I welcome the LI’s clear statement that we need to be planning at a higher level of place-making than just building living units. We should have learned and then remembered the lessons of last 100 years — that giant housing estates, ( whether public or private, high or low rise) do not work and create social problems– and that our countryside needs to be protected from ribbon development.

    Villages and towns that are beautiful, affordable, all-age welcoming, walkable, cycleable, go-fishingable, shoppable, cappuccino quaffable…… plus a church and pub or two– I am looking forward to it.

    Lewis White CMLI


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