Small site analysis (Nottingham City Council)

Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Homes appointed David Lock Associates to assess the suitability of various council-owned sites across the city for housing development and make recommendations on the most appropriate delivery model to maximize their use.

At a glance

Housing Advisers Programme case study

2021/22 cohort 

Executive summary

In accordance with the LGA Housing Advisers Programme (2021/22) aims to promote, facilitate and enhance the role of local authorities in meeting housing needs for their communities, Nottingham City Council (NCC) appointed David Lock Associates to assess the suitability of various council-owned sites for housing development, providing specialist advice on the most appropriate delivery model to maximise their use.

A key output of the commission included the preparation of a replicable small site analysis model that can be used by NCC and also shared with other authorities as part of a wider shared learning approach. The model enables sites to be prioritised according to their theoretical development potential enabling resources to be focused on the sites most likely to deliver benefits to the council.

From a starting list of 52 sites the process subsequently sifted the list to identify the top 6 sites and 4 reserved sites as having the most potential for housing development; and for those sites, recommendations were made as to the appropriate levels of housing units/mix and suitable marketing and delivery options.

Challenge and context

Across the country, the Government’s objective is to ‘significantly boost the supply of homes’. Allied to this, the Government (through the NPPF) is keen that a sufficient amount and variety of land comes forward where it is needed. There is strong national policy support for development on small and medium sized sites, and for developing under-utilised land. 

From a local policy perspective, Local Plan 2 (Land and Planning Policies) supports proposals which ‘maximise the potential of a site and are of an appropriate scale, density, design and use commensurate with the regeneration ambitions for that area’. Indeed, regeneration pf brownfield sites carries significant sustainability benefits compared to greenfield development. The wider residential context of the garage sites also suggest that they are generally suitable locations for residential uses, which provides an added sustainability benefit through access to existing public transport, local amenities and other facilities.

It is important to note that none of the initial 52 small sites that were selected for analysis are allocated for development, and the recently adopted Local Plan 2 (Land and Planning Policies) has allocated enough sites to deliver the area’s housing needs. However, NCC’s housing requirement allows for 1,785 dwellings to come from windfall sites. Therefore, there is an opportunity to contribute towards the Council’s housing requirement and deliver much needed housing in suitable locations.

What we did

The methodology was split into five key stages:

Stage 1: inception and evidence review

This stage involved a comprehensive review of the baseline position, including the local housing market, planning policy context and NCC’s work to date. DLA also consulted with relevant departments of the Council and Nottingham City Homes. This stage also included a desktop review of the 52 Council-owned sites, reviewing at a high-level the suitability of each site for housing development.

Stage 2: identification of development opportunities

This stage focused on site selection, specifically through the preparation of a RAG rating for each of the 52 sites, discounting the less suitable sites while highlighting those with the highest potential. Suitability was assessed based on a range of factors, including accessibility, connectivity and the presence/ absence of any obvious development constraints. The most suitable sites were selected for a more detailed analysis, building on DLA’s understanding of the local context to determine the most appropriate housing mix (types/tenures) and capacity for each selected site.

Also as part of Stage 2, DLA provided comments on the cost profile for the selected sites, including the broad financial impact of incorporating zero carbon units. Due to budgetary constraint, costs were based on published information, such as BCIS indices, and not the subject of individual cost analysis.

Stage 3: selection of site parcels, marketing and delivery options

This stage involved the parcelling of sites into marketable portfolios. Sites that work cohesively were identified and the appropriate strategies to market recommended. The financial implications of each option was considered at a high level to inform future decision making.

Stage 4: stakeholders consultation workshops

The findings and draft delivery model were presented to stakeholders through  dedicated workshops, these included demonstrations on how the model could be utilized and replicated. The feedback obtained enabled the update and finalization of the model. 

Stage 5: final report and delivery model

Documented and reviewed the feedback received from the stakeholder workshop, refining the delivery model and finalised the summary report.

The difference we made

The capacity and viability testing of these sites highlighted that relatively limited development is likely to come forward and that viability is marginal. There is, however, clear potential for development that can contribute to the stock of homes.

The review and testing process has identified both potential larger regeneration opportunities and the possibility of batching sites in reasonably close proximity to maximise future benefit.

The model provides a replicable process which will ensure that resources are applied as effectively as possible over time and that sites for which there is no realistic development potential can be discarded or considered for their local amenity.

What's next

The research information will be used to inform a project plan for the development of the sites.

Lessons learned

Stakeholder workshops provided valuable input into the process, helping to drill down some of the finer details and implications of the design process.


Debra Ross, Regeneration Officer, Nottingham City Council: d[email protected]