Utilising London’s Marginal Land
The Housing Market in London appears to be faltering with a reduction in both the average house price and private rental incomes by 1% and 0.3% respectively based on the latest figures reported in 2018.
In contrast, the number of new homes built in the same period has increased by 1% to 38,200 compared to the previous year. That said this number still fell someway short of the Mayor’s commitment to achieve a net increase of 65,000 new homes per annum in order to meet the needs of a thriving Capital, as well as recovering the shortfall of many years of underinvestment.
This issue is further compounded by a growing population and the lack of prime sites for developers to build new homes. The time has come for developers to embark on schemes that utilise marginal land – these sites are adjacent to or over railway infrastructure. Both scenarios involve the need to interface with parties, such as London Underground and Network Rail. Historically developers have avoided such schemes due to complexities of stakeholder management and the additional costs of protecting existing assets and infrastructure and ensuring that there is no impact on the operational railway.
The GLA (Greater London Authority) is one of the largest owners of public land in London with some 635 hectares enabling the Mayor to release surplus land to be used for the development of 50,000 new homes. In addition, Network Rail has recognised the need to work closely with the GLA, London Land Commission and local councils to realise the potential of under-used rail land to develop 5,000 new homes across London.
In order to strengthen relationships with developers and increase their appetite of working in the space of marginal land, a series of frameworks have been set up by TfL (Transport for London), GLA and Network Rail, to provide an efficient means of accelerating the delivery of new homes on public land.
Sites that are being liberated from marginal land include car parks, railway arches, over station developments, such as Bank underground station, and larger land assets including a 1.85-acre site above and around the new Northern Line station at Nine Elms.
With WSP’s Out of Thin Air – One Year On report claiming that there is opportunity to build more than 280,000 homes from unused space above train tracks, tubelines and the overground network in London, it is now paramount that local government and transport agencies to work closely and efficiently with property developers.
It is clear that continued collaboration between public land owners and private developers is the key to success over the coming years!
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