IDEAS ABOVE YOUR STATION
There are opportunities to use valuable space above and around London’s 559 railway and Tube stations for thousands of new homes, reports Emily Wright
LOCATION, location, location is all very well — but it’s nothing without infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. The value of the places in which we choose to live is intrinsically linked to how easy it is to get to and from our desired location. For this reason, the case for building new homes at or around London’s 559 railway and Tube stations is pretty clear.
The capital faces a shortage of land for development and increasing density around some of its major transport hubs would seem a clever way to address this issue. Not least because this new stock would be, by default, underpinned by a prime position along some of the city’s busiest transport networks.
The process has already begun with new-build homes at London stations undergoing major refurbishment. At King’s Cross no fewer than four residential schemes have been successfully designed to enhance the redevelopement of the station, including the impressive architectural integration of historic gasholders as new homes.
Prices at the striking, canalside 145apartment Gasholders London scheme start at about £900,000 for a one-bedroom flat, rising to £1 million for a one-bedroom penthouse over- looking Regent’s Canal. Also at King’s Cross, prices at The Plimsoll Building, a 13- storey tower in Granary Square that includes a fitness suite, private dining facilities and a rooftop winter garden, start at about £595,000 for a studio but a two-bedroom flat will set you back £1.3 million.
In Vauxhall, a one-bedroom flat at The Dumont — a project being delivered by the St James development arm of Berkeley Homes — starts from £655,000. It is expected that homes could be priced at a more affordable level around suburban stations.
TOP-VALUE LONDON LAND
So why has there been any resistance at all to building at stations? The simple answer is because the process can be rather problematic. From high costs to complicated logistics and public resistance to disruption of station services, above- station development is not straightforward. However, a new report published this month by the Centre for London think tank argues that such challenges should not stand in the way of unlocking some of the capital’s most valuable land. The report — Ideas above your station: exploring the potential for development at London’s stations — highlights how the action of increasing density around these hubs with new homes, offices and shops will not only allow the creation of new civic centres with good architecture, but will also release financing to develop the stations themselves, to ensure that London has “a world-class transport infrastructure in the 21st century to remain globally competitive”.
So how could the capital benefit from such targeted development around existing and future transport hubs? How can the challenges be overcome — and just how realistic is Centre for London’s call for this new “London Plan”, under which higher minimum density standards would apply?
PLACE MAKING FOR TODAY
London’s railway stations have changed very little since they were first built, meaning there is plenty of untapped potential. Transport for London and Network Rail are among the largest landowners in the city. The former estimates that the construction of 10,000 homes can start on its land holdings by 2021, while the latter plans to release land with capacity for around 5,000 homes in the capital by 2020.
Richard Brown, research director for the Centre for London, says the proposal is not about sticking a residential tower on top of a station here or a shopping centre there. Rather, it’s about planning something with true value that can stitch the station into the existing urban fabric: “This is getting another chance at place making.” He points to successful projects at Broadgate Circus at Liverpool Street station
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