Pop a new flat in your basket
Up to 150,000 much-needed new London homes could be built alongside or above supermarkets. The big names are teaming up with developers. By
BRITAIN’S biggest supermarkets are diversifying into property with an ambitious programme to build thousands of new homes at sites across London. City planners and politicians, desperate to unlock land for house building, are encouraging supermarkets to redevelop low-rise stores where space is going to waste.
For years supermarkets have raced to gobble up massive brownfield sites as shoppers showed an insatiable appetite for mega stores. These sites are now providing an enormous opportunity — about 150,000 homes in London could be built above or alongside stores, says property analyst GL Hearn. Every chance should be taken when Britain needs at least 230,000 new homes each year to make up for the current deficit.
TESCO LEADS THE CHARGE
Tesco has already completed projects in Woolwich and Streatham, and identified another 20 “air rights” sites in London expected to bring at least 9,000 homes. Under way is a development at Morning Lane, Hackney, where a small store will replace a bigger one to free up land for more than 300 “own-brand” homes.
Rival Sainsbury has teamed up with Barratt at Fulham Riverside and Nine Elms Point, Vauxhall, both of which have spectacular gardens above new supermarkets next to glamorous apartment blocks where homes are now for sale. Sainsbury and builder Mount Anvil are working up plans for a huge site next to New Cross Gate train station, while Morrisons is to build 700 flats and houses at Chalk Farm Road, Camden.
For supermarkets, such redevelopments bring a welcome profit boost at a time of intense competition and changes triggered by internet shopping. Sainsbury netted a £95 million profit from the Vauxhall deal alone, while Tesco expects air rights to generate at least £400 million, with a further £1 billion from offloading land, car parks and under-utilised space in stores.
The grocery giants are investigating ways to make above-store building more cost- effective. This includes off- site construction, or prefabricated homes, assembled in a factory and then craned into position. “There are huge benefits to mixing supermarkets and housing,” says Michael Bickerton of development consultant Cushman & Wakefield. “It’s an efficient use of land and can create a new neighbourhood hub in areas that need regeneration.” But will this be good building — or just a way of making money for supermarkets?
There are concerns about the architectural quality of the homes to be built, including fears that supermarkets could adopt the “pile them high, sell them cheap” approach that turned them into global businesses in the first place. So, careful design, including creative landscaping and attractive public spaces, is needed to protect buyers from noise, smells from waste storage, the disruption of night-time deliveries and the general bustle of everyday operations.
Living above the shop is not something new, and in some ways the supermarket sweep is a large- scale reinvention of the traditional high street, which had shops at street level and homes above — a classic model that we know works. Others point to the
Live above the shop: Streatham’s High Road Hub includes new flats, sports facilities and a Tesco Extra supermarket