Over station development
The renaissance of city centre living that we have seen over the past decade suggests developers and policy makers should explore means of increasing housebuilding in high-demand cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. This could be achieved by improving the way land is used, such as densification, for example; and identifying alternative development sites. And one solution that is gradually gathering momentum is over station development.
According to consultants WSP, this new development approach could create over 239,500 new homes in London, concentrated mainly in Zones 3-6. According to the draft London Plan, this equates to over three and a half years’ worth of housing, at 64,935 properties per year.
TfL owns over 5,700 acres of London land, of which it plans to develop more than 50 sites with the potential to produce over £3.4bn in non-fare revenue which will be re-invested into travel infrastructure. This has already proven to be successful with the transformations of Archway Gyratory, Broadgate at Liverpool Street and Kings Cross in London.
This type of development is not without its challenges, however, especially given the cost and complexity of such projects and the continued need to protect Network Rail’s operational requirements. These factors tend to force designs of such developments to adopt higher densities in order to make projects viable.
But this could make a much-needed dent into the housing requirements shared by many major UK cities. Although the opportunity is greatest in London, with its 330 heavy railway stations; there is scope in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, which have 34, 22 and 15 stations respectively. However, whether they are ready for change remains to be seen; and with further complexities posed by the historic nature of some UK rail stations – Newcastle’s Victorian canopy design, for example - it is difficult to envisage extensive over-station development in some cities, regardless of demand.
New or expanded stations would be less – or not at all – impacted by this constraint. For example, while HS2 has provided the impetus for massive regeneration around Manchester’s Piccadilly station, none of the proposed 4,900 new homes in the area are expected to be in an over station development. And the visualisations for the HS2 station design, and also that for Birmingham, show designs are likely to be relatively conventional with curvaceous roofs rather than those befitting habitable development.
To encourage over station development, new technologies will need to reduce costs and accelerate construction timings. While we expect this new form of development will be increasingly common by 2040, London will be very much leading the way.