Creating homes ‘Out of Thin Air’

Nick Myall
Tuesday 13 Mar 2018

The huge potential of rail overbuild to create land for development was discussed at a Round Table event in London on 9 March

World Architecture News and WSP held a Round Table event at the Design Council in London on Friday March 9. The issue being debated was the feasibility of building above London’s rail lines. London’s on going housing crisis is forcing developers to come up with innovative solutions when it comes to finding suitable land to build on with the city requiring 50,000 new homes every year until 2025 just to keep up with demand. The WSP report ‘Out of Thin Air’ focuses on the potential of rail overbuild to increase housing supply in densely inhabited cities and Bill Price, Strategic Growth Director at WSP gave the attendees an overview of the report’s findings which included the figure of 1,142 km of uncovered rail track in London which could be considered for development. Sites that have overbuild projects in the pipeline or underway were identified including; Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge Stadium, Twickenham Railway Station, Clapham Junction RS, Euston RS, East Croydon RS  and Kings Road in London.  

Speaking at the round table Norrie Courts, Stations Director for Network Rail said: “Network Rail are totally behind this initiative. Everyone involved in this process needs to use their imagination.” Norrie then went on to focus on the uplift that new stations can bring to an area, “The new Abbey Wood Crossrail station in London is a good example of the transformational factor of a new station.”

The group also agreed that developing sites around and above stations was valuable for the private rented sector and retail.

Dominic Gaunt of Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt said. “Sites by stations are highly prized for build to rent and by the private rented sector. They are also attractive for commuters travelling into the city.” Bill Price of WSP went on to say, “The value of retail at stations is huge,” and referring to stations becoming destinations in their own right he added, “the deck creates the land which is of huge value and the station then becomes the gateway to the city.”

In general the attendees were fully behind the concept of rail overbuild in London and further afield and the huge success of the Hudson Yards project in New York was also noted, along with the successful over-decking of dual carriageways in Paris. The huge opportunities for bridging gaps between communities, improving rundown station sites,  increasing residential density and place-making were all noted. However, it was also flagged up that engagement with local communities is key for rail overbuild projects to be successful.

A report on the conclusions from the Round Table will be published on WAN... 

Nick Myall

News editor

WAN's Reclaiming the Streets initative is looking at the opportunites presented by the advent of autonomous vehicles and an increasing awareness of the health risks from vehicle pollution.   

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