This report looks at how we can make the most of the development opportunities offered by London’s stations.
Railway stations are the hinges around which London turns. But despite their centrality to city life, the space above and around our stations remain remarkably underdeveloped.
This report asks what London’s rail hubs can offer the city? It finds that while developing over and above stations is complex and sometimes commercially challenging, they can be viable if decision-taking, governance and design are intelligently integrated – particularly when new infrastructure is planned.
Developing at rail and Underground stations has a number of potential benefits:
- It enables sustainable high-density development.
- It makes use of land and assets held by public bodies such as Transport for London and Network Rail (who together have plans for around 15,000 homes in coming years).
- It generates development receipts that can help fund infrastructure improvements.
- It creates new civic ecosystems of public space and facilities around stations, and can connect communities separated by rail infrastructure.
…but the record in London is uneven
- Good connectivity is not always reflected in residential densities around stations.
- Major projects like King’s Cross and other London terminus projects have taken years to deliver, and have often focused on development alongside rather than over the station.
- Other projects have stalled through a combination of operational constraints, planning requirements, popular opposition, and high upfront development costs.
- Delivery requires strong leadership, and an understanding of trade-offs between objectives and interest groups.
Building over stations can be commercially viable in some cases:
- Our modelling suggests that higher-density developments, mixing commercial and residential, can deliver station improvements when supported by revenues from developer contributions, rents, and in most cases, tax revenues.
…but a more comprehensive approach to development can deliver better commercial and civic outcomes.
- Assembling sites around stations can create a more balanced business case, as well as enabling a new mixed-use piece of city – complete with social infrastructure and public realm – rather than an isolated high-density development.
Development Risks and Challenges
Development over or around stations is complicated by a number of risks and challenges:
- Institutions and Governance
- Engineering and Operations
- Funding and Financing
- Planning and Politics
…so the report argues that a more strategic approach is needed to capitalise on the opportunities offered.
Responding to the report, Sadie Morgan, Founding Director of dRMM and member of the National Infrastructure Commission, said:
“The pressure on London to deliver the homes and jobs needed for a growing population will require intensification and intelligent planning inthe coming decades. Over station development has a part to play in helping London achieve this.
“This type of development is highly complex – it will require strong leadership and a clear vision to ensure we achieve integrated designs for stations, commercial development, housing, and urban realm.
“Good governance coupled with design ambition has to be at the heart of our thinking in order to deliver quality from conception through to construction. The stewardship of our built environment is our collective responsibility and is integral to a sustainable London.”
Francis Salway, Chairman of the Property Advisory Group of Transport for London, said:
“Over station development ticks so many of the boxes in terms of good urban planning as well as having the potential to make a quantum change in the provision of homes and work space. But it is challenging to deliver. This report makes a welcome contribution in terms of how city government, transport operators, developers and funders can come together to make this happen”.