As population growth continues, London is under increasing pressure to use space more efficiently and to concentrate dense development at transport hubs. The city’s transport infrastructure continues to need investment at a time of fiscal constraint.
This report asks how we can make the most of the development opportunities offered by London’s stations. It finds that such developments are complex and sometimes commercially challenging, but can be made to work if decision-taking, governance and design are intelligently integrated. The report calls for a more active promotion of station development in planning policy, for devolved powers over taxation and land value capture, and for a renewed strategic focus to realise the potential of new and existing infrastructure.
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 over or around stations is complicated by a number of risks and challenges:
• Institutions and Governance: Transport bodies are called upon to combine the provision of operational services with efficient exploitation of development opportunities, requiring an alignment of objectives and resources.
• Engineering and Operations: Building over operational stations is complex, and this often influences development scale and shape, requiring costly and disruptive possessions of infrastructure.
• Funding and Financing: Station improvements result in higher land values, but capturing these through taxation or ad hoc levies is complex.
• Planning and Politics: Given the high costs of decking and station rebuilding, planning requirements on affordable housing, density and rights to light can affect viability, and higher densities often provoke community opposition.
…so a more strategic approach is needed to capitalise on the opportunities offered.
• The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL), with Network Rail, should prioritise work to identify public land ownership around stations (particularly those expected to receive or require major investment
in the near future), building on the work of the London Land Commission.
• The GLA should ensure that TfL and Network Rail’s plans for upgrades and improvements are incorporated into long-term planning tools such as the London Infrastructure Map, as well as plans for opportunity areas and intensification areas, so that opportunities can be anticipated, planned for and co-ordinated.
• The Mayor, the GLA, and other scheme promoters such as HS2, should ensure that new stations include provision for over- and/or aroundstation development, as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.
• The GLA should define “station intensification areas” in the London Plan as a strategic priority around key stations, setting higher minimum density and design standards in these areas, and (if necessary) using call-in powers to ensure approval of policy-compliant schemes.
• The GLA should explore establishing Mayoral Development Corporations or specific project development vehicles to provide the resources, expertise, and certainty required to make the most of station development opportunities when new rail schemes are being developed – particularly where multiple stakeholder interests are not yet aligned.
• The Mayor, the GLA and the London boroughs should adopt a tailored approach to affordable housing in over-station developments in order to reflect the value of station improvements; they should also encourage the use of review mechanisms to ensure viability and share value uplifts.
• The government should accelerate devolution of property taxes (as recommended by the London Finance Commission) to enable infrastructure to be funded by future tax revenues, as well as continuing to explore other means of land value capture such as development rights auctions.