Having read your piece on airspace development (08.03.19), my first thought is: are we at risk of creating lots of expensive penthouses? 

Apex airspace

I haven’t seen the conditions attached to the GLA funding but I would assume that they are sufficiently robust to make sure that is not the case.

Another question is: are we at risk of creating lots of caravans in the sky? Again, having seen the progress that modular developments have made and the quality of them, I expect that is unlikely. There will undoubtedly be construction and planning challenges and I must say I’m very sceptical about the 180,000 new-homes figure. I would be surprised if there were enough sites where the airspace development would be both technically deliverable and viable.

In terms of planning, the government has of course consulted on extending permitted development rights to allow upward extensions, above existing building lines, in certain circumstances. The intention will be to take advantage of those permitted development rights if they are brought in but, as you know, there have been concerns expressed about the quality of office-to-residential conversions carried out and the same concerns could be expressed here.

Personally, I think good-quality buildings in the right places will always be supported by local planning authorities and I would prefer to see authorities being able to exercise proper control of new development.

While I don’t think the Apex plans will solve London’s housing crisis, they will certainly make a contribution and, if done well, should provide some exciting new living spaces.

Marnix Elsenaar, partner, Addleshaw Goddard

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