There is a chronic shortage of residential land available for redevelopment around transport hubs and local centres, particularly in London, where most of the sites with potential for residential development are situated in fringe, severely constrained locations.
Put bluntly, there is not enough land available in places where people want to live for the amount of homes needed to meet the aspirations of the new London Plan and to make a meaningful dent in the housing crisis.
At the same time, as the trading environment on the high street remains challenging and many retailers are facing closures, a number of former store sites are likely to become available. These could present opportunities for retail-led, mixed-use residential developments in valuable, busy, town centre locations.
Thanks to the recent, significant shift in the desirability of urban living, more and more people are attracted to the lifestyle a metropolitan, mixed-use development could offer – places to live that are not just another version of suburban dormitory, but are integrated with places to work, cafés and restaurants and leisure and retail facilities on their doorstep as well as strong transport links.
Find out more - Housing shortages: space invaders
Redevelopment of these sites is not without its challenges. Achieving an efficient residential floorplate at the upper levels while maintaining a commercially attractive retail layout below is only a starting point.
What’s really essential is the creation of an authentic sense of place, where the public realm can be enjoyed in equal measure by the residents and shoppers alike. What is at stake is not only the provision of much-needed new homes but also uplifting the retail provision – essential in order to support the local economy with jobs, activity and a variety of leisure spaces for the community.
With good, innovative design, many of the challenging locations around London can be converted into desirable places to live. In recent years, the main thrust of redevelopment activity seems to have been focused on brownfield sites in east London, while west London has been largely overlooked, despite its established, attractive local centres, good-quality housing stock, strong transport links with central London and close proximity to Heathrow. With the added benefit of Crossrail, this area certainly warrants a second look.
New developments such as Barratt’s High Street Quarter in Hounslow, Western Circus in Acton, St George’s Dickens Yard and Ealing Filmworks deliver much-needed new homes as well as creating lasting communities in revitalised town centres. Set in a modern, high-density context, using retail as a placemaking animator, well integrated with the residential above, these schemes take inspiration from the rich European tradition of mixed-use urban living.
Chris Wieszczycki is principal director at tp bennett