Making London more liveable: Tall buildings as the answer to the London housing shortfall
London is predicted to grow by one million people in the next 10 years. To house them, London needs to deliver between 49,000 and 62,000 homes each year. The Mayor has said he will support London housing associations to deliver a minimum of 80,000 homes a year. In a built-up city like London, this begs the question: Where can these homes go? How do we ensure that we don’t compromise on the quality of housing?
Ensuring High-Quality Housing
High quality is more than high specification apartments. It means quality living environments for its residents. Many recent developments have focussed on providing high quantities of housing without enough consideration of quality.
High-rise buildings often restrict housing to 1, 2 or 3-bed flats. They often provide limited amenity space compared to the traditional house with a garden; flats on the 14th floor don’t exactly scream ‘family living’. London needs high-quality housing for the full range of household types, including families. One way to provide quality living in high-rises would be to develop managed communal amenity spaces actually within them. This approach is a relatively untested concept domestically, but common in other global cities.
An example is the Platinum Tower in New York which boasts full floors of amenities. They have socialising lounges, saunas, bicycle rooms, outdoor secure dog runs and even TVs playing mood-enhancing videos 24/7. Some of these features may be too high-end for a city where many families are already priced out. Nevertheless, devoting space to large communal amenities may help change the notion that high-rise living isn’t for families.
Approval of the planning application for the redevelopment of the Westferry Printworks highlighted tensions between needing to balance housing provision whilst maintaining and enhancing existing community facilities.
Balancing Housing Needs and Community Amenities
The Westferry Printworks development is located near Millwall Outer Dock on the Isle of Dogs. It will see the construction of four major towers, one reaching 30 storeys high. The Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre currently use the dock for sailing and lessons. The club argued that the design of the buildings could detrimentally alter wind patterns. This would make sailing conditions more difficult at certain times of the year, particularly for novice sailors. After objections from the community, the scheme was referred to the GLA. Temple was involved in the independent review of the Environmental Statement prepared in support of the planning application on behalf of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. We advised on the suitability of the technical assessments, particularly with respect to wind given the sensitivities around sailing conditions.
It is evident that we need to ensure that we can balance the needs of housing development and existing amenities. That way, London will create homes where people want to live. London doesn’t need to become ‘Dubai-on-Thames’, we need to think outside the box in terms of high-rise amenity space and acknowledge the benefits of existing amenities to tackle the housing challenge over the next 10 years.
Article by Chris Walters (Consultant) and Peter Cole (Associate Director).