Tuesday, 20 March 2018

With space for 41,000 new homes on the ROOFS of existing properties in London alone - is building upwards the answer to Britain's housing crisis?

  • The Government has called for more properties to be built upwards 
  • House builder Click Above wants to see 40k extra homes built in this way
  • It already has several sites in London where it is building on existing properties
  • MailOnline Property's Myra Butterworth saw some of the sites being developed 

Building 40,000 new homes literally on top of existing buildings in London could help solve the country's housing crisis, a developer has claimed.

A house builder specialising in rooftop development has already begun using the space above existing buildings to boost the supply of homes in Britain, including several sites in London.

It comes after the Government announced in the Housing White Paper at the end of last year that it is committed to building upwards, on 'airspace' above existing buildings.

Developer Click Above says that more than £50billion worth of extra homes could be built in this way in London.

MailOnline Property's Myra Butterworth took a helicopter ride over London with Click Above to view some of the airspace that it is transforming.

The development sites include two penthouses being added to the rooftop of a purpose-built block in Battersea, and 23 studios and two-bedroom apartments constructed above a commercial site in the borough of Camden.

The properties are built off-site, meaning they can be installed within days with minimum disruption.

Aaron Emmett, chief executive of Click Above, said: 'People in UK cities have no idea how much money they could potentially be sitting on.

'With densely populated areas crying out for more housing, the opportunity to build upwards is colossal.

'We know there is potential for 41,000 new rooftop dwellings in central London alone. This equates to more than 28million square foot of residential floor area, with an estimated value of £51billion.'

Flat owners may be concerned about additional properties being built on top of their block. However, if their freeholder is selling the roof space, it has to serve what is known as a 'section five' notice that gives leaseholders first refusal to buy before it can be sold on to a third party.

Click Above insists that there can be benefits for leaseholders when their roof space is sold. These can include communal areas being refurbished and new facilities added, such as improving the appearance of a building, having a new roof that leaseholders won't have to pay for, and new landscaping.

Rooftop space sells for £450,000
It follows the sale of a rooftop space in London in 2015 for £450,000. The space was just 53 sq metres - or 571 sq ft - but came with planning permission for a one-bedroom flat with a terrace.

It comes after the Government outlined plans in its Housing White Paper to 'address the scope for higher-density housing in urban locations' by using 'airspace' above buildings that be extended upwards.

It claimed these includes low-density buildings such as retail warehouses, lock-ups and car parks.

The Government has also announced further planning changes this week, with its decision to increase the number of homes that agricultural buildings can be converted into.

The maximum will be extended from three to five, with the new housing minister Dominic Raab saying: 'We need to be more creative if we are to meet the housing needs of rural communities.'

The move to build upwards follows the increasing installation of mega-basement extensions used by wealthy residents to expand their homes.

'But the controversial 'iceberg homes' have attracted vigorous complaints about noise and dust during the building process.


Developer Click Above answers questions on building upwards...
How do you build upwards?

We use off-site building methods to build above existing structures. This means that disruption can be minimised as off-site building methods are typically relatively fast-track building processes compared to more traditional builds.
What makes the ideal roof space?

Ideally the roof is relatively flat with little mechanical and electrical plant or water storage on it, but these are not limiting factors. The most important factors are the relative height of the existing structure compared to others around and the ability of that structure to take the weight of one or more additional floors. Planning is always an important factor and in practice is the most important one.
What are the requirements of the existing building?

Planning approval needs to be achievable and the structure needs to be able to support the additional builds.
What is required for planning to be granted?

The planning requirements differ from borough to borough although in general, the development can't hugely stand out above buildings in the immediate area with regards to height and mass. The design also needs to be in keeping with building in the local area, although again this depends on the Borough. Other standard points to consider are heritage and whether the development affects the daylight and sunlight of other buildings etc. Unfortunately there isn't a one-size fits all for any kind of development. It is down to planning policy and the individual planning officer's view on the design.
What materials are used to build upwards?

Most of our builds use steel frames, but the exterior and interior look the same as any other build.
How long does the build take?

Take, for example, a typical two to four apartment built on a roofspace. The build schedule is relatively short - up to eight weeks for preparation and clearance of the roof and site, a lift period of a few days only (to minimise disruption to residents) and a tail of works of between two and three months leading to occupation. During this phase most works are interior fitting and finishing. Five months would be typical for the total on-site phase, but the planning and preparation will take much longer. Planning can take two years and the preparation phase after planning is around three months before works start on site.

What is a typical cost per square metre of such a build?

It is fairly comparable to traditional builds, starting at around £2,400 per sq m. This increases depending on the finishes and any improvements necessary to the existing structure. It also depends on location, with central London more expensive to build than other areas, not least due to the cost of labour and sub-contractors.


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