Crossrail – its impact on property and the London economy

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Crossrail will provide London with an uplift of £5.5bn to property values, 57,000 new homes and 3.25 million square foot of commercial space – the equivalent of 26 Shards. But just as important will be the contribution the new rail line makes to the public realm when it opens in 2018.

That was one of the key sentiments arising from a special NLA conference held this morning to discuss the impact Crossrail will have across the capital.

Crossrail land and property director Ian Lindsay said that there had always been an inextricable link between railways and property – the reason why stations are so prevalent on the Monopoly board. The new line will connect Heathrow to the West End, to Canary Wharf, with ‘fantastic opportunities’ along the way. ‘Our ambition is to deliver high quality and lasting legacy for London’ he said. ‘I believe we have the opportunity to change London for the better’. The new line involves 118km of new railway in a project that is on time and to budget, with the design work all but complete. ‘I think you will love the eight new stations we’re building in central London.’

The below-ground boxes for those stations are major endeavours to cater for trains carrying 700-1000 people, with that at Paddington being the same size as Cesar Pelli’s canary Wharf Tower lying on its side. But Lindsay stressed that as much attention is being paid to oversite developments and to the outsides of stations, and the way they connect with their immediate environments being a particular focus. Lindsay said Crossrail has been deliberately ‘ambitious’ to design beyond their sites in order to try and create ‘vibrant and permeable’ places and to encourage further investment. ‘We will revitalise the link between stations and placemaking’, said Lindsay. The next five years will mean Crossrail becoming in effect one of the UK’ s top 10 property developers, with a profit target of £500 million and 2.5 million square foot of office, residential and retail space part of the equation.
GVA director of planning, development and regeneration, Mike Taylor said there was ‘an enormous opportunity to move central London and the wider economy forward’, with areas to watch including Ealing Broadway in the west and Abbey Wood in the east set to receive major boosts to their residential values.

Urban Movement director John Dales agreed that Abbey Wood showed a huge potential for change, largely because it is starting from such a low base, and he demonstrated how paying a close attention to urban design issues could alleviate the most hostile elements of the immediate station areas. Abbey Wood is also a focus for Development Securities managing director Julian Barwick, who detailed the developer’s plans for a foodstore, residential, new public realm, offices and a hotel. Dev Secs is also developing schemes in other suburban London locations to receive the Crossrail effect such as the heart of Slough – ‘a really decent place in which to live, work or shop’, and, in a joint venture with Cathedral Group, at the Old Vinyl Factory site in Hayes. Closer to the centre, Derwent London director Paul Williams said a number of its projects would receive a boost from Crossrail, including the development of the former Turnmills building near Farringdon station, a Make-designed building on Charlotte Street and at other schemes in Fitzrovia. But its development of 1 Oxford Street – branded a project with complexity at an ‘epic scale’ by Westminster’s Graham King – represents one of the most visible changes to central London as a direct result of Crossrail. King added that, as with so many of the major infrastructure projects in the UK, the story of Crossrail – first begun in 1989 – was a ‘parliamentary process, rather than a planning process’.

Finally, Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme told the conference that there was an underplayed element to the Crossrail story, in that it will alleviate congestion from other lines, with 37 new connections across 19 boroughs, and that it perhaps offers a model for other projects to follow. But Crossrail is much more than a railway line, he said. ‘We’re building a world-class railway – but we’re doing it to fast-track the progress of London’.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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