Unlock post-Brexit London housing using the transport key, says Crossrail chairman

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Image: Arup Associates

Transport-led development can hold the key to unlocking development in London as it seeks to solve its housing crisis.

And Crossrail will generate some £5.5bn of GDP benefit within two years of opening, catalyzing 50,000 homes through the confidence it will instill in the city.

So said Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan at a conference on the subject at the NLA, against a backdrop of uncertainty caused by Brexit.

‘Crossrail is a global programme, it’s a wonderful programme, it’s on time, and it’s within the funding’, said Morgan. ‘And the one thing that is continuing with certainty is that Crossrail will open in 2018 with all the aspirations that we have set for it.’

Now 75% complete, the 120km long east-west line had a robust business case from its start, with £42bn GDP benefit over its lifetime projected, along with 10 per cent extra capacity and ‘a real statement’ over London’s potential to grow further. Just two years after it opens, it will generate £5.5bn of GDP benefit, said Morgan, enabling over 50,000 new homes to be built. ‘This isn’t about new sites, this is about confidence’. The architecture will be ‘themed’, with distinctively different stations along with ‘ambitious’ art via the Culture Line project, but Crossrail is more than just a railway. ‘It will have a massive impact on the wellbeing of the city and indeed the impact of what we’re trying to do reinforces the importance of continuing infrastructure investment and making sure we have the skills that support it.’

The linkage between transport infrastructure investment and development is clear when 50% of those making planning applications cite Crossrail as the reason they’re doing it now. And Crossrail is developing air space above stations, with 3.3m sqft in a combination of housing, retail and business sites planned.

Development consultant to Crossrail 2 and TfL William Jackson said the market had failed to deliver in the housing sector, and was questionable in the office sector in central London, only supplying to demand in a reactive manner. But Crossrail 2 is the opportunity to define how infrastructure can be delivered. ‘It’s a once in a generation opportunity to bring together transport delivery and property development across the city’. And with a population set for 10 million by 2030 it gives the extra capacity to keep the wider south east working. But this too is not just a transport project, with 200,000 new homes set to be built across the region with ‘a sensible approach to density’ and placemaking, along with 200,000 new jobs. ‘We have to have the solutions to transport otherwise the city will die’, he said.

The conference also head from Arup senior leader Richard de Cani, who said London needs to create a new home every 11 minutes to deal with the housing crisis but that rail connectivity is key to unlocking development – witness the Jubilee Line and Canary Wharf. Some 82% of residential development since 2000 has come forward within 1km of a station, said de Cani. ‘We need to acknowledge that and use it to our advantage to deliver more homes in London.’ AECOM regional director Bob Miller agreed, looking at central versus outer London and, necessarily, wider to the city region considering the corridors of growth, including a reexamination of the Green Belt that could yield 2.5m homes from those areas within a mile from existing stations.

Chris Williamson, partner at Weston Williamson showed the future possibilities of transport-orientated development along with their ability to help in meeting climate change targets and the creation of ‘civilized cities’, perhaps even car free ones akin to the practice’s recent research.

Finally, Ken Baikie, director of Thamesmead Regeneration at Peabody showed how a new town centre could be built around transport. A DLR extension and tunnel would support the delivery of 11,500 additional homes in North Thamesmead, he said. ‘What Thamesmead never got was transport infrastructure’.

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

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