More than 300 acres of land owned by Transport for London (TfL) will be made available for the building of homes, shops and offices over the next decade, with 200 acres of this residing in zones 1 and 2. This is being seen as another giant leap forward in TfL’s attempts to become one of the capital’s major property developers.
At the start of the year, TfL said that up to 50 of its sites would be chosen for the first phase of the programme for redevelopment – in conjunction with between three and six specialist firms – while another 25 sites would be developed with others outside that group or, in some cases, even sold. The final panel of “property partners” will be revealed in early 2016 and could well number more than six.
The major reason for making so much of the most valuable, “prime central” land available is fairly obvious and straightforward: Money. “It’s money,” Graeme Craig, TfL’s Director of Commercial Development, said. “That has to be our top priority.”
The first phase of development is, according to Craig, predicted to generate £1.1bn for TfL. All of this money will be ploughed back into a transport network that must deal with the pressures of London’s rising population – expected to hit at least 10 million by 2030 – while having its funding from central government slashed.
Like most public bodies in London, TfL is trying to utilise and exploit its land assets to cover the cost of the government’s ongoing austerity programme.
As things stand, the first phase sites remain unnamed. However, the surrounds of South Kensington station are anticipated to be among them, as are the top of Bermondsey station, a couple of blocks near Oxford Circus and areas around less well-known tube stations like Kidbrooke and Northwood. In addition, a public consultation is currently taking place about the best use for the derelict Parsons Green depot.
TfL plans to move straight on to finding candidates for a second phase once the first 75 sites have been sorted. More of these will be in the outer zones of the capital. Separately, TfL has also entered into a joint venture with Development Securities to construct more than 300 residential units plus shops and restaurants above and surrounding Southwark station.
The first 300 acres could help to deliver 10,000 new homes, Craig said, of which some will be designated as affordable. How many of these will be affordable will come down to the approach and attitude of the local authorities, from which TfL will have to seek planning permission.
TfL currently owns 5,700 acres of land, which amounts to nine square miles, larger than the whole London Borough of Camden. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the land isn’t suitable for building, for obvious reasons that there would be railway lines and roads in the way. Still, there is plenty that could be.
“Through TfL the Mayor owns enough land to fill the entire London borough of Camden – home to more than 240,000 people,” Tessa Jowell said back in September. This sentiment was echoed by Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith at the Conservative party conference earlier this month.
What is less clear is how the land TfL owns will be used and how much of it will be set aside for affordable housing.