17 Mar

Is developing on top of existing residential buildings the solution to the UK housing crisis?

You don’t just own the land of your property (freehold) all also own the airspace above it. 

An airspace development refers to the construction of a building or structure above an existing property or land, without the need to acquire the underlying land. This type of development is often seen in densely populated urban areas where land is scarce and expensive. In an airspace development, the airspace above an existing building or land is sold or leased to a developer who constructs a new building on top of it. 

The developer is responsible for the construction, maintenance, and ownership of the new building, while the underlying landowner retains ownership of the original property. Airspace development is subject to various regulations and legal considerations, including zoning laws, building codes, and property rights. It typically requires careful planning and coordination between the developer and the underlying landowner to ensure the development complies with all applicable laws and regulations, and to address issues such as access, utilities, and shared amenities.

Why London is a premier hot spot for airspace development projects.

London is a hot spot for airspace development projects for several reasons. 

Firstly, London is a densely populated city with a high demand for housing and commercial space. As a result, developers are constantly looking for innovative ways to create additional space, and airspace development offers a viable solution for increasing building density without the need for additional land. 

Secondly, London has many older buildings with unused or underutilized roof space. Airspace development allows developers to make use of this space without the need for costly land acquisition. 

Thirdly, London has a supportive regulatory environment for airspace development projects. The UK government has implemented policies and regulations that encourage the use of airspace for new construction projects, and local authorities in London have streamlined planning processes to make it easier for developers to get their projects approved. 

Lastly, London has a highly skilled and innovative construction industry, which is able to design and build complex airspace developments to a high standard. This has encouraged developers to invest in airspace development projects, confident that they can achieve high-quality outcomes.

What is the rule of thumb for the size of the airspace development?

The size of an airspace development project in London can vary widely depending on the specific project and its location. 

There is no set standard or minimum size for an airspace development project, and the size of the project will depend on factors such as the available airspace, the intended use of the development, and local planning regulations. Airspace development projects in London typically involve the construction of one or more floors or units on top of an existing building, and the size of these floors or units can range from a few hundred square feet to several thousand square feet. 

Some larger developments may involve the construction of entire new buildings above existing properties, which could involve tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of square feet. 

Overall, the size of an airspace development project in London will depend on a variety of factors and will be specific to each individual project.

What is the cost per sqft of airspace development in London?

The cost per square foot (sqft) of an airspace development project in London can vary widely depending on a range of factors, such as the location, size, complexity, and intended use of the development.

As a rough estimate, the cost of constructing an airspace development in London can range from £250 to £1,000 per sqft, although costs can exceed this range for particularly complex or high-end projects. Other factors that can impact the cost of an airspace development project include the cost of land or airspace rights, planning and design fees, construction materials and labour, and financing costs. 

It's worth noting that these cost estimates are only rough approximations, and the actual cost of an airspace development project will depend on a wide range of factors that are specific to each project. 

Developers interested in undertaking an airspace development project in London should consult with a range of experts, such as architects, engineers, contractors, and financiers, to get a more accurate estimate of the cost of their project.

The dangers of airspace development  

Like any type of development, airspace development projects can come with risks and potential dangers. Some of the key risks and dangers associated with airspace development include: 

  1. Structural integrity: The weight of an additional building or structure on top of an existing building may cause structural damage or instability, particularly if the original building was not designed to support additional weight. Careful engineering and design are necessary to ensure that the building can safely support the new development.
  2. Safety hazards: Construction activities associated with airspace development projects can pose safety hazards to workers and nearby residents. These hazards can include falls from heights, construction noise, and debris falling from the construction site.
  3. Planning and zoning issues: Airspace development projects must comply with local planning and zoning regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in delays, fines, and legal disputes.
  4. Access and utilities: Airspace development projects may require access to utilities, such as water, gas, and electricity, which can be difficult to provide in densely populated urban areas. Access to the development itself may also be challenging, particularly if the development is located on top of an existing building.
  5. Legal and ownership issues: Ownership of airspace is a complex legal issue, and developers must ensure that they have obtained the necessary rights and permissions to develop the airspace above an existing property.
  6. Causing issues, noise, problems for the existing leaseholders living in the building need to all be notified.
  7. Residents not having gardens, open space.
  8. Some airspace developments could become eyesores, designed and constructed badly that doesn’t blend into the surroundings.
  9. Building tower blocks, opens a large can of worms for causing social issues within themselves.  Tower blocks were constructed post World War 2, but in the 1980’s soon started to get demolished due to poor quality materials usage, deteriorating fabrication and poor maintenance.  

Overall, airspace development projects can be complex and challenging, and they require careful planning, design, and execution to ensure that they are successful and safe. Developers interested in undertaking an airspace development project should work closely with experienced professionals, such as architects, engineers, and contractors, to help mitigate potential risks and dangers.

Planning permission for airspace development in UK 

Planning permission for airspace development in the UK is required under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The process for obtaining planning permission for an airspace development project can be complex and varies depending on the specific project and location. Here are the general steps involved in obtaining planning permission for an airspace development project in the UK: 

  1. Pre-application advice: Before submitting a planning application, it is advisable to seek pre-application advice from the local planning authority. This can help to identify any potential issues or challenges that may arise during the planning process.
  2. Submitting a planning application: Once the developer has obtained the necessary rights to develop the airspace above an existing property, they can submit a planning application to the local planning authority. The application should include details of the proposed development, such as the design, materials, and intended use of the development.
  3. Public consultation: The local planning authority will typically undertake a public consultation process, during which members of the public can provide feedback on the proposed development.
  4. Planning decision: After the public consultation period has ended, the local planning authority will decide on the planning application. The decision may be to grant planning permission, refuse planning permission, or grant planning permission subject to certain conditions.
  5. Appealing the decision: If the planning application is refused, the developer has the right to appeal the decision to the Planning Inspectorate.

 It's important to note that the process for obtaining planning permission for an airspace development project can be time-consuming and costly, and it's advisable to seek the assistance of experienced professionals, such as architects, engineers, and planning consultants, to help navigate the process. 

Is airspace development the solution to the UK housing crisis 

Airspace development can be one solution to the UK housing crisis, as it provides an opportunity to create additional housing units in areas where space is limited, such as densely populated urban areas. 

By developing the unused airspace above existing buildings, airspace development can increase housing supply without the need for additional land. However, while airspace development can contribute to addressing the housing crisis, it is not a comprehensive solution on its own. 

Other measures are also needed, such as increasing the supply of affordable homes, improving the quality of existing homes, and addressing issues such as homelessness and social inequality.  

Family homes need to be built, with gardens and terraces. In addition, airspace development can face a range of challenges, such as planning and regulatory issues, access to utilities and services, and potential opposition from local communities. These challenges can increase costs and delay the development process, making it more difficult to achieve the desired housing supply goals. Overall, while airspace development can play a role in addressing the UK housing crisis, it is important to view it as one part of a broader strategy that includes a range of measures aimed at increasing housing supply and improving housing affordability and accessibility for all. 

At Knightsbridge properties, we support airspace development but with very careful consideration and a tight strategy that prevents tower block format.  

We are specialists in reconfiguration of ex council flats and houses to a modern fresh layout creating space with contemporary textures and feels for better living standards and family living.

Call us or email the ceo on siama@knightbridge-properties.com and we will happily discuss. 

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