Airspace Development: Extend homes upward

London has excelled at creating jobs and opportunities, in recent decades. At the same time, London’s government had failed to build the homes they needed. But, the London Mayor and the UK government is now considering airspace development a key solution to the housing crisis.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reportedly proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make it easier to add up to two storeys to an existing building. Therefore, the changes to the planning system will unlock a hitherto overlooked housebuilding resource that could change parts of London’s famous skyline forever: airspace development.

In addition, Londoners no longer need planning permission to add two more floors to flats, offices and houses. ‘Airspace development’ creates room for 41,000 new homes to ease the London crisis.

What is “Airspace Development”?

Airspace development technique will convert unused space on rooftops of existing buildings into new homes.

The Government is considering rooftop development as a key way to address the lack of housing, particularly here in the capital.

Developers and, to a point, homeowners will be able to add two storeys on to a private house, a block of flats. Also on a shop or an office block, or really any kind of existing building, to create extra living space without the need for planning permission.

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“Before [the change was announced] we got about three enquiries per week,” says Richard Taube, managing director of rooftop development specialist Up Space. “Now we are getting 15 to 20.”

There are restrictions under the new rules, however. The existing building must be detached, while listed buildings and those within a conservation area may not be used for airspace development.

Laith Moubarak, acquisitions director of airspace developer is enthusiastic about the potential:

“Land in town and city centres is scarce and therefore the new rules will most certainly impact housing supply. Addressing the housing shortage makes sense.”

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How will London create 41,000 new homes?

Land Registry data, Analysing Ordnance Survey and estate agent Knight Frank have identified 23,000 buildings, in travel Zones 1 and 2 alone, that could be suitable for rooftop development, potentially providing space to build 41,000 new homes.

This sounds like a lot, but bear in mind that London Mayor Sadiq Khan estimates the capital needs to build 66,000 new homes each year to accommodate current and future Londoners.

Even so, rooftop developments have the potential to help the housing crisis in a substantial way.

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