Press Release

Develop at Transport Hubs to Help Meet Growth Challenges

A new report from Centre for London has found that developing at London’s rail and tube stations could provide a sustainable way of accommodating the city’s population growth, but needs action from the Mayor and central government to make the most of the opportunity.

The report, Ideas above your Station: Exploring the Potential for Development at London’s Stations, finds that while developing over and above stations is complex and sometimes commercially challenging, they can be viable if decision-making, governance and design are intelligently integrated – particularly when new infrastructure is planned.

The report highlights the opportunity of developing at rail and Underground stations, to enable sustainable high-density development and create a new mixed-use places, rather than isolated high-density developments. Furthermore, the report finds that developing at stations could also cross-subsidise improvements to stations and infrastructure.

However, realising these opportunities requires integrated planning and delivery, bringing together public and private investment, and a long-term approach to investment.

The report therefore calls for a more active support for station development in planning policy, for devolved powers over taxation and land value capture, and for a renewed strategic focus to realise the potential of new and existing infrastructure. The key recommendations include:

  • The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL), with Network Rail, should prioritise work to identify public land ownership around stations (particularly those expected to receive or require major investment in the near future), building on the work of the London Land Commission.
  • The GLA should ensure that TfL and Network Rail’s plans for upgrades and improvements are incorporated into long-term planning tools such as the London Infrastructure Map, as well as plans for opportunity areas and intensification areas, so that opportunities can be anticipated, planned for and co-ordinated.
  • The Mayor, the GLA, and other scheme promoters such as HS2, should ensure that new stations include provision for over- and/or around-station development, as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.
  • The GLA should define “station intensification areas” in the London Plan as a strategic priority around key stations, setting higher minimum density and design standards in these areas, and (if necessary) using call-in powers to ensure approval of policy-compliant schemes.
  • The GLA should explore establishing Mayoral Development Corporations or specific project development vehicles to provide the resources, expertise, and certainty required to make the most of station development opportunities when new rail schemes are being developed – particularly where multiple stakeholder interests are not yet aligned.
  • The Mayor, the GLA and the London boroughs should adopt a tailored approach to affordable housing in over-station developments in order to reflect the value of station improvements; they should also encourage the use of review mechanisms to ensure viability and share value uplifts. 

Richard Brown, Research Director at Centre for London said:

“In a city that is growing fast, but short of space and short of funding to maintain and enhance its rail networks, developing at and around new and existing stations cannot be neglected – as a sustainable form of development, as a source of funding for new and improved infrastructure, as a means of creating mixed-use urban centres at transport hubs, and as a way of strengthening and connecting communities.”

“But it is a struggle to make complex over-station developments viable when funded simply using the proceeds of property development, even where land values are high. But planning such development alongside new rail lines, including adjacent land, allowing higher densities, or ring-fencing some of the tax revenues resulting from new development, could enable such projects to deliver a return on investment.”

Sadie Morgan, Founding Director of dRMM and member of the National Infrastructure Commission:

“The pressure on London to deliver the homes and jobs needed for a growing population will require intensification and intelligent planning inthe coming decades. Over station development has a part to play in helping London achieve this.

“This type of development is highly complex – it will require strong leadership and a clear vision to ensure we achieve integrated designs for stations, commercial development, housing, and urban realm.

“Good governance coupled with design ambition has to be at the heart of our thinking in order to deliver quality from conception through to construction. The stewardship of our built environment is our collective responsibility and is integral to a sustainable London.”

Sian Berry AM, Chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee said:

“I welcome this important and timely report.  Thinking outside the box is necessary with the urgent demand for more affordable homes in London.

“We made several recommendations in our recent report ‘Homes down the track’ which discovered that getting approval to build above and around working tracks is unnecessarily time consuming.

“We also underlined the need for TfL to simplify the building process and increase flexibility, while keeping track closures to a minimum.

“Jointly planning station and track improvements with the creation of new land for housing is even more important in a city like London, where every train delay or station closure can disrupt thousands of lives daily.”

Notes to editors: