Chapter 5: Making the most of opportunities

Ideas Above Your Station: Exploring The Potential For Development at London’s Stations

Chapter 5: Making the most of opportunities

Chapter 3 of this report showed the challenges of making over-station development viable without public sector support, and Chapter 4 looked in more detail at the challenges these projects can face.

In this chapter we suggest a strategic approach to station development that takes into the account the unique nature of many station development projects, and their position at the nexus between transport and housing or commercial infrastructure.

As set out in the section on engineering and operational challenges, making provision for over- or around-station development at the time of construction can dramatically reduce the risk of major disruption to operations.

A few stations in London were initially built with provision for over-site development at a later date – for instance, Bermondsey, Southwark, and Canada Water along the Jubilee line. But despite the investment into structures to support development, it is only in recent years that these opportunities have been pursued – and today’s higher density expectations would require stations to be re-engineered. 76
Another approach to future-proofing new stations for development at a later stage is to cover stations and immediate tracks with a station box, thereby protecting these facilities from potential disruption caused by future development. By ensuring that nearby transport assets are protected, developing alongside railways and stations becomes somewhat more straightforward. Typically, these boxes are not to be built on and do not have significant load-bearing capacity, but can act as positive signal for investment and development at a later date, without all
the risks and complexities of development works conflicting with operational demands. A recent example of station box provision is at Shoreditch High Street station, in which it was claimed that without the box “the future of Bishopsgate

Goodsyard would be severely constrained or would require line possessions resulting in major disruption to ELL [East London Line] services.” 77

Future-proofing can allow station development projects to adapt to changing markets and values, which means opportunities arising at a later date are not missed. For example, at the time that designs were being made for Whitechapel station, land values were considered too low to justify development above the station alongside the Crossrail works. By the time values were high enough to justify an over-site development, the window for conducting work alongside Crossrail had passed. Several interviewees suggested that this was the case for most Crossrail stations.
There is of a course a risk involved with futureproofing stations. Making the case for enabling works requires a good understanding of long-term plans for route engineering and opportunities surrounding new stations. There is evidence that some station rebuilds conducted as London’s inner-city population was declining ended up creating bottlenecks on the railway system. For instance, parking was developed around Gunnersbury station, with the number of tracks reduced from four to two – meaning that London Overground services now run through the station on the same tracks as the District line.
This risk can be mitigated by co-ordination between scheme promoters (whether HS2 or Crossrail 2) and the GLA. It should not necessarily be left to individual local authorities to anticipate demand for development above or around new stations, and a strong lead from the GLA as well as scheme promoters would set a presumption for future development. Indeed, one of the aims of the GLA’s London Infrastructure Map and London Strategic Infrastructure Requirements report is to collate such information.

Comprehensive station development
While future-proofing and the integrated development of new stations is of course important – especially at a time when Crossrail 2 looks increasingly likely, and major new stations such as Old Oak Common come forward – more can be done to make the most of existing stations in London.
The most immediate opportunity is often presented as simply building on top of stations. As this report has shown, however, even where projects are feasible in terms of engineering, costs are often high, and as such, can restrict the design and end use of whatever is built above. As the modelling in Chapter 3 illustrated, it can be hard to make over-station development viable, even in an area with high property values and high densities.

In areas where land values are lower, the cost of overstation development may require additional funding, or trade-offs in terms of building height and tenure mix. There are therefore strategic decisions that need to be made as to which stations should be targeted for over-station development – for example, those in highvalue areas where receipts can be used for transport investment; and stations earmarked for significant upgrades, where public funding may help build the business case, and improvements for local people may be seen as justifying higher density development.

Yet, as this report has highlighted, much of what is exciting and desirable about station development is the ability to create quality, mixed-use, highly accessible places. This is particularly the case in areas where stations, especially large mainline stations, have acted as a barrier, or “edge”, to neighbourhoods.

Case study: Euston Station

The planned redevelopment of Euston station, taking place alongside the new HS2 terminus, provides an example of how consolidation of land ownership, combined with public investment into enabling works, has unlocked private sector investment to enable the redevelopment of a long-unloved station.

The co-ordinated approach to redevelopment at Euston is formalised by the
Euston Strategic Board – a partnership between the London Borough of Camden, the GLA, TfL, Network Rail and HS2 Ltd. A key focus of the Board has been to make the case for comprehensive station development, and for the provision of public sector funding for works enabling over-station development to “respond to both the scale of the enabling challenge and the time between initial investment and securing returns from new development.” 78

Earlier this year, HS2 limited, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State
for Transport and Network Rail announced the shortlisting of five bidders for
commercial and residential development over and around Euston station. The
redevelopment of Euston station is very large – covering 22 hectares of land
owned by DfT and Network Rail. Appointing a Master Development Partner
(MDP) reflects a vision for comprehensive station development, extending beyond
the station freehold footprint into the wider Euston estate. This will require coordination not just with the relevant local authorities, but with the HS2 station
designers and Transport for London.

The MDP will be responsible for securing planning consent for the scheme,
which will form a blueprint for a new mixed-use district at Euston with improved public realm and accessibility, while optimising development value. While the government has committed to directly funding enabling works for overstation development at the HS2 terminus (including piling, development decks and a potential basement), the presence of protected viewing corridors as well as engineering constraints may limit the height of over-station development. Developing at height on adjacent land may be one means of overcoming these restrictions: specifically, on parcels of land at the south of the site that are identified by the Euston Area Plan as an area suitable for taller buildings. 79

Reviews by Network Rail into the feasibility of development over the station are ongoing.

The chosen Master Development Partner is due to be announced by the end of 2017.

By acquiring adjacent land, and by using engineering techniques such as decking to connect disconnected parcels of land, landowners and developers can create sites for station development that are more flexible and potentially more viable. A larger site can create a more diverse investment portfolio, allowing investors to spread risk across a range of asset types, including residential (for sale and Build to Rent) and commercial. Phasing can be managed strategically. Adjacent sites can be brought forward first, helping with cash-flow and financing: alternatively, they can be used to allow a more flexible approach to engineering works, or for the assembly of pre-manufactured components.

Spreading development over a larger site means the project is not financially reliant on high-density development on a small footprint of land, but can adopt a more flexible approach to massing. This approach also allows for greater flexibility in terms of masterplanning and mix of uses. Rather than maximising value on one parcel, developers may even decide not to build directly above stations, but to use newly created land achieved by decking for public realm or green space, rather than an isolated high-density development.
Comprehensive station development can therefore offer a wider footprint with greater potential for mixed-use, mixed-income communities, and benefits for commuters, residents, and other stakeholders.

Comprehensive station development is not necessarily about scale – such an approach can apply both to major rail land sites and to stations in Zones 3-4, where lower land values can in fact make acquisition of adjacent land more feasible, even if sale values are lower.

Case study: Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction is in urgent need of remodelling, and a consortium is looking at achieving this through comprehensive development above and around the station.

The station is well-known as Britain’s busiest interchange, and the tracks form a barrier that separates Wandsworth’s most deprived ward from its least. Yet despite the dilapidated state of the station, rapid increase in ridership, and the surrounding high property values, Clapham Junction is still awaiting development. Network Rail has been seeking development partners to increase private investment around several stations. The most challenging project (at Clapham Junction) was stalled, and Network Rail set up a new joint venture with Capital and Counties Properties PLC (Capco) to upgrade the station and open up development opportunities above and around it.

As such, Clapham Junction is seen as a potential site for comprehensive station development, going beyond the “red lines” of the station footprint. The likely arrival of Crossrail 2 adds further complexity. Initial proposals include:

• Rebuilding the station to accommodate more and longer trains, as well as
the additional passenger numbers forecasted.

• Bridge the barrier currently formed by the railway viaduct, creating
continuous public realm from Northcote Ward through the regenerated
estates of Latchmere Ward to the River Thames beyond.

• Decking over the new station to create 41 acres of land for mixed-use development. This may catalyse wider development – with the potential to
become a new mixed-use metropolitan centre.

• Integrating the development with rebuilding of the station. Developers
argue that the scheme be could be significantly subsidised by over station
development – depending on the scale of the scheme and the nature of
partnership between public and private sector.

A scheme of this size does, however, come with some risks. If the project is to
be self-financing, high-density development will be required. This has implications in terms of potential opposition from local communities, and in securing planning permission for a development density that could exceed the upper limits currently specified in the London Plan. The plans proposed by developers Delancey and Land Securities in 2008 attracted significant local opposition, particularly around the impact of building height.

The proposals are currently being discussed with regional and local politicians, who have been receptive to the initial ideas – reflecting the potential economic impact of the development in terms of improved transport connections, substantial enhancements to the station, and additional fiscal revenue from added residential and commercial space. This project underlines the importance of addressing both the benefits and trade-offs for a wide range of stakeholders, including commuters,
local businesses, residents, and the local authority.

The complexities of planning, politics, financing and engineering make over-station development a tough proposition in London. But in a city that is short on space and short of funding to maintain and enhance its rail networks, developing at and around new and existing stations cannot be neglected: it is a sustainable form of development, a source of funding for new and improved infrastructure, a means of creating mixed civic ecosystems at transport hubs, and a way of strengthening and connecting communities. This report sets out the practical steps London’s planners and transport authorities need to take to realise the potential of stations as hubs for sustainable development and civic life.

• 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 aroundstation development, as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission. 80
• 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.
• The government should accelerate devolution of property taxes (as recommended by the London Finance Commission) to enable infrastructure to be funded by future tax revenues, as well as continuing to explore other means of land value capture such as development rights auctions.

  • 76 Barber, L. (2017, July 31st) Southwark Tube station redevelopment: Jubilee line architects call for assurances from Karen Bradley as Transport for London plans demolition for 30-storey skyscraper. City A.M. Retrieved from:
  • 77 Transport for London (2006). London Underground (East London Line Extension) Order 1997. Planning Condition 8: Shoreditch High Street Station – Exterior Materials. [Letter] Retrieved from: WAM/doc/Application%20Form-214175pdf?extepdf&id =214175&location=VOLUME1&contentType=application/ pdf&pageCount=5
  • 78 London Borough of Camden, Greater London Authority, Network Rail, Transport for London. Growth strategy for Euston. HS2 Gateway to Central London. Retrieved from uploads/2012/09/Euston-Growth-Strategy_Final.pdf
  • 79 . Department for Transport, High Speed Two Ltd, Network Rail (2017). Euston Station Development Opportunity. Memorandum of Information. Retrieved from: https://www. data/file/607758/Euston_OSD_-_Memorandum_of_ Project_Information__PQQ_.pdf
  • 80 National Infrastructure Commission (2016). Transport for a World City.