Posts Tagged ‘London’

Construction completed at Lion Club, Hoxton

January 19, 2017


SDPSA wins planning for 34 homes at Wandle Bank, L.B.Merton

December 5, 2016


Construction Completed at Quest Road, Croydon

September 7, 2016


Construction Complete at Marcon Place, Hackney

June 21, 2016


News Release: Enfield grants planning consent for Green Dragon

February 12, 2016


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News release: Planning submitted for 16 storeys at Chrisp Street

October 30, 2014


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Helping RSL clients to excel in private housing: in practice

August 15, 2013

“By challenging the RSL’s approach to affordable housing we helped our client evolve a high quality planning scheme, greatly exceeding their expectations of what they believed was possible”. Stephen Davy – Director

Planning permission has just been granted for 43 homes on the former Livity School site for a residential redevelopment in Brixton, London for RSL client Genesis Housing Association.  On the face of it, this is an interesting, but not remarkable achievement.

What is unusual is that within the London plan compliant split of 50% private sale, 50% affordable, revenue from the private sales will be used to fund the affordable housing.


Genesis Housing Association had a wealth of experience in the affordable housing sector, and indeed entered the private-rental homes market in April this year after launching a report with the Smith Institute on the future of housing associations called ‘Social Hearted, Commercially Minded: A Report on Tomorrow’s Housing Associations’.  According to Genesis, the reportexamines how housing associations have to strike a new balance between their social purpose and commercial activity as a result of the changing policy and economic environment”.

The title of the report summed up our challenge.  To design a scheme, which would add significant value to the private homes and maximise profit, which would be used to subsidize the affordable homes, but without alienating the client by pushing the RSL too far out of their comfort zone.

Merely upgrading the affordable specification was never going to be enough and we explored a variety of ‘value adding’ options. We developed a brief and specification for the private sale homes, which went far beyond upgrading an ‘affordable’ brief; it challenged the RSL to bravely consider private housing layouts far outside their ‘affordable’ comfort zone.

Out went the affordable floor-to-ceiling heights and in came double height spaces.  Interiors with spatial interest were created out of a brief, which included the need to reduce common areas.  Standard mid-range kitchens and bathrooms were rejected in favour of high-end, beautifully crafted units.  Oak engineered timber floorboards lie across the living areas, with Italian large format porcelain tiles to the kitchens and bathrooms.  Under floor heating at ground floor reduces the removes the need for wall cluttering radiators and is complimented by generous full height doors.  Thoughtful architectural gestures demonstrating great attention to detail, even at planning stage, feature throughout and include oak window seats in the dining room and matching oak clad staircase

Externally, panels by the communal flat entrances have been crafted from individual handmade terracotta blocks forming a 3D geometric design based on the client’s logo.  The same design also features on the steelwork screen and gate to the communal area.

We communicated our ideas for the design and specifications clearly and simply, providing evidence of what had been achieved on other private schemes, and sharing our ideas using sketches and 3d models to demonstrate to the client that they could achieve a higher quality than they imagined. Critically, we were able to convince the client’s sales team that a more architectural approach would increase saleability and profit, which could be channelled back into the affordable element of the scheme.

This is an imaginative scheme for an RSL client to undertake.  We are grateful to our client for trusting us to take them beyond their comfort zone, the resulting scheme is one that both we and our client will be proud to put our names to.

This may not be 100% affordable housing, but with deep cuts to the government’s financial support of social housing, it is certainly one way to help fund it.

Livity was granted planning permission in July 2013 and is due to start on site in September 2013.  We would love to hear about your affordable or private housing schemes, if you have any queries, or would like to speak to us about this, or another scheme, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Converting offices to residential: in practice

July 8, 2013

“It appears that so long as you stay within the use class boundaries, you would be permitted to convert an existing office building into a rabbit warren of tiny homes, with no affordable provision and minimal levels of space and light.  That can’t be right.  Can it?”  Peter Smith – Director

Following quite a bit of discussion and analysis in the press, on 30 May 2013 the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 was amended.  For the next three years only, converting Class B1 office buildings into Class C3 residential homes (change of use and internal alterations) may not require planning permission.  Prior approval from the council is required, and if they consider that the scheme would create a material change in the character of the local traffic, or that the site has flooding or contamination issues, they may still require a planning application.

Associated external building works will also still require planning permission, these might include façade alternations, balconies and a new entrance, as illustrated on another of our proposed office to residential conversions at Quest House, Croydon.

Quest House

Quest House

So what are the ramification of this new and temporary legislation, in practice?  We are currently undertaking a feasibility study on an office building in North London for a private developer.  The scheme has thrown up a number of interesting but as yet untested issues.  Assuming we receive prior approval from the planners (and not withstanding Building Regulations compliance) it appears that conversion within permitted development removes the need to address the following usual planning considerations:

  • density of development,
  • provision of affordable homes,
  • local authority minimum space standards for new development,
  • Mayor’s London Housing Design Guide minimum space standards,
  • local authority preferred mix of homes (studio – family accommodation),
  • Code for Sustainable homes including minimum daylighting levels
  • section 106 contributions,
  • payment of the Mayor’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

From a developers perspective, the prospect of a permitted development office conversion sounds too good to be true,  even our client was skeptical.  Along with the rest of the design team we looked for the ‘catch’, assuming that there would be some loophole the planners could use to assert a bit of planning authority,  but to our surprise we all came up empty handed.  Indeed, there appears to be no planning restriction preventing our client from cramming his floorplate full of private homes, with no minimum space or daylight standards to adhere to, and without having to make any statutory contributions, financial or otherwise.  As a developer of high quality homes, this was not a route our client wished to pursue, but that’s not to say there aren’t other developers who will.

This apparently unrestricted development opportunity also appears to be completely at odds with the current shift towards larger brighter homes, as championed by the RIBA campaign for better new build homes at via @BeHomeWise.

It is unclear what will happen, but as prior approval applications start to pile up on the desks of planners, it seems unlikely that office to residential conversions will be permitted to continue without further restrictions being imposed.

Too good to be true? Long-term, it probably is.