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Southwark raises the roof with new development principles

Words: Huw Morris

The London Borough of Southwark has unveiled plans to introduce a set of principles to guide rooftop development and provide new council housing.

Southwark is facing an acute housing need, with more than 12,000 families on the waiting list for housing and more than 2,000 children currently living in temporary accommodation.

The council has one of the most ambitious council housebuilding programmes in the country and a commitment to build 11,000 homes by 2043.

More than 600 council homes have already been delivered, but the borough said it is now looking at “new and innovative ways” to build more housing as available land is in short supply. This includes a special focus on unlocking potentially hundreds of homes with upward extensions on existing blocks.

It said it is aware of the impact that this will have on people living in the affected buildings and has drafted a series of principles and commitments to maximise the benefits and minimise effects on residents.

The council is promising to minimise the stress on residents by building rooftop homes in a modular form off site, and craning them on to adapted blocks. This would significantly shorten the time for construction on site, said the borough.

Residents living immediately beneath the new homes will be given the first opportunity to move into them, so people previously living on the top floor will have the chance to stay on the top floor and in a new home. The vacated properties will then be made available to those on the waiting list, added the council.

“Rooftop housing has a great potential to not only deliver hundreds of high-quality new council homes and improve existing homes, but also to help decarbonise the development supply chain,” said Leo Pollack, cabinet member for social regeneration, great estates and new homes. “We’ve spoken to residents about the opportunities and challenges linked to rooftop housing and the kind of preferences that were raised were things like their desire to remain on the top floor, being prioritised for the new homes and improvements being made to the rest of the block.

“Unlocking a new dimension of council housing supply like this is not going to be straightforward, but we are driven by the potential for hundreds, potentially thousands of new council homes in our borough. We plan to offer a quicker on-site construction time by doing most of the building off-site, giving first refusal on the new homes to those living underneath, and improvements to the existing block, with any costs associated with the new homes – such as a new roof, lift and landscaping – non-rechargeable to leaseholders.

“We are also developing an accompanying rooftop design guide that will detail some of the best options to complement and enhance an existing block well, maximise internal living and amenity space and solutions for connecting new homes to existing services.”

Image credit | iStock