One important note in the government’s housing white paper represents a major opportunity for urban development.
Ahead of the white paper’s publication, there was a concern that the green belt would be put under threat for the sake of building more homes.
This was not the case, but there was one section of note within the paper that aligned well with our recent thinking: repurposing car parks for residential development.
The white paper proposes to amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make it clear that plans and individual development proposals should address the particular scope for higher-density housing in urban locations that are well served by public transport, and to provide opportunities to replace low-density uses such as retail warehouses, lock-ups and car parks.
JLL’s recent residential research has identified just under 10,500 car parks in the UK’s towns and cities with the possibility to comfortably accommodate up to 400,000 homes, enough to house around one million people.
Nearly 80 per cent of those sites are surface car parks where development is feasible and where it is possible to build upwards.
“Rail operators directly control car park sites with the potential for up to 25,000 homes”
Importantly, more than half of the car parks that have been identified are in public ownership, where local authorities could rapidly undertake the construction of 200,000 new homes and in many cases without the loss of any parking spaces.
As well as this, the report recognises that rail operators directly control car park sites with the potential for up to 25,000 homes, while sites operated by the private sector have the potential for as many as 145,000 homes.
The research also highlights that the office-to-residential permitted development rights policy introduced in 2013 has achieved some success in enabling the creation of new residential development.
Car park to resi
It begs the question: should the government directly encourage a similar car park-to-residential policy? Well, given what we know, the answer could very well be yes.
The popularity of urban living has put a strain on local authorities to find appropriate and available sites for residential development.
Given we have inadequate provision of housing in urban centres, unlocking land – particularly the hundreds of acres that is publicly owned – is crucial.
For instance, car parks are often located near warehouse-style retail outlets – conceivably the ideal place for thriving mixed-use developments.
With urban mobility shifting away from car ownership, space that is currently devoted to parking could and should become available for other uses.
For too long car parks have often gone unnoticed and unchallenged as suitable land to build on, but it is pleasing to see that the government is beginning to realise missed opportunities and identify potential solutions.
Ashley Perry is a senior project manager in JLL’s project management team and member of the Urban Land Institute’s Young Leaders Committee in the UK and Europe