London and other cities are dotted with spaces that were once the gardens of houses, but that long ago were sold off. It’s important to understand that as far as the planning system is concerned, that change of ownership is not relevant. That doesn’t mean you can’t get planning permission on one of these sites, but you need to prove that in all other ways, this is a suitable place for a house - you can’t just argue that because it is no longer someone’s garden, it should be built on.
Our client had bought a site like that, one which had a history of refusals. Before we agreed to work on the project, we told him that we had to make sure something significant had changed since those previous applications. Yes, we were confident that our design would make a difference, but in this case, that might not be enough. Something had changed, though: the building of the Elizabeth Line, the £18 billion investment designed to transform east-west/west-east travel in the capital. The site is a two-minute walk from an Elizabeth Line station, meaning this is now exactly where new homes should be built.
The plot is not large. Fitting a 1930s-style house on the site wouldn’t work, but something designed around its constraints might slot in. We took a three-bedroom version to a pre-application meeting with the council, and they felt that would affect the neighbours too much. So we went back to scratch, and came up with the one-bedroom version you see here. The idea is to provide a high-quality home and yet at the same time, cause as little disruption to the residents of the street as possible.
The design is boldly contemporary, but if we restrict ourselves to box or L-shaped homes, it will be much harder to make an impact on the housing crisis, especially if - as the government wants - we are meant to be building more on well-connected urban sites… just like this one. What all councils say they want is high-quality design, and we believe that this is exactly that: carefully thought-through, both inside and out.
We understand that the idea of building on garden space can sound a bit worrying, conjuring up nightmare visions of homes crammed next to each other as green spaces disappear from London and other cities. But there are actually lots of strange bits and pieces of land scattered around the place that might once have been part of a garden, but long ago were tarmacked over or had a garage built on, and sit a decent distance from the nearest houses. And in this case, rather than there being less green space, there would be more, as the new house would have a lush garden.
We think we’ve found a way to add an exciting new home in an area blessed with great public transport - we’ll let you know what happens next.
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