14 Aug 2015

Supurbia – our strategy to increase the speed, scale and quality of housing provision in London’s suburbs – builds on their inherent advantages. It uses existing infrastructure and preserves the individuality of homes, easy access to private outdoor space, verdant environments and wider town settings while increasing both density and amenity value.

With homebuyers and renters being continuously pushed out from the dense central boroughs, London’s suburbs become ever more important. As Central London’s vibrancy and accessibility spreads into zone 3 and beyond, Supurbia can meet it by unlocking land in low density developments for intensification.

Our approach is twofold. The first strand focuses on the local main streets, collaborating with local authorities to refigure parades of shops offering minimal housing as mixed-use places. This would provide not only higher density low-carbon housing in a range of typologies along public transport corridors, but mixed uses to better fit the intensifying neighbourhood. The size of such sites invites a range of uses, including Private Rental Sector (PRS) development, purpose built student housing and affordable first time buyer flats.

The second strand of our proposal addresses the streets of semi-detached housing behind main roads. With an estimated 24% of London’s land classified as rear gardens, suburban plots consume a disproportionate amount of land. The typical suburban plot, 8m wide and 40m deep, often accommodates no more than a two storey house with a footprint of 7.5m by 6m.

Whilst once the suburban ideal, such plots became unappealing through loss of original character, as front gardens are converted for parking and verges and trees are lost to hardscaping. Moreover, changes in household makeup mean that ever fewer households really benefit from their space. Nearly 40% of owner-occupier households (often ‘empty nesters’) have at least two spare bedrooms, while sharing groups who increasingly rent suburban homes rarely take full advantage of large gardens.

Supurbia offers the opportunity for the owner of a single semi-detached house, or a pair of neighbouring or facing owners, to develop their land to suit their needs through a range of options, including flats over garages, mews houses, town houses, small apartment blocks and bungalows. Each option would have pre-approval through a shared neighbourhood engagement process, and off-site manufacture would deliver highly energy efficient homes with minimal disruption. Land would thus be intensified while preserving buildings’ individuality, and owner-occupiers could unlock the equity in their unused land and invest it in their home, raising the quality of housing across the neighbourhood and improving the street as front plots are renovated as part of development.

Download the report here