A £700m project undertaken by National Grid in collaboration with Berkeley Homes is the latest in a series of measures underway to combat the UK housing shortage. The goal of the project: converting disused industrial sites - namely those occupied by the now redundant Victorian gas holders - into land suitable for the construction of residential properties.
They hope to build around 14,000 new homes over the course of the next 15 years, with at least 30% of the first 7,000 homes being classed as affordable. Though still short of the 50% target for new developments set by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, it's hoped this figure will go some way towards alleviating the effects of the housing shortage.
Heritage or Building Sites?
Gas holders once played a vital role in driving London industry. They were designed to store large volumes of gas generated by nearby gas works, and have been an iconic feature of the London landscape since Victorian times.
Capable of storing enough gas to power 2,400 homes, the gas holders were prominent in the pre-war era, but the discovery of gas in the North Sea and advances in pipeline technology rendered them redundant, and since the 1960s they have fallen into disuse. It's estimated that the sites occupied by gas holders equates to about £500m of unused land.
Though some insist that the Victorian gas holders should be classed as heritage sites and the connection they provide with Britain's history preserved (and some of them have indeed been listed by English Heritage and cannot be earmarked for demolition), others feel the potential for new housing developments outweighs sentiment. National Grid recently revealed plans to demolish around 76 gas holders, while Southern and Scottish Gas Networks plan to dismantle around 111 over the next 16 years.
Powering the property industry
So in a sense, the holders will continue to drive London industry; for a while at least. National Grid's new initiative is expected to create 5,500 new jobs and provide a significant boost to the UK property market. In fact, the sheer volume of construction projects taking place once the gas holders have been demolished and the sites decontaminated will establish National Grid as one of the UK's top ten home builders.
The Mayor of London’s office has set a target of 42,000 new homes over the next 20 years in order to meet housing demands, which are expected to rise significantly as London's population continues to increase. Demolishing the gas holders in London, where they are especially prevalent, will certainly free up a lot of space in prime city areas. This will be good news for both property developers and home seekers, since London housing prices are so notoriously high and space in the capital is at a premium.