Wednesday23 August 2017

City Hall bigwig backs off-site housing push

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Planning committee chair Nicky Gavron warns London is lagging behind UK regions in method

One of London’s most influential politicians has pledged her support to off-site manufacturing as a means to ramp up housebuilding and tackle the capital’s housing crisis.

Nicky Gavron (pictured), chair of the Greater London Assembly’s planning committee, which scrutinises mayor Sadiq Khan’s housing policies and planning decisions, told an event hosted by Levitt Bernstein that factory-built solutions could “usher in a new era in housing design and construction”.

With thousands of people in temporary accommodation across London, Gavron said the need for well-built, affordable and energy-efficient homes was more pressing than ever, and off-site manufactured accommodation could play an important role in responding to the problem.

Gavron said the Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners-designed development of 24 temporary dwellings in Ladywell, south-east London, proved that off-site housing could be built to a high standard, help reduce energy bills and drastically cut construction costs.

But she warned the capital was lagging behind other regions in the UK, with barriers to progress including the negative perception of what many still regarded as ‘prefab housing’ and what she called a “lack of continuity of demand”.


Rogers housing in Lewisham

The temporary housing in Ladywell by Richard Rogers’ practice will stay on site for up to four years


Gavron said the development of off-site factories were important. “Councils and developers could have ‘pop-up’ factories, for example located by the river Thames” – although she acknowledged it was more likely that such production facilities would be built elsewhere.

She added: “We need a change of mindset. We need to be learning from other industries and seeing leadership at every level. There also needs to be greater collaboration, both within industry and between industry and the mayor.”

Gavron also suggested the mayor could “step in and support factories to keep them going” with Swan Housing Group development director Andy Gatrell adding that mayoral support was needed.

He said there were not many factories in production “for good reasons”, including set-up costs and overall risk to the venture. “Grants, financial incentives or provision of land for factories would be good,” he added.

Swan is working with architects BPTW and Pollard Thomas Edwards to revamp a rundown Essex estate with factory-built homes. All the new homes will be manufactured at a factory in Basildon with the firm due to ship out the first homes to the renamed Craylands Estate in Basildon later this summer.



Readers' comments (4)

  • The offsite sector requires government commitment for the construction industry to make further investment in offsite solutions. We are addressing this and other innovative solution and currently developing our own flat-pack solutions, the ‘FlexiHouse’ to help first timers onto the property ladder.


    The FlexiHouse starts from 1Bed unit and is fully expandable, adaptable and future proofed to an achievable 4 Bed house.

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  • Nicky Gavron and Ken Livingstone created the affordable housing contributions which did so much to extinguish smaller developers and make smaller development so much harder to render viable. That piece of well-intended planning was a key factor in restricting supply, which Nicky & Co are now seeking to rectify. Bit like the nonsense over diesel cars. It doesn't matter how you build the stuff, so long as it is viable and relatively straightforward to do so. But will politicians listen to pragmatic sense? I doubt it very much on the evidence of the last 20 years.

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  • "The temporary housing in Ladywell by Richard Rogers’ practice will stay on site for up to four years"

    High quality and a solution, when it lasts only 4 years?


    Who was advising on that contract?

    Portakabin are doing better than that.

    As for the idea of 'pop-up factories', ludicrous. if you want to do it, then do modular construction properly (again as Portakabin are doing), not with some half-baked semi-smug approach that makes the chatteratti feel good about themselves but does little in the long term.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Much of the "permanent" new housing that's gone up in the past few years, round where I live, is already falling apart and revealing major construction defects that nobody will bother to remedy. This stuff will not last even ten years. I feel sorry for the people who were persuaded to buy it.

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