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Southwark to build new council homes on roofs of existing stock

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Southwark Council has announced it will be building new modular council homes on top of existing estates 

The south London borough has committed to building 11,000 new council homes by 2043 but is struggling with a shortage of supply of public land.

The council is exploring ‘new and innovative’ ways of building new homes, including ’unlocking potentially hundreds of new homes with upward extensions on existing blocks’.

It is drawing up a rooftop design guide that will explain how to successfully complement and enhance an existing block, as well as a set of development principles for the model.

The new homes would mostly be built offsite and craned onto existing blocks to minimise the impact on existing residents.

Those living underneath the extensions would also be offered first refusal on the new homes, while improvement to the blocks, such as a new roof, lift and landscaping, would be non-rechargeable to leaseholders.

Southwark’s social regeneration chief, Leo Pollack, said that, in addition to delivering new homes, rooftop homes would also to help de-carbonise the development supply chain.

The council is already undertaking one rooftop development on a pair of sister council blocks in Rotherhithe designed by Fuse Architects, recently rebranded from MDR Associates.

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PROPOSED: Fuse Architects’ designs for how the extension will look

The Chilton Grove scheme, which is traditional not modular, includes a two-storey extension of 44 additional homes on top of a four-storey block.

Dave Hughes, design director of Fuse Architects, said the estate was being overhauled as part of a planned programme of upgrade works when it was identified as a potential candidate for a rooftop extension.

According to Hughes, the logistics of rooftop development are complex as residents stay in situ. ’It’s a huge amount of work with resident liaison but that is offset by it being free land that otherwise doesn’t exist. That’s where the innovative idea comes from.’

Extending the blocks allows councils to increase the density of low-rise estates without displacing existing residents and demolishing buildings. 

Hughes said: ’If the building structurally has a long life it might just need some refurb rather than knocking it down and extending up is a good thing. It also works that Southwark is trying to roll it into other work such as new landscaping. It’s not just coming along, craning on a storey and wandering away, it’s part of a wider upgrade.’

The Chiltern Grove scheme is expected to complete in November 2020.

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