Leading land agent Aston Mead is calling on local councils to allow new homes to be built on land next to the country’s railway stations, with the existing light industrial units and good yards there moved to edge of town locations.
The firm says that not only would this provide the potential for hundreds of new residential commuter properties to be built, it would also take many delivery lorries and heavy goods vehicles out of town centres.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Adam Hesse said: “As I travel around the country by train, I see dozens of examples of large areas of land next to railway stations, which are currently taken up by light industry such as builders’ merchants, often extending to several acres each.
“Presumably the existence of these sites goes back to the days when trains delivered coal and building materials, so the yards had to be close by. But nowadays they would be ideal locations for hundreds of new high-rise residential units, which would be perfect for commuters – particularly as the proximity of the railway station would mean that less on-site parking would be needed, and fewer car journeys would be taken as a result.
“If local councils could harness the potential of these areas for residential development – buying them by compulsory purchase if necessary – and moving the current industrial units to the edge of town, then the heavy traffic and pollution associated with them would be kept away from the centre.”
Adam Hesse says that such a scheme would provide another income stream for local authorities, which – despite guidelines supposed to limit the practice – are still spending £100m every month buying retail centres, shops and offices, often away from their local area, chasing returns to replace revenue lost in government cuts.
He explained: “The truth is that local councils are some of the largest landowners in the country. So they are in an excellent position to release land on the edge of a town to develop light industrial sites, which they could then let to the businesses which were previously next to the railway station.
“Surely it makes a lot more sense for councils to keep hold of their assets at much lower risk and at higher returns, than to risk gambling millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money investing in properties hundreds of miles away, in areas they know next to nothing about.
“Commuters would flock to the new homes, which could have restaurants and bars built at ground level to keep the area buzzing during the evenings, while town centres would benefit from fewer delivery vehicles, because the light industrial units would be moved out of town, nearer main roads and motorway networks. It’s a win for everyone involved!”