Airspace refers to the usually unused roof space above a building, which can be used to create additional residential accommodation by adding one or two stories to the existing building. Airspace Development is an exciting opportunity to create several new homes in densely populated areas and cities, like London, without causing major disruption to existing communities.
The airspace, in most instances, usually belongs to the freeholder of the building. This could be a standalone freeholder or in other instances the leaseholders within a building can own a share of the freehold as a collective, these leaseholders would then own the airspace as a freehold company.
You cannot buy the airspace to a building outright, unless you are buying the freehold which includes the entire existing building as well as the air rights. Instead developers, like London Penthouse, would purchase the airspace from the freeholder on a long lease. This then gives us the right to build above the existing building.
As airspace developers, we will often approach a freeholder to offer to purchase the rights to the airspace above their building, either on an unconditional or subject to planning basis. A joint venture, or JV, is a partnership between developer and freeholder where the developer does not actually exchange funds to purchase the airspace. Instead, we will enter an agreement with the freeholder whereby the airspace is leased in return for a percentage in the profits of the development. At London Penthouse, our role is also to expertly manage all aspects of the feasibility, legal and planning elements of the project and the risk is solely on us.
Occasionally, having existing leaseholders and tenants already in the building can be problematic. From a leaseholder’s point of view, having developers and construction works going on above your property can be daunting. A lot of tenants and leaseholders understandably don’t want noisy works above them that could potentially continue for 12-18 months while a new development is being carried out. This can cause complications whereby leaseholder’s within the building may object strongly to planning applications and encourage friends and neighbours in the surrounding community to do the same. We believe it is important for us as a developer to gain a good relationship with the leaseholders and provide comfort to those living in the building, as it ultimately creates a smoother process and helps to omit any angst surrounding the potential development. As part of our developments, we would carry out improvement works to the existing building to the benefits of all existing residents and leaseholders. These would include; redecoration, lift installation, fire safety upgrade works and landscaping works.
We have a valued team of professionals at London Penthouse that can provide a report on the building, its structural integrity and the likelihood of it being able to take up to two additional stories. We also work alongside a team of structural engineers to carry out an intensive structural survey in order to determine the buildings capability to support additional floors. This would be carried out at an early stage of the development and the works wouldn’t proceed unless it was signed off and safe to do so.
To build a rooftop development, a full planning application needs to be submitted to the respective council. It is crucially important to consider all aspects from loss of light and privacy to visual amenity and noise disturbance. When it comes to gaining planning permission, cutting corners isn’t an option. At London Penthouse, we work with highly established and respected architects and planning consultants within the industry to enable us to put together planning applications for outstanding rooftop developments, but this can take several months of strategic preparation and hard work.
At London Penthouse we cover all costs associated with obtaining planning consent including all architects fees as well as the significant number of specialist reports required as part of a successful application.
Existing residential blocks of flats or commercial blocks tend to be more well suited for airspace development. However, not every building will meet the specific criteria and it is important to assess some of the following factors:
- Can the building structurally support a new development?
- Can the staircase or lift be extended to penthouse level?
- Is the roof flat or pitched? A flat roof tends to be more straight forward to develop.
- Are there any planning constraints that would effect gaining permission to develop?
- Can the building be upgraded to comply with current fire regulations?
These are all assessments that London Penthouse can make in house. If you believe your property or building may be suitable for airspace development please do not hesitate to get in contact and we will be more than happy to assist you in your enquiry.