UK’s first family housing built for rent wins planning consent

Essential Living was granted planning consent by Royal Borough of Greenwich council this week to create the UK’s first housing scheme designed, built and managed for family renters.

Creekside Wharf received effusive praise from the council’s planning board and was voted in by nine votes to one. It will comprise of 249 homes across two buildings designed by Assael Architecture. The scheme will deliver the UK’s first ever purpose built block of family homes.

As well as large family apartments, an array of intuitively designed internal and external amenity spaces will offer renters the chance to experience a genuinely new style of communal living.

Councillors said it was “refreshing to see a developer think out of the box” while the chair of committee praised it for being “unique”, adding that the approach to working with community groups “sent a message to other developers”.

Council leader Denise Hyland told the committee:

“The scheme is highly imaginative and I wish it every success. I’m very impressed with the affordable offer and this is overall an innovative scheme.”

As a part of the development, new intertidal terracing will be installed along the creek wall to encourage biodiversity. The scheme also includes plans for active public realm along the creek walk for pop-up stalls and other events, as well as a new ‘pocket park’.

Another first will be a provision of 25 percent ‘pepper-potted’ affordable housing at discount market rent (DMR). They will be exactly the same as the homes at market rent, with access to the same services and through the same doors, regardless of who lives in them.

Households identified by the local authority will occupy the DMR homes and be able to rent them at a significant discount to open market rents. Because of the council’s flexible approach, a greater quantity of subsidised housing can be delivered than otherwise would be from a scheme built to rent. This is because Build to Rent developments return profits over a long period of time – rather than generating a capital receipt like traditional housing built for sale.

The development is one of eight Essential Living projects planned across London and the South East. Each one will offer professional, on-site management, long-term tenancies, predictable rents and engaging social spaces where renters can interact, make friends and build communities.

Unlike the current rental market, largely owned by amateur investors, these whole buildings will be designed from the ground up for rent and managed professionally.

Creekside Wharf’s family-focused buildings will contain buggy storage, extra acoustic insulation, internal and external play space; together with workshop areas, rooftop grow gardens and rooftop spaces for barbeques and pizza ovens.

The London-based company is leading the creation of a Build to Rent sector – where homes are built and managed solely for rent – rather than being sold off to speculators. Research by Savills predicts that this approach could drive around £30 billion into building new homes over the next five years.

Essential Living is planning a pipeline of 5,000 homes for rent across London and the South East.

Quentin Keeble, Essential Living’s development director, said:

“We are delighted to have secured planning consent for Creekside Wharf and it will be our fourth scheme underway. We’ve worked hard with Royal Borough of Greenwich to create a truly innovative housing offer. With a block designed specifically for families and affordable housing that is truly tenure blind the scheme exemplifies the future of London housing. We are grateful to the council for supporting this vision and for taking a flexible approach in helping drive forward Build to Rent in London.”

Russell Pedley, director of Assael Architecture, said:

“This the UK’s first Build to Rent development specifically designed for families who want to rent in a vibrant and inspiring location.”

“The ethos behind the scheme is that customers rent the entire building, rather than just an apartment, so amenity space plays an integral role in the design. It’s designed to create a lifestyle and strong sense of community through each building, providing residents with an attractive and robust environment where they’ll want to stay long-term. This, in our minds, is fundamental to a successful Build to Rent scheme.”