How building two extra floors could solve Sheffield housing problem and save city green spaces
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It was recently reported that 15 areas of green space could be lost in Sheffield – including near the Cholera Monument – as the council battles to reach housing targets.
Yorkshire’s tallest building Code Sheffield
Elsewhere in the city, some are looking at building tall – work has started on what is due, when completed, to be the highest building in Yorkshire, the 383ft high Code Sheffield, on a plot between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Trafalgar Street.
But for Sheffield civil engineer Charles Gillott, there is another way.
Charles, a Grantham Scholar in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, believes there is a massive capacity to create homes for Sheffield – but by just adding a couple of floors to the existing buildings.
He has looked at the possibilities in detail for a paper that is due to be presented to a conference of experts later this year.
And his research suggests that putting two storey extensions onto suitable buildings in Sheffield could help to tackle the housing crisis, potentially providing homes for 175,000 people in the city. He hopes to look at the wider country next.
It could be applied to existing houses, shops and flats.
Charles, who moved into engineering after leaving Bradfield School and is now working towards a PhD, says the city has already seen examples of building up like this.
Steel City House
For instance, Steel City House on the corner of West Street had a couple of extra storeys added to what previously was its roof.
More recently, the Nichols Building, a former auction house on Shalesmoor, has had similar work carried out. And Crown House, a student accomodation block near Sheffield Crown Court, has had the same treatment. Other schemes on West Street have been given planning permission, said Charles.
He has created pictures showing how similar work could be done on other properties in the city, using photographs of existing buildings in the city as they appear now, and altering them to show how they would appear with one or two floors added.
He said: “It’s become more widely accepted that we are going to need to densify cities. we can’t just keep putting people in out-of-town areas like Stocksbridge, where they have to drive to work and get their kids to school.
“Densifying is putting more people in the same area. One way is infill, but that could mean building on places like Devonshire Green. You can increase it without knocking down and rebuilding.
"One reason people want to live in suburban areas is access to green spaces. But if you built on Devonshire Green for instance, people wouldn’t want to live near there.
"We need to be saying you can live in the city centre and can still have access to green spaces
"This is not talking about things like Park Hill. We’re not talking five or six story buildings. We’re just talking about increasing to three or four storeys. We’re talking about a small increase in a wide number of buildings.”
His study looks at what buildings in the city may be suitable for having extra floors added. The theory is that where offices are changed to residential accommodation, it is relatively straight forward, because fewer people will be on those floors than would have been there in a commercial building, with more paper and printers. So there should be less weight on them.
He said some areas already have guidance in place for what is allowed when it comes to adding extra floors. He said the local authorities in Haringey and Tottenham had put in place rules that mean the roof must be the same style. For example, they must remain a gable roof if that was how the house was built before the extension, or a sloping roof, if that was how it was initially constructed.
"I’m not saying every building could or should be developed like this,” he said. “But it is a benchmark for what could be done.”
Young people happy to live in city centres
He also believes there is a shift in attitudes, with younger people now more prepared to live in city centres.
Whether it takes off, he believes, will also be partly down to the Government. At present, he said, there are tax advantages to building new homes. He feels this needs to be extended to these vertical extensions, which he also believed to be the greener option for the environment..
“I think we’re already seeing a shift to reuse, rather than demolition and re-building,” he said. “But there is no silver bullet. As soon as you provide housing, more will be needed.”
He feels that the city will run out of brownfield sites to build on, and he says there is already building being done on land that he feels is a flood risk.
He believes there is also the potential to build vertical extensions on properties away from the city centre, but that it needs to be considered alongside environmental factors, like the need for cars and where people would be able to park.
The Government recently introduced legislation to enable vertical extensions and predicts 9,000 new homes will be generated this way every year - but Charles’ research reveals less than 200 have been completed to date.
In Sheffield, there has been a 35 per cent increase in its housing targets to 55,000 homes, with Sheffield City Council planning to create 20,000 of these within the city centre. It hopes that this will meet housing demand whilst boosting high street trade and supporting city centre businesses.