Property developers are thinking outside the box when it comes to building new homes that could help to alleviate the UK’s housing crisis.
This decade has seen thousands of redundant churches, factories, offices, markets and toilets being converted into homes.
The Church of England calculates that about 20 of its churches are sold off each year and that most become homes.
Since 2010 more than 450 libraries have closed across Britain, 2,900 bank branches have shut in the past three years, and Network Rail intends to sell off 4,455 arches, according to the Daily Mail.
In Margate, Kent, the promenade loos are for sale with proposals to build a three bedroom, two bathroom home. It is priced at £290,000 before demolition or conversion costs.
Also in Kent, Canterbury has seen substantial change with plenty of buildings becoming redundant and ripe for conversion. Boots the chemist has partially become flats, while a former tannery and theatre have been transformed.
“We’re handling a former hall, old shops, former barracks, old churches, old cinemas,” said Edward Church of Strutt & Parker. “Turning offices into swanky flats is a big draw for a growing town looking for flexible housing solutions.”
There are, however, practical constraints that have to be overcome before buildings can be converted.
Some old stores have to be gutted because their ceilings need space for air conditioning, improved fire prevention features and more wiring.
Planners usually insist banks have their security devices and vaults removed, which can be costly.
“Converting older buildings like schools and hospitals (which may be listed) has a high build cost,” said Jonathan Lambert of Savills.
Office blocks are easier because house builders have been given Permitted Development Rights to turn them into homes without needing detailed planning.
Between 2015 and the end of last year, 30,575 homes in England were created from redundant offices. One of the biggest locations for these conversions is Bristol, where a million square feet of offices have become student pods, rental apartments and hotel rooms.
The developer Urban Splash – which converted the Fort Dunlop tyre factory in the West Midlands and old silk mills in Bradford into homes – has outlined plans to convert Plymouth’s 14-storey Civic Centre into 144 apartments.
On a larger scale, some of Britain’s biggest conversions will begin in London in the next few years.
It was recently revealed that Billingsgate, New Spitalfields and Smithfield markets are to be consolidated under one roof, freeing up the historic buildings for homes.
DealMakerz thinks the conversions showcase the creativity of property developers, who in many cities face a major shortage of vacant land on which to build new homes.