The right to regenerate: our response
In January 2021, the Government proposed the ‘Right to Regenerate’, meaning councils will have to sell old, derelict buildings to the public, unless there is a very compelling reason not to do so. Here Steve Hart, director of vibration control engineering firm, Mason UK, explains the positives behind this initiative, but also some important considerations developers must make in the renovation process.
The latest figures show there were over 25,000 vacant council owned homes and according to recent freedom of information (FOI) data over 100,000 empty council-owned garages last year. The ‘Right to Regenerate’ proposals would make it easier for the public and local communities to redevelop and transform eyesores, taking control of unused local land or buildings and transforming them into something they want in their area.
As part of the proposal, housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “We are cutting through red tape so that communities can make better use of available land and derelict buildings, which means more new homes, businesses and community assets.
“Millions of people will now be able to buy that empty property, unused garage or parcel of land and turn it into something good for them and their community.”
There will certainly be some new opportunities for property development and renovation, but how straightforward will the process really be?
In response to the news, RIBA President, Alan Jones, said: “While giving a ‘new lease of life’ to unloved buildings might seem like an easy win that could speed up the development of new housing or community spaces, the process of procuring these empty properties – and the criteria for acquiring – must be carefully considered.
“This policy has the potential to help regenerate local areas, but this must be done with the highest regard to quality, safety and sustainability – it’s essential the Government moves forward in the right way.”
Property developers must remember that some of the buildings they have their eyes on may not lend themselves to the venue they envision, for instance a gym, night club or hotel. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, the old structure may not have been designed to take on the loads of the new application. For example, an old Victorian warehouse or a modern steel frame building was never built to take on the impact and weight drops of a gym.
Similarly, the structure probably wasn’t designed with the right acoustic considerations. Turning any old building into a night club or gym without the right noise and vibration isolation will inevitably lead to noise complaints from nearby residents and businesses and will face some huge hurdles in obtaining planning permission.
Rather than making a poor decision when purchasing a building from the council, speak with an acoustic consultant who can help decide if the space is a viable gym, night club or other venue type.
In many cases, seemingly unviable options turn out to be viable with the right vibration control specialists onboard. For some buildings, floating floors with box in box structures could be the answer. The flooring element consists of a heavy slab of concrete suspended on springs, to isolate the vibration and prevent it from transmitting to other parts of the building. In the case of free weight areas in gyms, this is an incredibly useful option.
Additionally, acoustic suspended ceilings and walls, if specified and engineered correctly, will greatly attenuate noise and vibration levels, which not only benefits the users in different parts of the building, but also nearby residents trying to get a good night’s sleep.
With the right considerations, even affordable housing projects can be made viable on old brownfield sites near industry or rail. This may be surprising with planning consent for residential being highly dependent on keeping noise and vibration to acceptable limits.
Mason UK can work with your structural engineer and acoustician to establish the most suitable proposal, ensuring the building and its new purpose can meet noise regulations. With the introduction of floating floors and isolated ceilings, even residential projects near underground rail can be isolated from the foundations up.
The ‘Right to Regenerate’ proposal is a welcome one, as long as the right design considerations are taken. For more information on Mason UK and its vibration control services, visit masonuk.co.uk.