Published date: 27 October 2021

Exploring airspace development for the NHS

Airspace development - building new structures in the 'air-rights' on the roof of an existing building - is becoming an increasingly popular option for developers. How could this be used to expand NHS capacity? Our Property Development team explores in a new report.

Airspace development refers to building new structures in the ‘air-rights’ on the roof of an existing building. Whilst this is not a new idea, airspace development is becoming an increasingly popular opportunity for developers to create new spaces in dense cities such as London, and changing policies and perceptions in government and local authorities means there is now more scope to explore the option.  

In 2019, NHS Property Services (NHSPS) were approached by NHS England/Improvement (NHSEI) to explore the possibility of delivering new development above existing public sector buildings. The Public Sector Land team of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (now called the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) were also seeking to explore a similar initiative and worked with NHSPS to agree the principles of a pilot study. 

As airspace development is a specialist area, the NHSPS Property Development team procured Urban Airspace Ltd to deliver a detailed pilot on four sites within their estate, to demonstrate: 

  1. If airspace developments could provide an opportunity for public bodies to re-provide/ extend operations within airspace development based on strategic need 
  2. If airspace could provide a source of revenue funding and/or a capital receipt 
  3. If airspace could provide homes for key workers/ NHS staff or private housing

The output of the pilot study included a detailed analysis of the deliverability, height, massing, the viability, and possible deal structures for delivery.  

Read the report

You can read the main outcomes from the pilot study in the following report, offering guidance to public sector landowners considering airspace development. 

We hope this will be useful for NHS Trusts looking to apply these principles to their estate, finding a new way to expand capacity for the NHS that requires less cost and disturbance than demolishing and rebuilding.  

If you would like to learn more about airspace development, or other property development opportunities within the NHS, please get in touch with our team.

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