Transport for London (TfL) manages the most recognisable transport network on the planet. The authority has a long history of commercial innovation; from the World’s first underground railway, to the pioneering of the radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology with Oyster that we all now take for granted in our contactless payment cards.
What is less known is that TfL also has a fast-growing property development arm. The team has grown from 4 to over 100 people in the last five years. As the 3rd largest landowner in London, TfL is keen to utilise the assets in its ownership to deliver value to support the financial sustainability of its transport operations and infrastructure investments. TfL is also eager to play its part socially by providing homes to support the Mayor of London’s housing strategy.
The Commercial Innovation team at TfL appointed Urban Intelligence to explore the residential development potential of over 6,000 sites across the capital.
- A ranking of 6,000 sites for their housing potential and viability
- Delivery within three months
- Reduction of costs
The Conventional Approach
Historically, TfL had previously appointed a ‘Big 4’ consulting firm to survey 600 sites for their development potential which took between 8-12 months and required up to 40 people to work on the project over its lifecycle. The costs ran into the millions.
Why Urban Intelligence?
“We were asked by our Commercial Director for this analysis in three months for a key financial deadline. It was clear that repeating what we’d done before wasn’t going to be an option unless our budget was going to escalate accordingly” explained Candice LeMaitre (TfL’s Commercial Innovation Lead). “Our team watched a pitch given by Urban Intelligence at Geovation, and thought their SiteScore® tool could help us to appraise sites quickly and cost-effectively”.
“We have a lot of property professionals working at TfL, but we were impressed with the UI team's knowledge and ability to advise on everything from planning and viability matters to the advanced application of data science to solve our problems. Their expertise meant that we could get started without the need for data science skills in our team. ”
Establishing the site portfolio
The project began with the task of setting the scope, answering questions such as ‘what does an optimal site look like for TfL?’, ‘whose ownership should the site be in?’ and many more. With these questions addressed, we began to carve out a long-list of sites across London that we used our SiteScore® software to identify.
Designing a methodology
The second step in the process involved devising a methodological approach for scoring and ranking the sites in the portfolio. We worked with several stakeholders from TfL to consider how the survey would treat everything from design and building heights in conservation areas to the presence of electricity substations in the corner of a plot.
Once a methodology had been agreed, the UI team set about turning the ‘rules’ algorithms for the SiteScore® software to process. Within hours, we were able to begin supplying TfL with the first set of results. These were then sampled by UI and sent to TfL for feedback. The analysis included details on the constraints of each site, the realistic likelihood of achieving planning. If the site had development potential, SiteScore® recommended a number of units based on a range of localised policy parameters and context.
Following the receipt of feedback from the TfL team, UI was able to adjust the scoring weightings given to refine the analysis. The analysis was then repeated, with the data then distributed to TfL for sign-off. The UI files were then distributed to other partners in the project for visualisation and costing.
UI presented the final set of results in a series of reports, as requested by the client. These reports included detailed explanations of the methodology that UI had employed at each stage in the survey. The descriptions enabled the TfL team to feel comfortable with the robustness of the findings and the site ranking.
- UI was able to analyse 6,000 sites across the capital in less than three months, with an estimated 23x time-saving.
- By using SiteScore®, TfL reduced the costs of undertaking this analysis by over 90% vs conventional methods.
- The average cost per site using SiteScore® was less than £25.
- The UI SiteScore® analysis provided 3x the level of insight per site in comparison with conventional methods.
- Read more about our award-winning case study on Placemaking Resource (subscription required)