Scheme for mixed-use developments could be rolled out at 150 sites throughout UK if pilots deemed success.
Petrol company Texaco have revealed ambitious plans to build homes and shops above its service stations.

The group is planning to develop retail, housing and office hubs at 10 London filling stations. If these are successful Texaco will copy the idea at another 150 sites.

The biggest of the pilot schemes is a £35m riverside tower on the Albert Embankment, designed by Assael Architects. This consists of two tower blocks, one of 27 storeys and one of 12, built over a service station. A decision on the scheme is due to be made by planners next month.

Other London-based schemes on the drawing board include a £15m design by Lifschutz Davidson in Clerkenwell (pictured), a £10m scheme by Horden Cherry Lee in Crouch End, north London, and two more by Alan Camp Associates in Tooting and Bermondsey in south London.

Developer Ridgewood Investments is overseeing the projects for Texaco. They will include five- to seven-storey buildings and revamped retail space at service level.

The idea is to maximise the value of the sites in a way that fits the need for high-density projects in urban areas.

Ridgewood Investments said Texaco had appointed leading architects to deal with the complex planning issues involved.

Project head Steve Thompson said: "We did 12 months of work with provisional architects, but we needed the big guns for their in-depth knowledge of how to satisfy the planning authorities."

Particular care has been paid to the fire issues linked to creating a mixed-use site at a filling station.

Lifschutz Davidson project architect Harry Philips said: "It is especially hard with four or five uses crammed onto a tight site.

"Most buildings come down to the ground, but here we have office and residential space above a petrol forecourt. "How people escape in an emergency is important."

Philips said the design team for the Clerkenwell project had worked closely with planning supervisors to find solutions. The option chosen was the installation of a central spine that can used to evacuate the building.

Concern was raised about the projects by ROOM, the National Council for Housing and Planning. Neil Sinden, head of policy and research at ROOM, expressed some reservations about the scheme.

He said: "There are generic considerations that need to be looked at if these developments are not going to result in poor quality of life for residents.

"These would be the risk of spills, accidents and explosions, of air pollution and of noise disturbance. We'd like local planners to put in a policy framework to promote this in the right context."