Estates under threat

February 5th, 2010

“Among Tory boroughs across London, there seems now to be a disease spreading ever wider that the land on which council tenants live is available for development”

[Tory struck out 7/11/12 owing to realisation that they’re all at it. Hello Southwark (Lab)! – Ed.]

On [Thursday] July 9th 2009 Paul Waugh of the London Evening Standard published an article on the planned demolition of all the council estates in Hammersmith and Fulham. I read this while returning home having been to a political meeting at the Methodist Hall in Westminster, and on arriving home got straight on the computer to find out more about it. I quickly discovered that there was already a blog for Queen Caroline and later on found out about the Ferrier Estate in Kidbrooke and Greenwich.

Later on in the year I subscribed to Roof magazine (now sadly no longer with us – April 2012) from Shelter, found myself speaking to Andy Slaughter on the telephone for 15 minutes about H&F and have subsequently continued to take a keen interest in council housing matters and the Tory intention to end it.

I have a personal interest in council housing because from 10/78 to 10/80 I lived at 93 Aragon Tower on the Pepys Estate (via the GLC hard-to-let scheme) which  “was sold by Lewisham Council to Berkeley Group, in 2002 for £11.5m” (£80k per flat), to fund a leisure centre in the borough for £7 million and provide some money for regeneration of the remaining estate. This was their best block, the jewel in the crown, and they displaced 144 families to do so. To me this was the start of the rot, although there may have been other examples I simply don’t know. The estate featured in a documentary called The Tower.

Among Tory boroughs across London, there seems now to be a disease spreading ever wider that the land on which council tenants live is available for development (see my links list at right).

It is my own hope that the residents’ associations of threatened estates link up for their greater good. Ferrier has been very badly handled, people moved out before replacement accommodation is available and flats left derelict for years when they might have continued to provide perfectly adequate homes, and all in the name of “improving property prices in the area”.

As a member of the Twentieth Century Society I have a layman’s interest in the design of both existing and new flats, and have been dismayed at the quality of both recently built and proposed developments. The Boris Johnson initiated publication Housing Space Standards 2006 included a recommendation for Parker Morris + 10% which is to be welcomed and has indeed been taken up at Woodberry Down by the architects there if their own publicity is to be believed.

Many estates were built in the post war period with the heady optimism of that time that the planners could look forward to taking people out of the slums and giving them bright new homes with indoor toilets, proper sanitation and central heating. That many have become the focus of antisocial behaviour and deteriorating buildings is partly the fault of estate layout which was not understood at the time, and system built methods for speed which proved in the long run to be a false economy.

Alice Coleman wrote about estates in trouble in this document:-

The Psychology of Housing

See also Design Disadvantagement

UPDATE: It looks as though 282 Goldhawk Road is going to be redesigned. The following email was sent from Nick Johnson to the Ashchurch Residents Association in the week ending 26th June 2010.

Dear Fiona,

Many thanks for your email.  It is proving more time-consuming to resolve the many concerns raised by residents than we would have hoped.  You will be re-assured, however, to know that we are now in active discussion with the possible developer, Places for People, to change the scheme completely in order to respond fully to the issues raised by residents.

The current scheme will not be progressed, and I can confirm that you will be very fully consulted on the revised opportunities before any decisions are taken.

I hope to do this as soon as possible, and will ensure that we keep you informed of progress.

With many thanks, and best wishes,
Nick Johnson
Chief Executive
H&F etc


Relevant documents of the time:-

Discussion Notes: Concentrated areas of deprivation

Principles for Local Housing reform

All-star line up of ’round table’ housing policy discussion revealed

Epilogue

I was the enterprising member of the public who retrieved the document. No hacking was required. Localis had posted a misleading link and by correcting the link the document appeared. They had a folder called “pdf” on their website but there were very few pdfs in there. The majority were to be found in a folder called “images”. By substituting the word “images” in place of “pdf” in the URL the document appeared.

There was one further point of interest. The author of Discussion notes had attempted to prevent the list of names being found by inserting the table as a graphic rather than text presumably in the knowledge that the Google robot could not search text in a graphic and would never index the names.

Regardless of the truth or otherwise of that assumption their intention was cut short by my URL editing. The rest is history.

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