Holly Street and others, discussed.

My Flickr photos here:-

Two films about the estates linked here:-

A tower block is a terrace stood on end – I’ve paraphrased that from a commentator in The Occupation who says that “just lay a tower block on its side” but you’ve still got the same problems same poor health services and lack of work.

Holly Street before and after is featured in both films linked here:-

The Occupation

The London Particular

Holly Street is one of the largest housing regeneration projects of its kind in the world.  It  took  shape  in  1991,  in  a  proposal  to  demolish  one  of  Hackney’s  most notorious 1960’s system-built housing estates. The area has now become a mixed-tenure  residential  neighbourhood  of  streets  and  squares,  containing  a  mixture  of mainstream  housing  for  sale,  in  shared-equity  ownership,  self-build  housing  and housing association rented homes.

The tenants of the old estate were involved in the design of  the new neighbourhood  from  its  inception. Having appreciated all  too well that  architecture  can  discriminate  or  stigmatise  by  its  appearance  and  imagery  as well as  in  its  layout and detailed design, most wanted  to  live  in ordinary houses on an  ordinary  street,  in  a  neighbourhood  that would  not  be  perceived  by  others  as either municipal or obviously experimental.

Many of the tenants had moved onto the estate with young  families  in  the 1960’s and then  ‘aged  in place’, and  the area had an unusually high concentration of older  residents who had survived  the decline of the area into a ‘sink estate’. The intention was that these could form the nucleus of a more stable and buoyant local community, if only they could be persuaded to stay.

Great stuff here

The Blairs take on it here:-

The dirty, troubled towerblocks of the Holly Street estate, barely a hundred metres away, served as a constant reminder of the shortcomings of postwar social democracy. “I remember how Holly Street represented everything to me we needed to change in inner-city life,” Blair said on a visit to the estate in 1998, as most of its buildings were being demolished. “I remember going canvassing … and the tremendous fear people had of living on the estate … You had to speak to them through their letter boxes.”

No matter what my personal opinion on the success of rehousing people from the slums, I cannot argue with the facts and Blair’s experience outlined above in that Guardian article must have been representative of the kind of problems that triggered the Comprehensive Estates Initiative.

It is a matter of fact that I changed front doors on the Trowbridge Estate in 1977 – while working as a carpenter for the then GLC – owing to break-ins, so clearly life in those tower blocks wasn’t all rosy either.  On reflection it would appear that the 1970s were the last trouble free decade of life on concrete estates and even then it was brewing.  Both myself and some friends of the time obtained the keys to council flats in London in the second half of that decade under the GLC Hard to let scheme.

You have to ask yourself why they were hard to let don’t you?

Follow up . . .

Of course government policy would see this as a move in the right direction towards a social and tenure mix and a more balanced community. It probably does not feel like this if you are on the waiting list – mixed communities don’t seem to work in the opposite direction, as the recent nasty little episode about ‘million pound Council houses’ illustrated.

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