Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Demolish. Rebuild. London's Council Estates: Barking, Dagenham, Westminster, Ealing, Barnet

London housing campaigners condemn local politicians for demolishing council estates and allowing developers to build unaffordable 'affordable housing'. 
But are some councils starting to buck this trend? 

Paul Coleman reports.

London Council Estates


© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2014

Around 100 architects and local authority officers gather early on the morning of Tuesday, 11 November 2014, writes Paul Coleman.
Hosted by New London Architecture at The Building Centre just off Tottenham Court Road, they start to talk frankly about the ‘regeneration’ of some of London’s council estates – outlining the potential benefits and perils.
Jeremy Grint, regeneration director at Barking & Dagenham Council, outlines how the east London local authority is borrowing £89 million over 30 years from the European Investment Bank – at “favourable” terms apparently – to deliver 500 new homes on the former Gascoigne Estate.
The Council has presided over the demolition and rebuilding of other local estates in recent years – The Lintons and Goresbrook Towers.

'Aspirational Council Housing'
But an unanswered question hangs heavily over Grint’s outline.
How many of these new ‘Affordable Rent’ and ‘Shared Ownership” homes will prove genuinely affordable to Barking and Dagenham residents on average and lower incomes?
Architect Andrew Beharrell of Pollard Thomas Edwards says he will check on the progress of 276 new Affordable Rent homes on another Dagenham project – the Thames View Estate.
“All homes were let on the day of release,” reports Beharrell.
“This is aspirational council housing.”
Again, an unanswered query hovers – is replacing subsidised council housing with ‘Affordable Rent’ homes (up to 80% of local market rents) really a ‘like-for like’ replacement?

Councils turn developers
Stephen McDonald, Director for Place, at the London Borough of Barnet, reaffirms a commitment to the building of new ‘council’ homes even thought the anti-council housing Conservative Party rules the Barnet roost.
““Barnet Council is turning into a developer,” confirms McDonald.
The Council also borrows prudentially,” outlining how ‘Re’, the council’s new ‘Joint Venture' with Capita, will help to fulfil a political promise to build 16,000 homes over 20 years.
More helpfully open than other speakers, McDonald explains these homes will be for rent, sale and shared ownership.
Eoin Keating of architects Jestico & Whiles explains the rebuilding of the Grahame Park Estate – a large Barnet estate built on the site of RAF Hendon – is already underway. 

Resounding 'Yes'
Pat Hayes, director of housing and regeneration at Ealing Council, says the borough aspires to providing new homes that local people in reasonably well-paid jobs can genuinely afford.
Hayes mentions Broadway Living, a development company wholly owned by Ealing Council, set up to borrow money in order to “deliver genuinely mixed communities”.
Richard Lavington, founder of architects Maccreanor Lavington, explains how the ‘mansion block’-style regeneration of the South Acton Estate – will create new homes, again for Affordable Rent, Shared Ownership and market sale.
Tristan Samuels, head of major projects at Westminster City Council, says residents voted resoundingly ‘Yes’ to plans to regenerate two central London estates, Tollgate Gardens and Ebury Bridge.
Tenants and leaseholders enjoy a ‘right of return’ to the new Ebury Bridge re-development, a right that Samuels says is bolstered by the Council offering equity loans. “A leaseholder taking out such a loan could move from a council home worth £300,000 to a new home worth £600,000,” chirps Samuels.

Bone to marrow
Developers as well as council tenants and leaseholders might take note of an possible emerging pattern, illuminated by the NLA discussion.
Some councils might be weaning themselves off the dominant ‘demolish and developer-led’ regeneration model for council estates - especially in the face of stiff residents' opposition through the planning process.
Ealing, Barnet and Barking & Dagenham, in their different ways, seem to want to redevelop but also to own and manage newly redeveloped estates - "or retain the value", as Hayes, McDonald and Grint label it.
But it’s early days.
And, as McDonald points out, to genuine applause from the breakfast club, local authority budgets are likely to be cut from the bone to the marrow in the next four years.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2014

Estate Regeneration: how local authorities are responding, hosted by New London Architecture and sponsored by Tibbalds, an urban design and planning firm.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, November 2014

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