Estate regeneration in the spotlight
In the 1960s and 70s nearly three million homes were built by local authorities in Britain. Many of them incorporated new ideas about town planning, the design of the home, and methods of construction. It is these estates which have been – and continue to be – the main focus of subsequent major regeneration initiatives, including David Cameron’s recent declaration of action on ‘sink estates’.
The Prime Minister accuses the worst estates of ‘entrenching poverty in Britain – isolating and trapping many of our families and communities’. Like many observers he believes that non-traditional design is a significant part of the problem. Regeneration specialists know that the issues are far more complex, but most would at least agree that design can contribute to the social and economic success or failure of places.
The four architectural practices behind this report have been involved with the regeneration of housing estates for four decades – they started to advise communities and local authorities on estate improvements soon after the last concrete panel was craned into place in the mid-1970’s. Since then they have worked under successive political initiatives and funding models to improve, remodel or replace dozens of estates in London and around the UK. They have seen what works and what does not.
In response to the renewed political focus on estate regeneration, the practices have joined forces to distil their combined experience into a series of recommendations on how best to meet the challenges of today.
Whose estate is it anyway?
There has always been tension between the priority to be given to the wishes of existing residents and the potential of estates to provide a greater range of housing opportunity for the wider population, but now this has become politicised and polarised into two fiercely opposed positions.
In one corner are those who believe that housing estates belong to those who live on them and only their views should count in determining the future – and increasingly their preference is to be left alone. In the other corner are those who regard housing estates as public assets, which local authorities have a right and duty to use to meet wider needs – including the growing clamor for more homes, at affordable prices, for middle-income households. The views of both camps deserve respect.
We need to be clear about the objective of estate regeneration: is it to improve the lives of those who live on and around existing estates, or is it to make more effective use of public land to help solve the ‘housing crisis’ by creating additional homes and widening access to home ownership? With care, patience and respect we can and should be able to do both.
About the event
The presentation at the NLA covered the following topics, backed by case studies:
Appraising the options explains how a methodical and transparent process of options appraisal can assist selection of the best regeneration strategy and lay the foundations for effective community engagement.
Engaging communities sets out best practice in stakeholder engagement leading to community buy-in and avoiding top-down imposition of unpopular proposals.
Getting the design right addresses the sensitive issue of re-integration of estates into the surrounding townscape and confronts the limits of high density intensification.
Achieving sustainable outcomes looks at long-term measures of sustainability and explains why current government policies require review if unsustainable outcomes are to be avoided.