Knight’s Walk Redevelopment: Recommendation to Cabinet

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After nearly a year of consultation with the residents of Knight’s Walk, Lambeth Council last week announced the redevelopment plan they will be recommending to Cabinet.

Knight’s Walk is a collection of mostly bungalows, originally built for the elderly and disabled, that are a part of the Cotton Garden Estate in Kennington. Designed by LCC architect George Finch and built between 1969-1972, the estate is currently being put forward for listing by the Twentieth Century Society.

When Lambeth Council first announced their intentions to the residents of Knight’s Walk, total demolition was the only ‘option’ being proposed. As with so many estates facing so-called ‘regeneration’, this made the ensuing consultation process all but meaningless.

Then this March Architects for Social Housing (ASH) joined the ‘Hands off Knight’s Walk’ campaign. Since then we have attended every meeting with Lambeth Council and Mae Architects, the practice that had been brought in to draw up the plans for demolition and then conduct the sham consultations with residents.

In response to the lack of options on the table, ASH, in collaboration with If-Untitled, first proposed then drew up two alternative plans to demolition. Employing the principle that infill and overbuild offer better answers to the housing needs of Londoners than demolishing existing council housing, our proposal not only met the Council’s demands for new homes, but also left the existing homes standing.

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In addition to two mid-rise buildings located, respectively, on an existing garage site and on Kennington Lane, we proposed building two additional floors on top of the existing bungalows. Together these generated an additional 80 homes. Moreover, we estimated that not having to rebuild the 33 existing homes that were slated for demolition, or to recompense the 7 freeholders, would save the Council around £10 million. This equates to the construction of 70 new council homes, effectively paying for the entire project. Despite this, our proposal was not adopted.

The redevelopment Lambeth Council has decided to propose to Cabinet is in fact a new partial demolition titled Scenario 2D, a hybrid of several proposals Mae had previously put on the table. It consists of the demolition of just over half of the existing homes (18 out of 33), which will be replaced, and the total construction of 82, with a net gain of 64 additional homes (16 less than the ASH proposal). Of these, 25 are proposed at council rent, 39 for private rent. However, these figures are only indicative, and subject to what the council calls ‘further detailed analysis’.

MAE_final proposal

At the meeting last week, ASH asked the Cabinet Member for Housing, Matthew Bennett, the following question: ‘When the new Housing Bill is passed, neither property developers nor councils will any longer be obliged to include homes for social rent within their affordable housing quotas, but can confine themselves to building starter homes for up to £450,000. As a Labour council, will Lambeth do more than what Tory policy obliges them to, and formally commit to building 50 per cent homes for council rent on the Knight’s Walk redevelopment scheme? If not, what percentage will Lambeth Council commit to?’

Councillor Bennett’s answer was: ‘We will build as many council rent homes as possible. A minimum of 40 per cent, hopefully more.’ As the figures for Scenario 2D confirm, this is already 10 per cent less than the proposals the council presented at a public consultation a mere two weeks previously, for both partial and full demolition, in all of which 50 per cent of the new homes were for social rent. What will it be by the time they’ve finished?


Given that, at the beginning of the regeneration consultation process (which is neither a regeneration nor a consultation), the total demolition of Knight’s Walk was the only option being proposed by Lambeth, this is a considerable victory for the 9 council tenants and 6 freeholders whose homes will be saved.

However, for those residents whose homes are to be demolished under this scenario, this is not good news.  By forcing Lambeth to consider other options, ASH has helped to save 15 homes; but will the 17 council tenants and 1 freeholder whose homes will be bulldozed under the present scheme be rehoused on Knight’s Walk? None of the promises Lambeth has made are guaranteed in any way, as they are all subject to the same viability assessments as any other project.

In order to borrow the money to build, Lambeth has announced that it will create a Special Purpose Vehicle called ‘Homes for Lambeth’ in order to attract investors. This means that, since only councils are legally allowed to offer secure tenancies, existing tenants with secure council tenancies will only be offered an enhanced form of assured lifetime tenancy when they move into their replacement homes. New council tenants will be offered the same.

Moreover, the new tenancy will exclude the ‘Right to Manage’, which allows tenants to take over the running of their homes, and the ‘Right to Transfer’, used to trigger the transfer of homes to a housing association. Perhaps most worryingly, under such private financial investment, the extent to which the land will remain in public hands remains to be seen.

Since the homes of 6 of the 7 freeholders will be left untouched by the proposal, the £3-4 million saving on not having to buy out freeholders, plus the deterrent of drawn-out legal opposition to Compulsory Purchase Orders, seems to have been the casting vote in the Council settling on Scenario 2D. However, since ASH was set up to defend and build council housing, not knock it down, we will continue to campaign with the residents and tenants of Knight’s Walk to keep Lambeth to their promise.

We must ensure that the 17 council tenants and 1 freeholder whose homes have been sacrificed will be rehoused in the new development, and that their temporary decanting, with the promise of only a single move, is used to build the 25 additional homes for council rent that Lambeth has promised.

ASH will continue to apply pressure on Lambeth to ensure that displaced residents will be rehoused on the new development, and that, as Councillor Bennett has promised, ‘a minimum of 40 per cent’ of the new homes will be for council rent, ‘hopefully more.’ Watch this space to see if Lambeth Council honours its promises.

Link to article in Building Design

Architects for Social Housing

Knights Walk Public Consultation: Alternative Proposals

ASH’s latest proposals for Knights Walk, in collaboration with If-Untitled, were presented at a public consultation meeting in the Cinema museum off Renfrew Road on 22 September, 2015. Audience included residents, neighbours, Matthew Bennett (Lambeth’s cabinet member for Housing) and Neil Volkes (Lambeth Head of Regeneration) as well as the usual suspects of Leslie Johnson and Joanne Simpson from Lambeth, Doug from MAE, and Naomi from Soundings.

Following MAE’s presentation of their proposals (from partial infill to full demolition) we presented our two latest infill and build over proposals, both of which retain ALL the existing homes, with the addition of an extra 39 no 3 bed homes (30 of which sit on top of the existing bunglows), and a further 35-45 new homes in two buildings on Renfrew Road and Kennington Lane respectively (options A and B). A total of around 80 new homes.

OPTION 1 - plan

OPTION 1 - view

Not having to rebuild the existing 33 homes (which are in perfectly good condition, and fantastic designs) – at approximately £150,000 each (say)- comes to a saving of around £5m. If Lambeth are obliged to buy out the current freeholders, this could add a further £3-4m, resulting in a saving of a whopping £8-9m which could be used to fund the construction of over 50 council homes elsewhere – or could enable the construction of a much greater percentage of council rent homes on this site (or pay for the refurbishment of the whole of Cressingham Gardens!)

OPTION 2 - plan

OPTION 2 - view

Lambeth are currently exploring these options alongside those proposed by MAE. Their investigation over the next few weeks will include costs and structural investigations, which will enable the proposals to be evaluated by the Cabinet in November. We are hoping to obtain our own structural advice over the next week (if possible) because we are determined to get a really clever (and simple) structural solution. It is a slightly more complex condition (and potentially more expensive in some places – but not necessarily throughout), but its certainly achievable (and, due to the savings through non demolition – potentially genuinely viable).

If anyone is in the Kennington area on thursday, the exhibition will be up in the community hall at Cotton Gardens Estate, and all comments on the various schemes much appreciated!

There will be a final presentation on 13th October by Lambeth of the outcomes of their investigations, followed by their recommendation to Cabinet in November

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Knight’s Walk: Open Garden Estates 2015


Knights Walk – a small set of single story patio houses set within Cotton Gardens estate designed by George Finch – opened several of its unique interior courtyard-gardens to the public for guided tours that culminated with a talk delivered by Kate Macintosh, who was celebrating the recent listing of Leigham Court Road, a sheltered housing estate she designed, and which like Knight’s Walk had been threatened with demolition by Lambeth council.

Architects for Social Housing









Knight’s Walk: Resident Consultation

Following up the Knight’s Walk consultation yesterday:

Effectively the same information was on the wall as at the last meeting. The only difference was Matthew Bennett (Lambeth Cabinet Member for Housing) was there, and more neighbourhood groups putting forward their objections.

A few things noted:

  • Matthew Bennett definitively said there would be no ballot for residents.
  • If the tenants wanted to remain council tenants, they would have to move off the estate; if they wanted to remain on the estates, they would be tenants of the SPV (whatever entity that ends up being – its not clear yet).
  • MB came out with a wonderful definition of regeneration: ‘From my perspective, in Lambeth when I talk about estate regeneration it’s building to a high density in order to have more homes for council rent to address the housing crisis.’
  • The cabinet decision date for Knights Walk is moved to October, so any representation made to the cabinet will be submitted in September.
  • Lambeth will continue to ‘consult’ over the summer, and will be looking to procure a master plan team over that time, so they can be ready to go once they make the decision in October.
  • There will be an observation made of the process at July Cabinet.
  • Some of the neighbouring residents said there should be an Option 4 – ‘do nothing’. Matthew said this wasn’t going to happen – they are definitely going to do something (whether the residents like it or not). ‘I am not trying to suggest that the opponents to the construction of the new social homes are mean spirited or cold hearted but . . .’
  • Currently Option 1 is our infill option.  It is looking increasing unlikely to get through as it is as they/ we can’t find anywhere to move the games court to, and the conservation officer/planner would be very reluctant to build on the green areas. On this point, however, they could consider this if it the green area was replaced with better green space, and if it was in the best interests of regeneration, so this could be a possibility. Doug from Mae, when I asked him about this after, did say he thought a building on Kennington Lane here could also go higher than they have currently proposed, so we could grab a few extra flats along here.
  • The Hurley clinic – not yet been approached.
  • Density – people (residents and neighbours) are struggling to understand the density calculations, so it might be interesting to take the whole area of Cotton Gardens Estate, and bring the towers down to the ground, and see how the density of the whole estate would look like if it was all townhouses/ on a street layout. With the towers it is (I believe) 275 homes in 2.4 hectares = 114 homes/ hectare. Looking at the housing density study this falls well within the recommended amount for our area (which is very wide), but that still doesn’t really tell us what that actually means.
  • Neighbouring residents put forward strong arguments as to why they don’t want any changes to knights walk but this was slightly rebutted by Knight’s Walk residents who said they were happy to have some increased density, just not via demolition.
  • It is clear that the partial demolition (option 2) retains 5 out of 6 of the leaseholder’s homes (I believe) and (I believe) all the homes of the people in the room, who were  – I believe – all freeholders. This does seem to suggest that this option could be an offer to the freeholders in order to divide the residents between those whose homes are safe, and those whose homes are not.
  • Interesting question about criteria for measurements – all the measurements discussed are to do with numbers, and density and quantity, nothing about quality is discussed.
  • Apparently the decision will be scrutinised by the Overview and Scrutiny committee run by Ed Davie.

So – the next public consultation will be next week – Monday 2-5.30, Tuesday evening meeting  6.30-9, weds 2-6, Thursday 2-8 (in Cotton gardens).

Open Garden Estates

To coincide with the National Trust’s Open Garden Squares weekend, ASH have proposed an Open Garden Estates weekend for London’s housing estates over the weekend of the 13-14 June.

We are promoting this as an opportunity for the public to visit and explore estates on a self-guided tour around the gardens of individual homes, communal courtyards and spaces.

The idea for Open Garden Estates came from ASH’s work on a number of council estates that have beautiful public gardens and green spaces, as well as some lovely private gardens and balconies. We thought this would be a great opportunity to show these off and celebrate the estates they’re on.

The aim of the event is to open housing estates up to the public, and in doing so help dispel some of the negative images of estates that are promoted everywhere in the media. The very idea of a garden on a council estate goes against everything we are told is wrong with London’s social housing, and in particular the myth of estates as concrete jungles.

Linking these green spaces together on a walking tour is a way to show the estate to the public in its best light, highlight how well they are designed, as well as increasing awareness of the communities that live there.

Open Garden Estates will be an opportunity for individual campaigns to publicise what is happening on their estate through accompanying street parties, exhibitions, performances, speeches, leaflets and conversations with both the public and fellow residents, as well as networking with visitors from other estates under threat of demolition.

Hands off Knight’s Walk and Save Central Hill Community have already committed to holding Open Garden Estates on their estate on this weekend, and the Save Cressingham Gardens, Our West Hendon and Save Carpenters Estate campaigns have expressed an interest in participating.

The organisation and promotion of Open Garden Estates will be the responsibility of the individual estates and the residents who have offered to open their gardens to the public. But ASH will work with you on producing maps of the garden tours, promotional leaflets and information about the regeneration process to be handed on your estate. We will also be exhibiting some of the work we have been doing with individual estates in exploring and developing alternatives to demolition.

By holding the event on the weekend of the 13-14 June we hope to capitalise on the publicity for the National Trust event, and we will be issuing a press release about Open Garden Estates to the mainstream media.

ASH would like to invite your estate to join us and make Open Garden Estates a London-wide event. Help us change the way the public and media view London’s social housing, and expose the lies, misinformation and myths spread by property developers and councils to justify their demolition of our homes.

The more of us get involved the louder and stronger the message we send:

Social housing not social cleansing!