Embodied Carbon Estimation for Central Hill Estate: Report by Model Environments

‘A conservative estimate for the embodied carbon of Central Hill Estate would be around 7,000 tonnes of CO2e, similar emissions to those from heating 600 detached homes for a year using electric heating, or the emissions savings made by the London Mayor’s RE:NEW retrofitting scheme in a year and a quarter. Annual domestic emissions per capita in Lambeth are 1.8 tonnes. The emissions associated with the demolition of Central Hill Estate, therefore, equate to the annual emissions of over 4,000 Lambeth residents.’

centralhillreportrevc_page_01centralhillreportrevc_page_02centralhillreportrevc_page_03centralhillreportrevc_page_04centralhillreportrevc_page_05centralhillreportrevc_page_06centralhillreportrevc_page_07centralhillreportrevc_page_08centralhillreportrevc_page_09centralhillreportrevc_page_10centralhillreportrevc_page_11centralhillreportrevc_page_12centralhillreportrevc_page_13centralhillreportrevc_page_14centralhillreportrevc_page_15centralhillreportrevc_page_16centralhillreportrevc_page_17centralhillreportrevc_page_18centralhillreportrevc_page_19

Report by Model Environments on behalf of Architects for Social Housing

Deliverability of the ASH proposal on Central Hill: ASH response to Lambeth Labour Council

Fiona Cliffe
Capital Programme Manager
24 June 2016

Introduction

‘Following the February 2016 Resident Engagement Panel (REP) meeting the Council has sort to establish a constructive dialogue with Architects for Social Housing (ASH) so their proposals for Central Hill could be considered.’

‘The Council has now had the chance to review the ASH proposal and this report sets out a summary of the Council’s findings.’

Architects for Social Housing undertook to produce an architectural proposal for The Alternative to Demolition of Central Hill estate pro bono publico and with very limited financial resources. Lambeth Labour Council has not provided us with a brief, a housing needs survey, a measured survey of the existing estate, a consultant team, a criteria for deliverables, and of course we have received no payment. Not a single member of Lambeth Council, including the Cabinet Member for Housing and Ward Councillor for Crystal Palace, attended ASH’s formal presentations of our proposals: not when we presented to the Central Hill community in February 2016; nor again when we presented to the Residents Engagement Panel in May. Instead, with the backing of PRP Architects, Lambeth Council dismissed our design proposals even before they were published; and they continue to refuse to answer our Freedom of Information request to see their viability assessments months after it was issued. So Lambeth Labour Council’s ‘dialogue’ with us has been anything but ‘constructive’; on the contrary, it has been unrelentingly negative, dismissive and obstructive. Finally, as further evidence of their unwillingness to engage in ‘constructive dialogue’, Lambeth Labour Council has not invited ASH to discuss the issues they raise in this report, or to present our responses, which we are, therefore, publishing here.

01

Process of evaluation

‘The evaluation carried out by the Council is based on three key considerations:

  • ‘The deliverability of the proposed design when assessed against basic design, structural and planning principles;
  • ‘The feasibility of delivering the proposals within the financial constraints the Council finds itself in, and;
  • ‘The ability of Lambeth to fund the refurbishment costs for the 456 tenanted and leasehold homes on Central Hill and the value for money of this investment.’

The intention of ASH’s design proposal is to illustrate that there are alternatives to demolition that need to be explored for reasons that we have laid out in our critique of Lambeth Council’s Criteria for Demolition, which relate to the social and environmental costs of demolition and redevelopment, and which both Lambeth Council and PRP Architects have failed adequately to consider. The comments from Lambeth Council that follow in this report demonstrate their complete unwillingness to explore the proposals ASH has put forward in a constructive way, and their desire to dismiss them as quickly and quietly as possible based on fabricated figures, withheld information, inaccurate assessments, false claims and deliberate misunderstandings. The point of this commentary is to point out only the most glaring and cynical of these, which raise serious doubts about the integrity of the councillors making decisions about the homes and lives of thousands of Lambeth Borough residents.

Deliverability of ASH Proposals

1. Design and Planning

‘The 250 ‘new build’ homes would be subject to local planning requirements and this would require at least 40% of the new homes to be affordable.’

‘The planning requirements set out a certain mix of property sizes (i.e. 1 beds, 2 beds, 3 beds etc.) and at present the ASH proposal provides too many 1-bedroom homes and not enough family sized homes.’

This is factually inaccurate. In fact, ASH’s design proposal, including the retained existing homes, has a better mix of homes than Option D in PRP Architects’ scheme, which was presented to the residents earlier this year. Nearly 50 per cent of Central Hill Estate following ASH’s refurbishment and infill proposal would be 3 bedroom homes or greater, while only 29 per cent of PRP Architects’ scheme provided 3 bedrooms or more.

05

‘An initial commentary given by architects, planners, building control and general views were provided to ASH on 14 April 2016 and the Council’s urban designers, PRP, have further reviewed the proposals submitted by ASH and the commentary below summarises the key issues identified in the review:

  • ‘Buildings over four storeys in height will require lift access and therefore where you have buildings in excess of four storeys in the ASH proposal new lift access will need to be provided. This will have both design and cost considerations which the ASH proposal has not undertaken.’

Every new building with over four storeys is already provided with two lifts to allow for wheelchair access. The only location in which we propose new homes to be entered above the fourth floor is on the roof extensions to the prospect blocks (Site 15 in our proposal). We have now shown that, if necessary, lifts can easily be provided to access these new flats. We understand that, although it is desirable that floors at the fourth level and below be accessed by a lift, in mitigating circumstances the lift can be omitted according to the Minor Alterations to the London Plan (MALP):

‘3.48A. As set out in Approved Document M of the Building Regulations – Volume 1: Dwellings, to comply with requirement M4 (2), step-free access must be provided. Generally this will require a lift where a dwelling is accessed above or below the entrance storey. The application of requirement M4 (2) has particular implications for blocks of four storeys or less, where historically the London Plan has not required lifts. Boroughs should seek to ensure that dwellings accessed above or below the entrance storey in buildings of four storeys or less have step-free access. However, for these types of buildings this requirement may be subject to development-specific viability assessments and consideration should be given to the implication of ongoing maintenance costs on the affordability of service charges for residents. Where such assessments demonstrate that the inclusion of a lift would make the scheme unviable or mean that service charges are not affordable for intended residents, the units above or below the ground floor that cannot provide step free access would only need to satisfy the requirements of M4(1) of the Building Regulations.’ (my italics)

This exception potentially includes any buildings that are entered at fourth floor but for whom lifts would be prohibitively expensive. As they have done with the prohibitively expensive Lambeth Homes Standard, imposing this requirement at the cost of what can be afforded by the existing residents is another indicator of Lambeth Labour Council’s desire to socially cleanse residents from their homes under the guise of ‘improving’ them. If it’s a choice between walking up four flights of stairs to their homes and being moved four miles away from their homes, we believe residents will choose the former.

03

  • ‘The location of the tall buildings is not seen as appropriate and would have a difficult relationship both with the existing Victorian buildings and the retained low-rise blocks of Central Hill.’

In the absence of any clear designation, it is not clear which ‘tall buildings’ this comment is referring to. As part of our planning response to this in our previous statement we wrote:

‘Building new buildings next to existing ones will inevitably create new relationships between the new and existing buildings. This is the nature of building in cities. Good design should mean this is not a problem but an opportunity. Cities are not homogeneous places. The distinctive character of Crystal Palace is rooted in the eclectic mix of architectural styles, as the area has evolved since the citing of The Crystal Palace, including four- and five-storey converted Victorian mansions, two-storey dwellings west of Roman Rise, and 5-8-storey blocks of 1960s flats on the south side of Central Hill. The ground-breaking and award-winning architecture of Central Hill Estate is a key element in the story of the area. A palimpsest of different styles built up over time is what makes cities exciting, vibrant and interesting, the sites of cumulative memory. ASH’s proposal celebrates the existing architecture and community, while also offering the potential for new homes. There is no reason why the design of the new buildings cannot be sensitive to the existing context.’

  • ‘A minimum 10% of units are required to be wheelchair-accessible or easily adaptable for residents who are wheelchair users.’

ASH’s plans provide a minimum of 12 per cent new flats with wheelchair access, with the potential for more if necessary. All our new ‘infill’ blocks over four floors high are provided with lifts, and can accommodate as many wheelchair-accessible flats as are required. So this is not an issue but a careless or deliberate misreading of our proposal.

  • ‘Proposed external staircase for access to upper level roof extensions block the existing north-south public access routes and cannot be built whilst retaining the required access on the public stairs.’

Although the access to upper floors does in some places conflict with existing routes, this does not have significant implications for the existing estate, as there are always alternative routes through the estate. Where it is possible, we have designed the access stair to allow access beneath or alongside these new access points. Once again, we believe that the eviction of residents from their homes is considerably more disruptive than the alternation of a few routes through the estate. This displays a willful desire by Lambeth Council to fabricate paper-thin excuses to reject ASH’s proposal, and flies in the face of common sense and, more importantly, the presumed integrity of the Council’s report.

04

  • ‘The thickness of the walls as shown are not consistent and are generally insufficient to achieve compliance with Approved Building Regulations, Part L requirements. This is important, as when these are corrected it will require the buildings to increase in size, which will also increase the cost.’

ASH’s proposal is a feasibility exercise, and was based on an Ordnance Survey map at 1:500 scale, so quibbling over this level of detail has very little value except as an indicator of Lambeth Council’s attitude. All external walls on our designs have been shown at 400mm or in some cases 350mm, and it is perfectly possible to achieve part L requirement with these dimensions, depending on wall construction. ASH has not been provided with a more accurate survey by Lambeth Labour Council, so more detailed drawings at this stage would have little purpose. This comment – which frankly is not worthy of an architectural practice – illustrates a persistent desire for a level of detail that is entirely unnecessary at this stage of design, and once again the Council’s desire to fabricate reasons for rejecting ASH’s proposal.

  • ‘Roof extensions and infill elements create Daylight and Sunlight issues.’

All new buildings will, by definition, have an effect on the existing environment, some more than others. We have not been shown that our designs contravene residents’ Rights to Light. If they do, this can be easily mitigated as part of the ongoing design process. Once again, we firmly believe that the existing residents will have access to better amenities in their current homes within the ASH scheme, than if their homes are demolished as part of Lambeth Labour Council’s redevelopment proposal.

  • ‘There is a concern that in order to integrate the new homes above existing homes you would need to run services through existing properties.’

There are plenty of options to deal with services at a detail design stage. Again, we have been provided with no detailed services drawings or surveys, so are unable to make any assumptions. Building on top of existing homes, however, is a common solution to the densification of London, and the concerns raised are inconsistent with its use in contemporary housing. Lambeth Council really are clutching at straws here.

  • ‘There is a concern over the weight of the new homes above existing homes and whether the existing homes could take the additional load.’

At our request Arup Engineers have already carried out a preliminary desktop study to show that a single story extension is more than likely to be acceptable. Lambeth Labour Council, however, have refused to appoint an engineer to follow up this survey. This is a further example of the Council demonstrating that they have no interest in establishing the genuine viability of this proposal.

  • ‘Without further detailed design solutions it cannot be determined whether the above issues can be resolved. However, even if resolved the physical deliverability of ASH’s proposals need to be considered against 2 & 3 below.’

A classic example of ‘kettle logic’. If Lambeth Labour Council were genuinely interested in exploring whether or not these issues can be resolved in order to produce a viable alternative to demolition, they would commission the necessary work to be done. That they have chosen not to demonstrates, contrary to their excuses about the condition of the returned kettle, their desire to dismiss all alternatives out of hand.

2. Financial Feasibility

‘The Council undertook a financial appraisal of the ASH proposal and this is found in Appendix 3. Where available the Council has used cost information provided by ASH; where this was unavailable the Council provided the financial assumptions.’

‘The financial appraisal for the 250 new build homes shows a negative Net Present Value of £6.6m. This means that the money generated through the combined rents of the private homes and Council rent homes is insufficient to pay for the costs of building the new homes. The Council would therefore need to find additional money to make the ASH proposal achieve a break even position.’

‘This also means that there is no additional money generated by the 250 new homes and therefore there is no money generated to pay for the refurbishment of the existing homes on Central Hill.’

‘The Council could not therefore recommend this as a deliverable option.’

The mathematical calculations that ASH was provided with as part of Appendix 3 are, in fact, inaccurate and incorrect, and so cannot be used as the basis for assessing the viability of our proposals. Taking as an example this excerpt (below) from the viability assessment for our proposal produced for Lambeth Council by Airey Miller Construction Management, it can be seen that the assessment relates to one of our infill sites (Site 1) on which ASH has proposed building 30 new flats. The number of dwellings proposed is clearly indicated in the top line of the table as 30. As we go down the page, the chart at the bottom identifies the percentage of flats that will be for private and council rent, respectively, the total percentage of which therefore needs to add up to 100 per cent, with the total number of flats coming to the 30 indicated. However, as we see, only 1 flat for private rent out of the 30 has been accounted for, with 12 for council rent, a total of only 13 new flats. Where, then, have the other 17 private flats gone? Presumably the income from the rent of these private flats has not been added to the overall income from this building, so it’s no surprise that this site have been shown, as a result, to be ‘unviable’, with a negative pre-finance net present value (NPV). Is this simply a sloppy error by Lambeth Council, or a deliberate attempt to make our proposals ‘unviable’?

06

We have to assume the latter, because on top of these basic mathematical errors that we know of, ASH has not been provided with the assumptions on which these calculations were based. We have been informed by the Independent Advisors on the Residents Engagement Panel, however, that these are different from the assumptions on which PRP Architects’ initial viability assessment was based. ASH has made a Freedom of Information request for the calculations on which this appendix was based, which conflict with those used for the scheme by PRP architects, but we have been told by Lambeth Council that these ‘cannot be provided’. Specifically, they wrote to us that:

‘In all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information until the scheduled publication date. Therefore, the information is not provided to you.’

It is unclear, however, exactly what public interest is served in withholding the information pertaining to the viability assessment of both the ASH and PRP Architects schemes on Central Hill; but Lambeth Council has refused to answer further questions. Again, this is another example of the way in which Lambeth Council have sought to obstruct and dismiss our proposal. Lambeth Labour’s self-appointed designation as the ‘Cooperative Council’ is already something of a running joke, but nobody will be laughing when its deliberate attempts to pervert democratic process leads to the demolition of the homes of over a thousand residents on Central Hill estate. As far as we are concerned, therefore, the viability of the ASH proposal has not been sufficiently established, and we have no confidence in the assessment that Lambeth Labour Council has provided.

3. Investment Requirement for Central Hill

‘To reiterate the point above, as it is such a fundamental one, the ASH proposal does not address the issue of how to fund the costs to refurbish the 456 tenanted and leasehold homes on Central Hill.’

‘The ASH proposal would still require the Council to find the money to refurbish the new homes from existing budgets as the ASH proposal would not generate a positive receipt.’

In fact, there are several possibilities for funding the refurbishment of Central Hill Estate, such as forming a Tenant Management Organisation, or transferring the ownership of the estate to the residents, who can then borrow money against them to build the ASH proposal. Neither, however, has been explored by Lambeth Labour Council. We have not seen Lambeth Council undertake any explorations into alternative funding strategies – which, once again, demonstrates an unwillingness on their part genuinely to explore all the options open to the Central Hill community.

Other Considerations

‘As raised in the commentary of ASH’s initial proposals, there are potential issues with building over leasehold homes – all blocks have leasehold interests. Under the leases Lambeth reserves the right to build on adjacent land but does not reserve the right to alter the building in which the flats are contained. Potentially, the ‘enjoyment’ of other residents on the estate can be obstructed or interfered with and so they would have the right to object. The service charging and maintenance issues between Homes for Lambeth and the HRA will be complex.’

Building on top of leaseholders’ homes is, in fact, standard practice in other London boroughs, so it’s clearly not a fundamental problem to anyone who knows what they’re talking about, as opposed to someone making unfounded assertions confirming already reached conclusions. For example, as part of their ‘Hidden Homes’ project, Wandsworth Conservative Council has built new homes on top of Abbott House in Balham. Plenty of the existing homes are owned by leaseholders, as can been seen from the sale records of the flats. And it is our understanding that Lambeth Labour Council did, in fact, explore the possibility of building homes on top of the existing homes on the Hemans Estate. Is Lambeth Council now saying that it has different leasehold agreements with leaseholders there?

As to the ‘enjoyment’ of existing tenants: it is far more likely to be ‘obstructed’ or ‘interfered’ with as a result of a full demolition scheme than with some additional housing. With demolition, residents will not be able to ‘enjoy’ their existing homes and amenity spaces at all. Even if they are able to afford to return to the estate, which is highly unlikely, the amenities proposed as part of PRP Architects’ scheme would be considerably less than they currently enjoy. With adequate resources, ASH is quite capable of ensuring that no Rights to Light are infringed upon.

As to the complexity of service charging: again, we recommend that Lambeth Labour Council look at other councils that are doing exactly this. The fact that it is ‘complex’ should not be a reason to demolish an entire estate, or is the Council claiming incompetency? Given their inability understand ASH’s proposals, this would be the one thing in this report that is true.

Conclusions

‘Lambeth’s key priority is to build “More and Better Homes” and so any proposal has to look at how many additional homes can be delivered – specifically affordable homes, and also how it can deliver investment to the Lambeth Homes Standard for the retained Lambeth stock.’

‘The proposal by ASH would be challenging to deliver in light of the constraints highlighted above, in particular in building above existing homes, and the Council considers a more realistic and achievable figure would be 128 new homes.’

The council has not provided any evidence of how they have arrived at this new figure, which they have plucked from the sky, nor illustrated that they have tried to mitigate any of the constraints highlighted, most of which are due to the constraints of their comprehension and honesty in considering them.

‘The financial assessment of the costs given by ASH and income for the development of 250 homes shows a negative net present value of –£6.6m. As such the proposal is not feasible to be developed.’

ASH disputes this figure, which once again has been produced from thin air. We have not seen any accurate figures for its calculation, or the assumptions by which these figures were reached. To reiterate what we said above: the only figures ASH has been provided with are mathematically incorrect, and therefore cannot be trusted. The same might be said of the Council that, whether through incompetence or deliberately, provided us with those figures.

‘The ASH proposal will not generate any surplus money to fund the refurbishment of the existing homes and so residents will see no benefit other than the development of 250 new homes on their estate.’

We do not believe, or accept, that this is correct, as we do not have confidence in the viability assessment produced. In order for us to assess the veracity of Lambeth Labour Council’s viability assessment, we need to see it and have it independently assessed. As we have said, though, Lambeth Labour Council has refused to provide us with this assessment. Readers may come to their own conclusions as to why not.

‘In light of the assessment the Council cannot recommend the ASH proposal as a deliverable option and it will not be considered as part of the consultation with Lambeth tenants, leaseholders and freeholders on Central Hill.’

Contrary to this report, to which an architectural practice of PRP’s standing should be ashamed to contribute, ASH is convinced, and can show to anyone willing to attend our presentations – as Lambeth Labour Council is not – that our ‘Alternative to Demolition’ scheme is the most socially, environmentally and financially viable future for Central Hill Estate. Our proposal may be viewed on our blog here, and we reiterate that our designs are part of a feasibility study, and can be developed in further consultation with residents to meet their needs, rather than the investment opportunities of property speculators on London’ s housing market.

Finally, before ASH is asked to defend its proposals against the fabricated and disingenuous appraisals of a report such as this, Lambeth Labour Council has a duty to the residents of Central Hill Estate to answer the many questions about the social and environmental costs of their proposed redevelopment scheme. To this end, ASH has outlined these questions in our text Criteria for Estate Demolition: ASH Response to Lambeth Labour Council, which we recommend as further reading for both residents and councillors alike. We look forward to receiving Lambeth Council’s response.

Geraldine Dening
Architects for Social Housing

Below is PRP Architect’s Design Compliance Risk Assessment for ASH’s proposal, on which Lambeth Council’s report is based, with ASH’s point-by-point response. All the images reproduced in this post may be viewed in greater detail on request.

Criteria for Estate Demolition: ASH response to Lambeth Labour Council

central-hill-0010-web

In October 2012, Lambeth Cabinet agreed the development of a Lambeth Estate Regeneration Programme, according to which any council estates meeting one or more of the following criteria would be eligible for demolition:

1. ‘Where the costs of delivering the Lambeth Housing Standard would be too expensive and would not be good value for money.’

2. ‘Where the Lambeth Housing Standard works would, in themselves, not address the fundamental condition of the homes nor address many of the wider social and economic problems faced by residents.’

3. ‘Where the wider benefits from regeneration would justify the investment. This includes where the existing estate is relatively low-density and where there is an opportunity to create additional much needed new homes.’[1]

It is typical of Lambeth Council’s cavalier approach to estate demolition that the text of these criteria, which will determine the futures of thousands of borough residents, vary in their definitions according to where and when they appear on the Council’s website. The version shown to residents of Knight’s Walk in March 2015, for example, substituted ‘prohibitive’ for ‘not good value for money’, ‘issues’ for ‘problems’, ‘affordable homes’ (defined as up to 80 per cent of market rate) for ‘much needed homes’, and omitted ‘low density’ (which it fails to define) as a criterion.

Nevertheless, in their broad outlines these criteria for demolition are common enough, shared by most, if not all, estate demolition programmes in London and across England, as they are by many of the solutions that have been put forward by Central Government, local authorities, housing associations, think tanks and property developers to address the so-called housing ‘crisis’. However, part of the problem faced by those of us resisting estate demolition is that the premises of these criteria have never been challenged. To do so, I want to explore the realities behind these statements in detail, and demonstrate why they are not only untrue, but in many aspects the exact opposite of the truth.

1. ‘The costs of delivering the Lambeth Housing Standard would be too expensive and would not be good value for money.’

Despite its original claims, in March 2012, that the Lambeth Housing Standard was both ‘realistic’ and ‘affordable’, Lambeth Labour Council, by its own admission, is now unable to apply this higher standard of refurbishment to all its housing stock.[2] It was financially irresponsible of it, therefore, to establish the higher refurbishment requirements of the Lambeth Housing Standard ‘beyond’ Central Government’s required Decent Homes Standard. If the increased costs of achieving the Lambeth Housing Standard means that the Council is now unable to fund the refurbishment of the estates it was supposedly meant to benefit, and is being used, instead, to justify their recourse to demolishing them, this Standard – which has turned Lambeth Labour Council’s ‘Regeneration Programme’ into a ‘Demolition Programme’ – is clearly completely out of all proportion with the actual maintenance needs of the homes of the residents that live on those estates.

Lambeth Labour Council’s plans, moreover, to demolish Central Hill estate, to take one example, and rebuild what, according to its own survey, are perfectly structurally sound buildings, represents anything but ‘good value for money’. At an average construction cost of around £240,000 per home – a figure provided by Karakusevic Carson, the architectural practice working on another of Lambeth Council’s estate regeneration schemes – rebuilding the 456 existing homes alone would cost at least £120 million. That’s before a single extra flat has been added. Refurbishing the existing homes, by contrast, has been estimated – again by Lambeth Council’s own surveyor – at around £18.5 million, £6 million of which was already allocated to refurbishing interiors up to the Decent Homes Standard, and therefore covered by a Central Government grant. The actual cost of refurbishing Central Hill estate, therefore, is £12.5 million, nearly a tenth the cost of knocking it down and rebuilding it. How can be this construed as ‘good value for money’?

The new homes might have a longer lifespan than the current ones when they are refurbished, but this is not always or necessarily true, as illustrated by the forthcoming demolition of a block of 48 homes in Peckham built by Wandle Housing a mere six years ago.[3] What is true, however, is that the structural quality of the existing council homes is extremely high. Far from being the ‘broken homes’ denigrated by Lambeth Labour Council, Central Hill was a celebrated estate at the time it was built, a mere forty years ago, and its design and build quality was published extensively in journals on structural engineering.[4] While Victorian terraces continue to serve as housing for much of London, it is completely unjustified to pull down post-war housing estates that have decades of use before them, when there is such a shortage of housing in which Londoners can genuinely afford to live.

It is unclear, moreover, how Lambeth Labour Council’s demolition plans have taken into account its fiduciary duty to the Council Tax payer. Central Hill estate, which recently passed its fortieth birthday, would have recently paid off its construction debts. Contrary to the propaganda circulated about council housing, it is not subsidised by the State; and when rent revenues on the estate could actually be making money for Lambeth, its demolition would put the Council in greater debt to the private investors in building its hugely expensive replacement.

In the current housing climate the risk to Lambeth Labour Council associated with borrowing is extremely high. In their report on regeneration, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recommends low-risk developments that take account of the economic uncertainty in housing.[5] Even according to the Department of Communities and Local Government, in the report it produced following the financial crisis of 2008, smaller, short-term projects are far better suited to volatility in the housing market; and the same applies to the similar level of uncertainty attending London’s forming housing bubble, which is due to burst in 2017, and the reduced investment in luxury apartments following the referendum vote to leave the European Union.[6]

Lambeth Labour Council’s mantra of ‘More and Better Homes’, which it repeats at every opportunity, inevitably provokes the question (which it repeatedly refuses to answer): ‘More and better homes for whom?’ The issue of housing quality is regularly trumpeted by both architectural practices and the Royal Institute of British Architects; but the housing ‘crisis’ is not a crisis of design quality, which the unfounded denigration of council estates such as Central Hill seeks to propagate, but of affordability. It doesn’t take a genius to realise this; only someone trying to buy a home. According to a poll of would-be home-buyers published in The Guardian, it is the lack of low-cost housing, not of high-quality housing, that is the biggest concern for residents.[7]

In this crisis of ‘affordability’, it is important to remember that the existing council homes on the six estates threatened by Lambeth Labour Council are some of the only genuinely affordable housing left in the borough. Demolishing them and replacing them with higher value, less affordable housing, will do nothing to address the housing needs of Lambeth residents. As we know, so called ‘affordable housing’, rented or sold at up to 80 per cent of market rate, is simply not affordable to the majority of the residents of the Central Hill, Cressingham Gardens, Westbury, Fenwick, South Lambeth and Knight’s Walk estates; and the emphasis of architects on build quality only reinforces this so-called ‘requirement’ to replace anything that doesn’t conform to contemporary standards, whatever the cost to the residents whose homes will be demolished as a consequence.

In what way does the replacement of low-cost homes with high-value apartments benefit either the existing residents or the wider Lambeth community? It’s clearly to the benefit of Lambeth Labour Council, as the new, higher income residents will pay higher council taxes and higher service charges, while generally making lower demands on council services. But the so-called ‘improvements’ on the estate will have a negative economic impact on the local neighbourhood, including increasing rents and house prices in the surrounding area.

Of course, according to Savills, the real estate firm that is advising Lambeth and numerous other Labour Councils in Greater London, this is precisely the purpose of estate demolition, which it conceives of as a form of active gentrification, driving out not only council tenants, but poorer households in the neighbourhood.[8] Home-owners might welcome such increases in UK property values, which now constitutes an economy in itself; but private renters and those trying to buy a home will not. This illustrates the clear divide in the way in which estate redevelopment will affect renters and home-owners, and why estate regeneration is such a politically divisive issue.

Since Lambeth Labour Council, by all accounts, is heading for bankruptcy, due to a combination of Central Government cuts and its own financial mismanagement, the demolition of low-cost homes and their replacement with high-value housing – developed, built, sold and purchased by a range of private contractors – also benefits it in another way. Having no access to additional resources in its Housing Revenue account, private investment is the only means the Council has of getting its hands on the funds it needs to build the ‘1000 council houses by 2018’ it promised as part of Lambeth Labour’s 2014 election manifesto.[9] It’s worth noting that, according to both the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Matthew Bennett, in his ongoing Twitter statements, and the newly elected ward councillor for Gipsy Hill, Luke Murphy, in his 2016 election promises, Lambeth Council still maintains it is proposing to build council homes. The truth, however, is that because of the lack on funds in Lambeth Council’s Housing Revenue Account, it is unable to build council homes. As a consequence, Lambeth Labour Council is currently in the process of setting up, under the management of Savills, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Homes for Lambeth, a private company to which, once the existing council homes are demolished, the local authority land will be transferred, and private investors approached to fund the new developments on the six council estates. However, far from building council homes, all tenancies on the new developments will be changed from ‘secure’ council tenancies to ‘assured’ social tenancies, with rents increased by up to 25 per cent, and tenants’ Right to Buy withdrawn.

In post-Brexit UK, with the potential uncertainty of increased debt for private investors in the SPV, the council must take account of the financial risks being taken with such a large scheme, and compare it with the low risk associated with the ASH proposals for infill and refurbishment on Central Hill estate, which will cost a fraction of the price of demolition and redevelopment.[10] Residents are rightly concerned about the long-term security of their homes under the un-tested arrangement of Homes for Lambeth, which, with the votes of Lambeth Labour Council, its Cabinet, and the Board of Homes for Lambeth, can be sold into private ownership in five years’ time. Since this is the same Labour Cabinet that has consistently voted to demolish the six council estates, since councillors who dissent from the Labour Party line are disciplined and suspended, and since the Chair of Homes for Lambeth will be the same Cabinet Member for Regeneration who is responsible for signing off the demolition of their estates, council residents understandably have little confidence in who will own the housing association in the future. The fact that no resident ballot or involvement has been permitted in this management scheme, or in any future decisions about the estates, has created huge uncertainty in residents’ minds about the security of their homes. All this, supposedly, because of a ‘requirement’ to bring their homes up to the Lambeth Housing Standard.

2. ‘The Lambeth Housing Standard works would, in themselves, not address the fundamental condition of the homes nor address many of the wider social and economic problems faced by residents.’

Nowhere in Lambeth Labour Council’s criterion does it state what the ‘fundamental condition’ of the properties that cannot be addressed by refurbishment must be in order to justify their demolition, and how the Labour Council arrived at this undeclared definition that will consign thousands of council homes to the bulldozer. Was this achieved through resident consultation? If it was, how many residents took part in the research? And how objective are the findings? Or does it rely on, for example, an unidentified photograph on Councillor Matthew Bennett’s blog, together with the declaration that Central Hill estate is ‘broken’? [11] A statement as loosely phrased as the one Lambeth Labour Council has put forward here as a criterion for demolishing an estate needs to be first defined, and then verified with evidence, if it is to serve as a criterion for demolishing the homes of thousands of people.

The unsubstantiated implication of this statement is that there is a direct relationship between the architecture of an estate and what it loosely terms the ‘wider social and economic problems of the residents’, as if this too were apparent and requires no evidence. There has been considerable criticism in the media of the rhetoric of ‘sink estates’; and the imputation by politicians of a causal relationship between architecture and crime, anti-social behaviour and even rioting has been widely challenged in academic and architectural circles.[12] There is nothing objective about such emotive and unsubstantiated rhetoric, and the ideological motives and potential conflicts of interest in both Central Government plans to ‘Blitz’ 100 sink estates, and local authority programmes to demolish its own council housing, must be rationally assessed when weighing up the arguments for and against estate demolition.

By the same token, what exactly are the ‘wider social and economic problems’ of the residents? How has Lambeth Labour Council arrived at these perceptions? What research has been conducted, how, and by whom? And even if they exist, for which Lambeth Council has provided absolutely no evidence, how can the demolition and rebuilding of homes address such social and economic problems?

Contrary to the widely accepted opinion, which this statement relies on, that estate regeneration will improve the economic situations of the residents, the increased rents, service charges and council tax rates estate regeneration inflicts upon the community only worsen the economic position of the existing residents. Indeed, recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that estate regeneration does not improve the life of existing residents – quite the contrary.[13] On the Myatts Field North regeneration, for example, another Lambeth Labour Council disaster, the increased financial burdens of regeneration are beyond what many previous residents of the estate are able to afford.[14] Here, as elsewhere in the assumptions made about estate communities, the truth about regeneration is the exact opposite of what has become accepted as unquestioned dogma.

In terms of changes to the social lives of the residents, the proximity of friends, family and neighbours with whom relationships have been built up over generations is something that does have clear social and economic benefits to the residents and the wider community, in the form or support networks and informal community support. Neighbourliness has a positive social and economic effect on the community, and the crime rate on Central Hill, as on nearly all housing estates – and, once again, contrary to the deliberate falsehoods spread about them – is lower than the surrounding areas. This is a clear indicator of a healthy and strong community, not a ‘broken’ one, as Lambeth Council claims. Lower income families and the elderly rely on informal economic networks such as neighbourliness for babysitting, help with the shopping, caring for elderly residents, and other social ‘services’ they cannot afford to buy. But it is precisely these that will be broken through the demolition of their estate and the breaking up of the community.

Those residents who – because they cannot afford either the increased rents or the increased costs associated with shared ownership, which effectively means paying rent on the percentage of a property they don’t own – will be obliged to move out of the area, or those residents who are unable to transfer their mortgages onto the new properties, will lose all the benefits of being a part of a community. Their children will potentially be forced to change, or make far longer journeys to, their schools, both of which can affect their mental health, education and relationships. But it is, perhaps, the elderly and disabled will be perhaps the most negatively affected, being forced to change doctors, and losing the connections with neighbours and family and potentially carers that are crucial to their health and peace of mind. Indeed, the stress and effects on the mental health of every resident affected by losing their homes and community can result in depression, the loss of employment and other breakdowns in the social fabric, as the ongoing threat of losing their homes to demolition is already demonstrating on the estates threatened by Lambeth Labour Council.

In addition to its impact on the mental and physical well-being of the dispersed community, the disruption of estate demolition will inevitably have financial consequences that will eventually be borne by the State in the form of an increase in benefits and the knock-on costs associated with a decline in health. Both of these will increase demand on welfare and health services. Academic research at the London School of Economics and Political Science has shown that the stresses associated with estate regeneration can result in increased cases of illness and early death; and the sad truth, for which Lambeth Labour Council should be held legally accountable, is that many elderly residents – of which there are a disproportionately large number on council estates – are likely to die during a demolition and redevelopment process that could last up to ten years.[15]

The adverse mental health effects of austerity have been analysed and recorded in research by Psychologists Against Austerity, and the conditions they identify are remarkably similar to the effects of estate regeneration. ‘Humiliation and shame’, ‘fear and distrust’, ‘instability and insecurity’, ‘isolation and loneliness’, ‘feeling trapped and powerless’ – all are daily experiences for those living under the threat of estate demolition, as residents will confirm if Lambeth Council had the courtesy to listen to them.[16] In contrast, the indicators of a psychologically healthy society – ‘agency, security, connection, meaning and mutual trust’ – are all being eroded, if not destroyed, by Lambeth Council’s estate demolition programme.

In a statement that encapsulates the indifference and arrogance of Lambeth’s Labour Cabinet, at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting for the decision to demolish Cressingham Gardens estate, Councillor Matthew Bennett offered the opinion that the anticipated increase in the rent and other outgoings of tenants could be covered by housing benefit. Quite apart from the fact that housing benefit is about to be cut to levels that is expected to drive hundreds of thousands of private renters into homelessness, this reveals that Lambeth Labour Council expects the increased cost of the properties they are proposing to build through Homes for Lambeth to be paid for by the tax-payer in the form of housing benefit taken from the coffers of Central Government. No doubt this, too, is another motivation for them demolishing the source of their current rent revenues. The reality, however, is that this insulting suggestion, which was met with outrage and disbelief by residents, is no solution at all. Rather, households unable to meet their new, hugely increased outgoings will be forced into cheaper accommodation elsewhere in Lambeth, or even, as the Labour Council is already encouraging them to do, to move outside the borough altogether.

From what we have been told, we understand that animals will not be permitted in the proposed new development for Central Hill, making it very difficult for residents with pets – often an essential source of companionship and comfort to the elderly – to continue to live on the estate, even if by some miracle they can afford to exercise their Right to Return. And the amenities – currently enjoyed by the majority of the residents – of a south-facing front garden and a city-facing balcony, will, similarly, no longer be available to them. Indeed, it is difficult to see how any aspect of the demolition and redevelopment of Central Hill estate can be seen as improving either the social or the economic well-being of the residents, according to Lambeth Council’s own stated criterion.[17]

As for the so-called ‘fundamental conditions’ of the homes Lambeth Council has neglected to maintain for decades while lining the pockets of its officers with ever increasing salaries, they are nothing of the kind.[18] Internal problems in the homes, such as leaking ceilings, mould and condensation, most of which have been caused by poor or inadequate maintenance of windows and roofs, can be easily addressed through refurbishment, and are in no way a justification for demolition. In the few cases of overcrowding, we have shown that, with an accurate survey of housing needs, the provision of some smaller homes for those households that are currently in under-occupied homes will free up some of the larger homes. As demonstrated by the number of people being forced to pay the Government’s debilitating bedroom tax, there is a shortage of one-bedroom homes in Lambeth; and combined with the addition of some larger homes for those households currently living in overcrowded homes, the housing needs of all the residents can be satisfied without the need to demolish their estate.

If PRP Architects, the practice employed by Lambeth Labour Council supposedly to explore the options for the regeneration of Central Hill estate, had genuinely looked at addressing these issues, rather than simply accepting, apparently without question, the Council’s brief to justify its demolition, they would have told them the same thing. But they didn’t.

3. ‘The wider benefits from regeneration would justify the investment. This includes where the existing estate is relatively low-density and where there is an opportunity to create additional much needed new homes.’

It is far from apparent what the ‘wider benefits’ of demolition are that cannot be achieved through infill and refurbishment. On the contrary, through the design of our alternative plan – which shows that it is possible to add around 200 new homes plus communal facilities to the estate without demolishing a single existing home – ASH has demonstrated that it is possible to increase housing capacity by nearly 45 per cent, and make all the improvements necessary to the estate – again, without the need for demolition.

The demolition of Central Hill estate, like that of the other five estates Lambeth Labour Council currently threatens, would in fact have a hugely negative impact on the surrounding neighbourhood of Crystal Palace, both environmentally and on the health of residents of the estates and the surrounding area. Demolition and disposal of the concrete, brick and masonry would result in significant and harmful amounts of embodied carbon being released into the atmosphere. At a London Assembly investigation in July 2014 into the respective benefits of refurbishment versus demolition, Chris Jofeh, Director of the engineering company Arups, said: ‘Demolition and rebuild emits a super amount of carbon dioxide, and even if you build super-efficient new homes it could take 30 years before you redress the balance. If we do take carbon targets seriously then refurbishment is an option which is much more likely to achieve those targets.’[19]

In a time of increasing awareness about climate change, demolition of housing estates is not something we should be undertaking lightly or, more importantly, unnecessarily. It goes against Lambeth Council’s own sustainability policy, as well as the recommendations of research produced by the London Assembly and University College London.[20] The polluting effects of demolition in the form of dust and noise on the immediate neighbourhood will also be significant, as will the effect of construction traffic on the surrounding roads. It is generally accepted by now that if asbestos is present in the buildings, it is preferable to leave it alone. Safe methods of stripping out and disposing of asbestos are often not observed, and Lambeth Labour Council has a poor reputation for following safe practice in such work. There is, consequently, little trust in the Council among residents on the estates and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

According to their own Local Plan, Lambeth Labour Council is supposedly committed to the efficient use and management of resources; yet the demolition of a thriving estate and community like Central Hill, or any of the other five Lambeth estates threatened, completely contradicts this commitment.[21] The current bio-diversity on the Central Hill site will not be protected, and certainly won’t be enhanced, by their demolition scheme, which threatens the majority of the estate’s trees; whereas the ASH proposal retains and supports the existing green spaces and wildlife. A longstanding community that takes care of their environment is key to the successful maintenance of public spaces, and destroying that community will destroy the space they currently look after, as the beautiful and well-tended gardens on the estate demonstrate, despite the Council’s ongoing policy of pulling down wall ivy, digging up roof gardens and cutting down trees as part of the managed decline of the estate. By contrast, the design proposals by PRP Architects, who have been employed by Lambeth Council to convince residents of the benefits of demolishing their homes, would completely block the protected view of the line of mature trees along Central Hill road with seven-storey blocks, as well as significantly interfering with the current views from Central Hill across London.

Further long-term negative effects include the added burden of an enormously increased resident population on local public services such as schools, health clinics and the already jammed roads on Central Hill. Lambeth Labour Council have not bothered to produce plans showing how they propose to mitigate these additional burdens on public facilities in the area. Nor have they come up with arguments to support the benefits of the increased population based on anything other than what it is possible to cram onto the estate site, regardless of the consequences for the Crystal Palace community.

As I observed at the beginning of this article, no definition of what constitutes ‘low density’ has been given in this criterion. That’s hardly surprising, since all the six estates threatened by Lambeth Labour Council are, in fact, low-rise, high-density housing. On the contrary, this is just another example of the web of falsehoods about council housing woven by the Council to justify its plans to the general public. As is clear from its collaboration with the real-estate firm Savills, from whom Lambeth Labour Council takes its language, its definitions and its direction, ‘high density’, like ‘high value’, is a barely disguised euphemism for ‘high profits’.

Finally, in terms of the architectural heritage of the estate and its value to future generations, Central Hill is a unique example of a period when Lambeth Labour Council had a socially ambitious architectural vision. Its application for listing to Historic England currently being made by the Twentieth Century Society is evidence of this status. As stated in the Council’s own Local Plan, Lambeth’s architectural heritage is important to the borough. But as the Council’s proposal to demolish the sheltered housing at 269 Leigham Court Road demonstrated – and which only its listing by Historic England saved – Lambeth Labour Council has neither an appreciation nor an understanding of the architecture of this period, which it seems bent on destroying for the profit of developers, real estates firms and its own councillors. It would be negligent of us in the extreme to entrust the future of our urban environment to a Council and a Cabinet that has repeatedly shown that they have no aesthetic judgement of the qualities of architecture, no ethical concern for the well-being of residents, and no moral sense of duty to the constituents who voted them into power. On the contrary, the wilful and unnecessary destruction of Lambeth’s council estates is nothing less than an act of vandalism, which we call on all residents of the London Borough of Lambeth to oppose.

Geraldine Dening
Architects for Social Housing

________________________________________________

Endnotes

[1] ‘Resident Engagement on the future of Central Hill’, http://estateregeneration.lambeth.gov.uk/central_hill_engagement

[2] See ‘Taking pride in you home – Lambeth Housing Standard’ (8 March 2012) http://housingmanagement.lambeth.gov.uk/site-search/text-content/8-march-2012-taking-pride-in-your-home-lambeth-housing-standard-505

[3] See Carl Brown, ‘Association to demolish new blocks due to defects’, Inside Housing (25 May, 2016) http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/association-to-demolish-new-blocks-due-to-defects/7015361.article

[4] See Peter Buckthorp, John Morrison, Peter Dunican and Fred Butler, The Structural Engineer (November 1974).

[5] See Jules Birch, ‘Estate Regeneration Briefing for expert panel’, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (12 May, 2016) https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/estate-regeneration-briefing-expert-panel

[6] See ‘Evaluation of Mixed Communities Initiative Demonstration Projects’, DCLG (2010) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6360/1775216.pdf

[7] See Tom Clark, ‘Affordability is Britons’ biggest housing concern, poll finds’ The Guardian (12 February, 2014) http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/12/affordability-biggest-housing-concern-poll-high-rents

[8]. See Savills’ Research Report to the Cabinet Office, Completing London’s Streets: How the regeneration and intensification of housing estates could increase London’s supply of homes and benefit residents (7 January, 2016) http://pdf.euro.savills.co.uk/uk/residential—other/completing-london-s-streets-080116.pdf

[9] See Lambeth Talk (June 2014) http://love.lambeth.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/LambethTalk-JUNE-2014.pdf

[10] See Geraldine Dening, ‘Central Hill: The Alternative to Demolition’, Architects for Social Housing (30 May, 2016) https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/central-hill-the-alternative-to-demolition/

[11] See Matthew Bennett, ‘But if they are broken?’ (3 February, 2016) https://medium.com/@CllrMattBennett/but-if-they-are-broken-1a510cc53a59#.c67a00qg0

[12] See Victoria Pinoncely, ‘Sink estates are not sunk – they’re starved of funding’, The Guardian (11 May, 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2016/may/11/sink-estates-starved-funding-poverty-housing

[13] See Jules Birch, op cit.

[14] See Fanny Milenen, ‘Redeveloped into Fuel Poverty: The Story of Myatt’s Field North’, Novara Media (20 August, 2016) http://wire.novaramedia.com/2016/07/redeveloped-into-fuel-poverty-the-story-of-myatts-field-north/

[15] See Anne Power, ‘Council estates: why demolition is anything but the solution’, London School of Economics and Political Science (4 March, 2016) http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/sink-estates-demolition/

[16] Laura McGrath, Vanessa Griffin and Ed Mundy, ‘The Psychological Impact of Austerity’, Psychologists Against Austerity https://psychagainstausterity.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/paa-briefing-paper.pdf

[17] See Our 2020 Vision: Lambeth’s Sustainable Community Strategy http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sc-our-2020-vision.pdf

[18] Lambeth’s councillors are extremely reluctant to declare their pecuniary interests on the Council website, with Leader Lib Peck, Deputy Leader Paul McGlone, Member for Families Jane Pickard, Member for Housing Matthew Bennett, Member for Environment and Transport Jennifer Brathwaite, Member for Schools Jane Edbrooke, Member for Employment Sally Prentice, Member for Regeneration and Business Jack Hopkins, Member for Adult Social Care Jackie Meldrum, Member for Community Relations Donatus Anyanwu, and Chief Whip Paul Gadsby – which is to say, the entire Lambeth Cabinet – all unwilling to identify their land interests within the borough. Jim Dickson, Member for Health and the former Cabinet Leader, and the only name missing from this list, deserves a paragraph all to himself; but his company, Four Communications, is one of the most persuasive lobbyists of councils in pushing through controversial housing developments (http://35percent.org/2014-10-19-gamekeepers-turned-poachers/). Unfortunately, councillors are not obliged to declare earnings from their positions in the private companies with which the councils they represent do business; but the Taxpayer’s Alliance has revealed that Lambeth Council’s Strategic Director of Regeneration, Sue Foster, is one of 5 Lambeth officers on a salary in excess of £150,000 (in her case nearly £180,000); and although we don’t have the exact details, Neil Vokes, Lambeth’s Assistant Director of Housing Regeneration, is more than likely to be one of no less than 32 Lambeth Council officers earning over £100,000 per annum. Should these be the salaries of public servants in a supposedly broke borough supposedly doing its best to find homes for the 22,000 households on its housing waiting list?

[19] See ‘London Assembly Investigates Refurbishment vs Demolition’, Better Elephant (11 July, 2014) http://betterelephant.org/blog/2014/07/11/london-assembly-investigation-into-housing-estate-refurbishment-and-demolition/

[20] See ‘Knock it down or do it up? The challenge of estate regeneration’, Greater London Authority (February 2015) https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gla_migrate_files_destination/KnockItDownOrDoItUp_0.pdf; and ‘Making Decisions on the Demolition or Refurbishment of Social Housing’ (June 2014) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/public-policy/for-policy-professionals/research-insights/Refurbishment_and_demolition_of_social_housing_FINAL.pdf

[21] See the ‘Lambeth Local Plan’ (September 2015) https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/pl-lambeth-local-plan-2015-web.pdf

 

Central Hill: The Alternative to Demolition

CH_3D_ new build only poly2

These images were presented to the Central Hill Estate Residents Engagement Panel on the 17 May, 2016. The proposals take on board comments from Lambeth’s planning   department, as well as comments from residents, neighbours and other architects following our previous exhibition on 20 February, 2016, as published:

(https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/central-hill-estate-design-proposals/)

The award winning Central Hill estate is a unique and highly successful piece of architecture and landscaping that is home to an established community, many of whom have lived here since it was built in the early 1970s by LCC architect Rosemary Stjernstedt under Ted Hollamby.

ASH’s proposals illustrate the potential to add around 222 new homes on Central Hill Estate, without demolishing a single home.

The proposals here reinforce the ideology and intentions of the original architecture of the estate, whilst allowing for the full refurbishment of the existing homes and public realm – bringing them up to a ‘decent standard’, and thus addressing any current concerns about their homes voiced by residents.

Lambeth’s arguments for the demolition of the estate do not stand up to scrutiny in any way other than increasing the density and land value of the estate. We believe this alone cannot justify the demolition of the 456 existing homes, and the uprooting of a long-standing community.

This is an initial feasibility study, and there are many possible design solutions to the fundamental proposition that architectural alternatives to demolition exist. What is presented here is an outline proposal to demonstrate the numbers of additional homes that could be gained on the estate.

The scheme has been costed by an independent quantity surveyor, and planning advice has been sought to ensure that all proposals correspond to local and national planning policies. Structural advice has also been sought to establish the feasibility of roof extensions.

If you would like to sign the petition supporting these proposals, see the ASH Petition

ASH_CH_05_2016_plans+axo2

Site Strategy

The new buildings fall into two categories: infill and roof extensions.

Infill

The infill homes are situated on currently underused spaces around the estate, which were identified by residents on walkabouts during the summer of 2015.

Many of the new infill buildings are located around the periphery of the estate. This addresses a common criticism of estates (and Central Hill in particular): that they don’t have clearly defined edges, or straightforward relationships to the traditional street patterns surrounding them. The infill architecture therefore creates material and formal links between Central Hill and the surrounding area; both knitting it into the traditional street fabric and distinguishing clear entry points, whilst also reinforcing the existing architecture and distinct sense of place.

The saw-tooth form of the fringe housing roofscape is intended to make reference to the Gipsy Hill part of the estate, while maximising the light into the remaining estate, and providing a durable low-maintenance roof.

ASH_CH_05_2016_plans+axo3Roof Extensions

The roof extensions are limited to one-storey extensions on the tops of some of the 1 bed ‘Prospect’ blocks and on the outer ring of low-rise housing, in order to minimise the effects of the reduction of light and obstruction of views on the rest of the estate.

The roof extensions are placed intermittently, with an undulating roof line, to ensure a rhythm of light penetrates the houses below.

Where light and privacy is a concern, distances between old and new buildings are a minimum of 12m. The 45 degree ‘rule of thumb’ has been applied to all new buildings to ensure that the right to light of the existing buildings is not affected.

ASH_CH_05_2016_plans+axo4

Public Realm and Street Surfaces: Accessibility

One of the criticisms of Central Hill is the steepness of the site and the difficulties navigating the pedestrian routes. We would propose a new street surface throughout. New ramps and lifts designed to serve the new housing along Central Hill (road) would also form part of the proposed communal circulation strategy, providing new access routes into the estate.

Perceived Safety and Natural Surveillance

Lighting on the estate is currently extremely poor, and good uplighting would address many of the concerns people have walking around at night. The new roof extensions on top of the existing low-rise blocks would also increase ‘eyes on the street’ and improve the natural surveillance of the pedestrian ‘ways’ which traverse the site. Another proposal discussed with some residents last year was the possibility of reducing the heights of the garden gates which would enable greater visibility from the kitchen and front garden into the street. Another possibility is to lower the heights of garden storage units to allow for better surveillance of the streets here. Trellises could be installed for growing plants but would still allow for a more open relationship to the pedestrian streets.

Bio-Diversity

Central Hill’s existing ‘natural’ landscape is unique, diverse and rich, catering for a wide range of birds and wildlife. ASH’s proposal intends to respect and retain as many of the existing trees and habitats as possible. Green roofs have been proposed to be added to the remaining flat roofs of the existing low rise houses which would enhance the existing eco-system.

We also propose to reinstall the original ‘green fingers’ which were intrinsic to the original design, and which have been destroyed in the recent years – with green roofs on the bin stores, trees outside doorways, and ivy and other climbing plants on the retaining walls.

Design: Context, Form and Materials

Cities are not homogeneous places, but the places of cumulative memory. Our proposal celebrates the existing architecture and community while also offering the potential for a significant number of new homes. The distinctive character of Upper Norwood/Crystal Palace is rooted in the diverse and eclectic range of styles that have appeared as the area has evolved. From Victorian mansions, to 1960s towers and the award-winning Central Hill Estate, the ongoing palimpsest at Central Hill is entirely in keeping with the history of the area.

We would look to use materials and forms which would create close relationships between the old and new; in particular making use of similar white flint lime bricks in the new infill housing, and echoing the existing Gipsy Hill housing with saw-tooth zinc roofs on the new builds. Pitched roofs also relate to the surrounding vernacular.

Community

Our proposal supports and retains the community and environment which has matured and bonded over the last 40 years. The role of the existing community in the formulation and execution of the regeneration of Central Hill is a fundamental aspect of this proposal. The engagement of this longstanding community in the process to date has enhanced community cohesion, and a sense of ownership of these proposals has evolved. This will contribute to the continued success of the estate, and have an impact on the effective use, maintenance and safety of the communal spaces.

Environmental Sustainability

The retention of the existing buildings is a huge environmental benefit. The amount of embodied carbon which would be unnecessarily released through the demolition of the existing masonry buildings and the concrete foundations is a pending environmental disaster. The life-cycle carbon impact of the demolition scheme must taken into account as this goes entirely against Lambeth’s own sustainability policy.

There is the possibility for the implementation of renewable energy sources, such as solar/PV panels on top of all new roofs, and wind turbines on the boiler towers.

New Building Sites

Site 1. The Old Boiler House

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ASH_CH_05_2016_report2

Site 1a

28 homes of which all are wheelchair accessible (46% currently specified)

Site 1 retains the chimneys of the old boiler house, establishing a new entrance to the estate. The existing boiler house structure is retained (as far as practical) and the lower double-height space occupied by two floors. The lower floor could be renovated for commercial or workshop use (subject to resident and local neighbourhood consultation) – or simply parking – and cycle and bin storage for the new housing above. Two lifts facilitate an additional 7 floors of wheelchair accessible housing provided above, with the 7th floor set back to reduce its impact on the surroundings.

A 45 degree Right to Light exercise has been undertaken which illustrates that the new buildings will not have a significant impact on the closest adjacent buildings. Planning have made comments indicating that a more slender plan might be preferable, and we would reiterate that plenty of other design solutions are entirely possible. We have illustrated the example of occupying the maximum footprint of the boiler house, generating an equal mix of 1B2P and 2B4P units, and ‘standard’ and wheelchair accessible units.

Workspaces

The proposal for workshops in this location was the result of community consultation. The Designation of Crystal Palace as an ‘Enterprise Centre’ would support this application.ASH_CH_05_2016_report3

Site 1b

4 no 1B2P flats over parking (Or 2 no 3B6P maisonettes over parking – subject to a detailed survey of existing parking provision) form a street frontage to Lunham Road.

Site 2, 3, 4. Communal Facilities and Existing Green and Play Spaces.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report4The existing community facilities currently occupy a large amount of area within the centre of the estate. ASH proposes that the existing communal facilities are demolished, and re-provided (day care centre, nursery, and community hall) along the edge of the estate along Lunham Road. This would allow an increase in the size of the green space, and improved play facilities.

Alongside this, the existing housing office is to be demolished and moved on to the main road – also freeing up green space.

Above these new community spaces new housing is to be provided.

2 lifts and deck access enable this to be wheelchair accessible, allowing for 38 new flats of varying sizes in total.

The deliberately fragmented nature of development is a key feature of the existing estate which our proposals seek to emulate. Blocks here are discontinuous in plan to reflect the houses opposite, and the heights of these blocks are varied in order to create a punctured skyline when viewed from the estate, ensuring that everyone from the estate retains views of London across and between the new undulating roofscape. This also minimises the reduction of light to the existing houses on the Northwest side of Lunham Road.

Site 5. Access from Central Hill Road

ASH_CH_05_2016_report5

12-14 new flats with 2 lifts of which 100% currently specified as wheelchair accessible

Central Hill is steep – and, towards the top, considerably higher than the access road of Oakwood Drive. In order to address the difficulty of disabled access into the estate at this point, this block could incorporate a double lift core – to not only enable wheelchair accessibility to the whole block, but also to the rest of the estate below

This block, like all the buildings along Central Hill (road), is nestled well within the trees. It would have little impact on the houses on the other side of the road, and negligible impact on the neighbouring blocks on Central Hill itself – being predominantly adjacent to flank walls.

Site 6, 7, 8, 9. Fringe Housing

The new housing along Central Hill continues the theme of accessible housing and increasing permeability into the estate. We propose terraces of houses elevated above the access road (Oakwood Drive). If refuse and / or fire access is needed along here, this can be accommodated. However, with our suggestion to review the current refuse strategy, the soffit might be able to be reduced from 4.5 m. We are also under the impression that necessary fire access is achieved without the use of this access road, but this would need to be checked.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report6

The housing proposed consists of maisonettes on the lower 2 floors, and one bed flats above. Access to the maisonettes is achieved via walkways directly off the main road (with associated individual bins and cycle storage), and deck access and amenity space to the top flats can be provided either to the North or South. The roofs are either proposed as shown with sawtooth profile, or pitched down towards the North to reduce their impact on the one bed Prospect extensions. The distance between the existing and proposed windows are a minimum of 12-13 metres apart.

At various points along the main road, we propose ramps to enable disabled access into the site. Stairs would also be introduced at regular intervals, improving the estate’s porosity and permeability.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report7

Site 10 and 11. A Gateway to the Estate

On the site of the existing hostel (which we believe to be only partially occupied in a temporary manner) we are proposing the construction of a new 5-7 storey block of flats (site 10), and a smaller block closer to the low-rise housing to the north (site 11). The site is adjacent to wide roads, so the buildings would not have any detrimental impact on any of the existing neighbouring houses. We would propose that the form and material of the new buildings emulate those of the existing buildings, to establish a sensitive relationship with their surroundings.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report8

Site 10 is designed to ensure minimal loss of trees, and the creation of a communal garden for the flats, as well as individual back gardens for the ground floor maisonettes.

Two lifts would allow this whole block to be wheelchair accessible, with maisonettes on the ground floor accessed directly from the street, enabling an architectural transition from the urban grain of the street to that of the estate. Roofs could be pitched to correspond with the roof extensions to the adjacent existing flat blocks, or green roofs (or a combination of the two).

The existing hostel facilities (8 hostel dwellings) could be provided within this block, or elsewhere within the estate.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report9

Site 12. New Edge Block

A small 3-4 storey block of flats is proposed above the existing parking (assuming the parking is required to remain). This height of this has been reduced to minimise its impact on the neighbouring buildings. Although it would not noticeably affect the light conditions, a taller building might be less appropriate in this location.

Site 14. Police Station

A block to the rear of the existing police station was a preliminary proposal which has since been discounted partly due to the fact that it is not within the boundaries of the existing estate.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report10

Site 13. Maisonettes

A pair of maisonettes are proposed to the north of Hawke Road, in the garden of Pear Tree house. The impact of this on the adjacent existing homes is to be minimised.

Site 18. High Limes

Buildings refurbished and extended. 6 new flats in the new block, 3 new flats on top of the existing ones.

We propose a new flat block to the west of the 1 bed studio block. New housing is proposed on top of the existing block, similar to Site 15 above. The addition of a lift here would enable the existing flats to have step-free access.

There is the potential to provide additional community space on upper ground floor above the parking entrance, and the lower ground access to parking and refuse is to be retained.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report11

Sites 15. 1-Bedroom Roof Extensions on the Prospects

One additional floor is proposed on top of the existing 1 bed flat blocks, adding 43 additional homes. Access is achieved by extending the existing staircases. The present water tanks are to be incorporated into the proposals, but the way in which this happens requires more detailed survey information not available to us at this time.

Material and construction. These are to be made of prefabricated timber (or similar construction) and craned on to site. The zinc pitched roof allows light to pass through to the flats to the north, and simultaneously requires lower maintenance than a flat roof.

Structurally, the 3-4 storey blocks are deemed by Arups (the engineers of the original estate) to be capable of accommodating an additional storey.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report12

Site 161-2 Bed Roof Extensions to Low-Rise Maisonettes

Adding 22 additional homes. 16a is built on top of 3 person 4 bed homes, 16b on top of 3 bed 5 person homes, and 16c, on top of the 4 bed 6 person homes.

Access to these new prefabricated flats (construction as above) varies for each block, but typically is via a new stair either central to the blocks or to one side. The individual flats are accessed via a deck to the north side, and overlooking into gardens below can be moderated by the use of deep planters if necessary. Roof gardens are accommodated for each property – the orientation of which could be to the north or south, or in some cases both. Views from these can be moderated by the use of deep planters as before.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report13

Again, the water tanks on the roofs of the existing buildings are to be incorporated into the proposals.

The zinc sawtooth / pitched roof form both relates to the Gypsy Hill side of the estate, while letting a rhythm of light through to the flats behind and below, and, again, simultaneously requires lower maintenance than a flat roof.

Two storey options have been explored, but structural analysis is yet to establish the capacity of the existing buildings for the additional storey.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report14

Structure to roof extension. Additional floors to the existing low-rise maisonettes need further calculations to confirm application.

Arups have considered a number of building types ie 2 storey (ground, 1st + roof), 3 storey (ground, 1st, 2nd & roof) and 4 storey (ground, 1st, 2nd, 3rd & roof).  In each case they have assumed a section as per the IStructE article whereby the building is stepped from the back to the front.  When reviewing loads they have considered only the front or rear portions, so there is some conservatism in the central portion, albeit not much.  They have assumed that there is not much by way of superimposed dead load on top of the concrete slabs at each level (ie no screed).  If there is any screed, this will make the numbers below slightly better (ie it will reduce the percentage increase in load for the additional storey).

In each case they have considered adding a single level timber pod at roof level.  They have assumed that the pod will weight a maximum of 1.5kN/m2 on plan, including the walls, and that it will effectively span from wall to wall.  They have not checked whether the existing roof slabs (which would almost certainly have been designed for a lower imposed load than the floor slabs) have enough rebar to carry the required residential loading.  They have the rebar drawings so this is a check that someone could (and indeed should) do if they were to take the review to the next level, and they had permission from the building owner to obtain the drawings.

Below is a table which shows the percentage increase in working load (dead load plus live load) at the top of the piles and the base of the cross walls due to the extra floor. The old Building Control rule of thumb says that if loads are increased on foundations by less than about 10 per cent then all will be OK. This assumes of course that the structure is in good condition to begin with and not showing any signs of distress. So, without looking in more detail at pile loads and capacities, they might conclude that adding an extra floor to a 2 storey building could be challenging, but adding to a 3 storey or more building should be possible. It obviously gets easier as the existing building gets taller.  Again, we have pile drawings with design loads on so someone could do a more detailed check and they might manage to justify that the extension on the top of the smaller buildings is OK too.  They are much less concerned about the increase in load at the base of the walls as the stresses are relatively low. A structural engineer should be appointed to undertake a proper review of the drawings before any commitment is made to increasing the height of the existing blocks.

Height of existing building Percentage increase in load at top of piles for 1 extra floor* Percentage increase in load at base

of walls for 1 extra floor*

2 storey 14% 19%
3 storey 10% 12.5%
4 storey 8.5% 10.5%
* Assumes lightweight timber pod

Refurbishment Strategy

Beyond the environmental advantages, which are enormous, the refurbishment of the existing homes is considerably cheaper than demolition and reconstruction. The homes are structurally sound, and could easily last another 60 years. The current problems which need to be addressed are typically mould and leaky roofs. All the roofs on the outer ring will be replaced as part of the new roof extensions, and it is suggested that green roofs be installed across the remaining low rise flat roofs. All that remains is to deal locally with cold bridging problems which, on closer inspection, is most likely to be dealt with by applying external render to the slab edges.

The existing buildings have cavity walls, so blown-in insulation is an option if necessary.

The tops of walls need to be adequately protected from water ingress, and the glazing to the balconies needs to be replaced. Roofs to balconies will need to be re-made throughout. The key to quality construction is to ensure good workmanship and warranties to the work throughout.

Following conversations with various residents of the estate over the last year, we know there are problems with the existing homes, such as mould and condensation. These are common problems, caused often by badly designed and fitted windows, and are very easily remedied by well-designed and careful refurbishment. The solutions are improved ventilation strategies, better double glazing and local insulation to cold bridges. We are currently working on a similar scheme in West London, where we are proposing precisely this solution to the same problems. In no respect are these problems justification for demolishing an entire estate.

We also propose to renovate the existing walkways to improve the surfaces, with a new lighting strategy, and to replace the wonderful planting throughout the estate that was part of the original scheme (as mentioned earlier)

ASH_CH_05_2016_report15

Landscape Strategy

Central Hill currently has the key role of a green corridor between Ravenscourt Park and Crystal Palace. Demolishing the estate would separate the two green areas and have a detrimental impact on the well-being of local wildlife as well as that of the residents.

In spite of the negative representation of the estate by PRP architects, who were appointed by Lambeth Council to come up with the redevelopment plans, Central Hill is a beautiful place to walk through and both residents and neighbouring communities recognise the value of their estate’s green spaces. Residents’ participation in the Open Garden Estates event in June 2015 demonstrates this, as does the daily use of the playgrounds and alleys by children.

Over the summer of 2015 ASH worked closely with Central Hill residents to come up with proposals for improvements to the landscape of the estate. The proposed interventions, which were developed in open consultation with residents, are light additions that tap into Central Hill’s great potential. These include new designs for balconies and patios, the introduction of a marketplace in the main square, vegetable gardens and playground improvements, and proposals for the reuse of the recycling castles, some of which the residents are already putting in motion.

ASH_CH_05_2016_report17

Priced Schedules

Robert Martell and Partners very kindly agreed to undertake a pricing of ASH’s design proposals. This currently only contains the new build proposals because Lambeth Council’s own surveyor has already made a proposal for the costs of refurbishment based on their own survey. Due to lack of funds we have been unable to undertake our own survey of the same degree of detail, so have simply accepted Lambeth’s costs for refurbishment at this time. According to Lambeth’s surveyor the refurbishment will cost around £18.5m, of which £6.2m are internals that should be covered by the decent homes funds.

Below is the summary of the costed schedules:

Central Hill cost summaryGD.xls

Conclusion

ASH’s proposal is the most cost effective, social and environmentally sustainable future for Central Hill Estate, and one that respects the unique architecture and landscape of the existing estate. Above all, it allows the existing community to remain in their homes. Please show your support for this proposal and Save Central Hill Community.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Geraldine Dening
Architects for Social Housing

ASH Presentation to Central Hill Estate Residents Engagement Panel

Introduction

We’re here to present the design proposals drawn up by Architects for Social Housing for the regeneration of Central Hill Estate to the Central Hill Resident Engagement Panel.

We also make our presentation – or rather re-present our proposals – to the residents of Central Hill Estate, whose exclusion from the decisions that will ultimately determine what happened to their homes and their lives has led the resident members of the Resident Engagement Panel to resign until a meeting is called involving all residents.

We also make our presentation to the neighbours of Central Hill Estate from the Crystal Palace community, who, despite being outside the red line Lambeth Council has drawn around the estate, will be significantly and negatively affected by the Council’s plans for its demolition, should it be realised: by the environmental impact of the demolition of 456 homes; from ten years living next to a building site; from ten years of lorries, bulldozers and cranes driving up and down their narrow streets; from the increased burden on their schools, nurseries, clinics, roads and what’s left of their libraries; and from the increased rents and cost of living that will follow the gentrification of their area by the building of high-cost, luxury housing in their place.

We also make our presentation to residents from the five other council estates currently threatened by Lambeth Council’s regeneration plans, since the fate of Central Hill, as of that of Cressingham Gardens, will have consequences for their own struggle to save their homes.

We also make our presentation to the supporters of the Save Central Hill Community, not only from the neighbourhood of Crystal Palace, but from across London, who are fighting to save their own estates or those of other campaigns faced with the London-wide assault on council housing that is being driven through Labour Council estate regeneration schemes.

We also make our presentation to every London resident, and indeed everyone in England, who is likely to be effected by the destruction of social housing by the cross-party collaboration between this Conservative Government and the Labour Party – not only the residents of social housing threatened with eviction, decanting, increased rents, reduced rights, homelessness or the unregulated private rental market; but also those residents already forced to pay some of the highest rents in the world on that rental market, which will be forced still higher as the 3.9 million households in England currently living in social housing see their homes either sold to private buyers or demolished to make way for luxury apartments.

Finally, we also make our presentation to the would-be home buyers whose faint hope of owning their own home will be altogether erased by the speculation in London’s real estate that is driving the estate demolition programme, the aim of which is not to re-house council tenants and leaseholders, but to replace council housing with housing investment opportunities that few Londoners, let alone working class Londoners, will be able to afford.

It is to all these residents, whose homes are threatened by the estate regeneration process, that Architects for Social Housing addresses its proposals. We hope you will support them in the fight by Central Hill residents for their homes, and adopt the principles we put forward in your own struggle for security of tenure and dignity of life.

Because of the broad reach of our presentation, I want to start with the context in which ASH is presenting its designs, which is much wider than the regeneration of a single estate whose ultimate fate, however, it will determine. It is within this wider context, which is that of London’s housing crisis and the role of estate regeneration in implementing the social cleansing of London’s council estates, that our design proposals for Central Hill estate have been developed.

1. Design Proposals by Architects for Social Housing

DSC_0223

I want to begin with why we’re here today. On Saturday, 20 February, Architects for Social Housing presented its design proposals for Central Hill estate at an exhibition and meeting held in the Goodliffe Hall, part of Christ Church in Gipsy Hill (above). We were there at the invitation of the residents of Central Hill estate, who has asked us to come up with architectural alternatives to the demolition of their estate at the hands of Lambeth Council.

The Save Central Hill Community campaign has been fighting since February 2015 to save their estate and the community it houses. ASH were invited to join them last June, since when we have been holding design workshops with residents and asking them what they want for the estate. Residents have voted overwhelmingly against demolition and for refurbishment, and in response we have come up with design proposals that we believe will save the estate from Lambeth Council.

Since the Day Centre in which we’re gathered this evening, despite being located on Central Hill Estate, has not been made available for residents’ use, the vicar of Christ Church, Jonathan Croucher, who is also Chair of the Residents Engagement Panel, generously offered the church hall for our use, and ASH exhibited its architectural proposals at a public event open to all. Our designs propose alternatives to demolition, with infill and build-over options that will increase the housing capacity of the estate by up to 250 homes, generate the funds to refurbish the existing 456 homes, and – most importantly of all – keep the existing estate community together while also providing housing for newcomers.

Presentations were also given by the Chair of the Central Hill Tenants and Residents Association, Nicola Curtis, who sits on the Residents Engagement Panel, and by members of ASH. Afterwards, the meeting opened to heated discussion from the floor that lasted for well over an hour. Finally, residents and community members were asked to write down their comments and opinions about the proposals and stick them on the design boards as part of ASH’s ongoing consultations with the Central Hill community, and we have subsequently take these on board.

As reported in the local paper, News From Crystal Palace, the meeting was attended by over 120 residents of Central Hill estate, members of the Crystal Palace Community, supporters from Cressingham Gardens and other Lambeth estates threatened with demolition. Despite this, not one of Lambeth’s 63 Councillors attended, not one even of the ward councillors for Crystal Palace, including the Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Matthew Bennett, who also sits on the Residents Engagement Panel.

2. The Residents Engagement Panel

On the Tuesday prior to our presentation, the Central Hill Tenants and Residents Association had been informed that the exhibition of proposals for the demolition and redevelopment of their estate that had been announced by Lambeth Council for that Saturday had just been cancelled, and the decision to demolish their estate put back from April to June. This was the third time (at least) that the date has been rescheduled.

When residents asked why, the only reason Lambeth gave is that they were ‘not ready’. Architects for Social Housing asked the TRA whether Lambeth Council were now reconsidering the infill and refurbishment options they have taken off the table, and were told ‘no’, they are still looking exclusively at demolition options.

Three weeks prior to this, on 31 January, an article by the widely respected architect critic and journalist, Rowan Moore, criticising Lambeth’s plans for Central Hill, had appeared in the Observer, and judging by Councillor Bennett’s response this may well have contributed to the Council’s sudden unreadiness to present their design. On 3 February Councillor Bennett wrote on Twitter – the favoured form of social media for his announcements on residents’ homes – about precisely the wider context in which I am presenting ASH’s proposals, though with very different conclusions. With the title ‘But if they are broken?’ – a terminology popularised by David Cameron and the Tory Party when speaking of working class communities – Councillor Bennett wrote:

‘For the wider debate about the housing crisis, about the quality of people’s homes, the strength of their community and how this city builds the homes we need, it would be enormously improved if we focused a little less on the whimsy of architecture journalists and a little more on the housing needs of real people.’

Two weeks before that, the ‘real people’ on the Residents Engagement Panel had voted for Architects for Social Housing to exhibit our proposals to residents alongside those by PRP Architects, the practice employed by Lambeth Council. Fiona Cliffe, whose job description is Capital Program Manager, Estate Regeneration Team, Business Growth and Regeneration Delivery, London Borough of Lambeth (and I note the absence of any reference to ‘housing’) – responded by saying that she would ‘consider it’.

In support of the resident’s vote, Central Hill’s Independent Resident Advisors, who also sit on the Resident Engagement Panel, argued that a precedent had been set by ASH’s previous work on Knight’s Walk estate in Kennington. This seems to have worked, as having cancelled their own exhibition, Lambeth Council then invited ASH to present our proposals to them at a closed meeting to which only members of the Residents Engagement Panel would be invited. We refused, saying we had no intention of conducting business with Lambeth Council behind closed doors. Too much of that is going on already.

Since then, we have lost track of the number of times dates for this meeting have been set and broken, with the result that it has taken three months for this presentation to occur. Even then, this weekend we were informed that the booking we had in the Goodliffe Hall for the past two weeks was now in conflict with another booking.

All of which raises the question of to what extent the Lambeth Council, the self-titled ‘co-operative council’, and its members on the Residents Engagement Panel, are genuinely open to consulting or co-operating either with residents of Central Hill or with the design proposals by Architects for Social Housing that those residents have invited us to present.

Last Monday, 9 May, at Lambeth Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee for the Cabinet decision to demolish Cressingham Gardens, one of the reasons given for rejecting the 326-page People’s Plan was that the Council received it too late. We suspect that a similar strategy of delay is behind the protracted booking of this meeting tonight. As confirmation of this, at 4.30pm today we received an e-mail from Ms. Cliffe declaring, with that arrogance with which she has conducted all her correspondence with us, that we had ‘one hour’ to present our proposal. We have in fact told her for several months now that our presentation will take two hours, and two hours is what we will take to deliver it tonight.

In the almost year that we have been working with the Save Central Hill Community campaign, ASH has never once been invited to any of the Council’s meetings with the Steering Group, nor been shown any of the designs by PRP Architects that have been presented to residents without the means to show them to other residents. This is an issue that has been repeatedly raised by Central Hill residents, who have been banned by Lambeth Council from using their own community hall, and therefore do not have the venue in which the Resident Engagement Panel can communicate what information they have been shown. In this context, I feel justified in using the same dismissive epithet used by Monday’s Committee Chair, Councillor Edward Davie, when he spoke of Cressingham Gardens’ People’s Plan, and call this the ‘so-called’ Resident Engagement Panel.

3. Lambeth Council Comments on the ASH Proposal

Finally, two weeks ago, on 5 May, Fiona Cliffe wrote in an e-mail to resident members of the Resident Engagement Panel:

‘I sent over to you the commentary on the proposals we had downloaded from the ASH website, and have asked that we have their response to the issues before we meet. Fundamental to the delivery of their proposals will be the cost and funding of both the new build homes and also the refurbishment costs for the estate.’

The comments to which Ms Cliffe refers in this e-mail were, as she said, made on images of our designs for Central Hill on the ASH website. However, these images, which are reduced from A1 and A0 size prints (33 and 47 inches long), are about 5 inches across on a laptop screen, and cannot be downloaded, so the best Lambeth Council could have used to comment on them is a screen shot. This was deliberate on our part. ASH’s proposal for Central Hill estate is not a set of images but a presentation supported by detailed plans that cannot be read on a 5-inch image. So the extent to which the authors of the comments on them are valid is one we challenge.

Moreover, the ‘Planning Comments’, as the first two pages of these comments were titled, were not signed, which again casts doubts on their validity. But we are also aware that several other comments have been made publicly about ASH’s designs. We know, for instance, that Councillor Bennett is not averse to making architectural comments on ASH’s plans in various journals, comments that amply demonstrate the limit of his knowledge of even the basics of architecture. Following our presentation to residents on 20 February, Jerry Green, the journalist from News From Crystal Palace who covered the meeting, asked Councillor Bennett, in an interview with him on 9 March, what he thought of ASH’s alternative plans for Central Hill estate:

Councillor Bennett: ‘They haven’t sent them to us. We’ve asked them and as soon as we’ve seen them we’ll look at them in exactly the same way as every other proposal has been considered, but they need to send them to us first.’

Jerry Green responded: ‘ASH’s proposals add 250 homes to the estate without demolishing any existing homes.’

To which Councillor Bennett retorted: ‘We’ve had experience elsewhere in the borough of proposals coming from ASH which can look very positive, but when you test them and dig beneath the surface they don’t always stack up, so we need to assess them and look at them and see if they are as positive as they are claiming. At Knights Walk, Kennington, they put forward proposals that put forward a tower on open garden space which planners said couldn’t be built on. Another tower was considered much too tall and involved building over the top of existing bungalows in a way that when assessed would have delivered a lot of single aspect homes.’

Jerry Green sent these comments to us for a response, and we explained that although one of ASH’s design options for Knight’s Walk did propose a tower on the green space, and that the planners rejected this, another option, which slightly less additional homes, but also without demolishing the existing ones, did not. We also clarified that none of our designs were for single aspect homes – a term Councillor Bennett, perhaps understandably in one so young, doesn’t understand.

Undeterred, however, two days later another interview with Councillor Bennett appeared in the Architects Journal, where the journalist, Keith Cooper, reported:

‘Bennett is sceptical that ASH’s alternative for Central Hill will pass muster, based on its previous effort to halt demolition at Knight’s Walk, one of the six Lambeth sites due for redevelopment. “ASH came in pretty late with a presentation that wasn’t costed and involved building a tower on green space. To be blunt, it was not something an architecture practice would want to put its name to.”

ASH does not have the financial means or time to pursue a legal case of defamation against Councillor Bennett, whose attempts to slur ASH’s professional competence appeared in a journal that has the widest circulation of any architectural magazine in the UK. But it is regrettable that Lambeth Council should have chosen a person of such character to be their Cabinet Member for Housing, someone who, as a resident of Cressingham Gardens testified, announced the demolition of her home on Twitter, and whose recent contemptuous dismissal of Lambeth residents campaigning to save the borough’s libraries – a campaign that was widely praised and supported in our national press and media – will be familiar to everyone here:

‘While they knock back wine in the library, almost 5000 homeless Lambeth children go to bed in temp accommodation.’

Only last week, at the Cressingham Gardens Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Bennett proposed the introduction of protocol measures in meetings against any residents who disagreed with the plans to demolish their homes, calling them ‘trouble-makers’ who used ‘violent and intimidatory tactics’ to ‘bully’ other residents. This, we should recall, was another way to excuse his dismissal of a People’s Plan that has the backing of over 80 per cent of Cressingham Garden residents.

As I said, it is regrettable that Lambeth Council has placed the homes of thousands of Lambeth residents in the hands of someone with such contempt for the opinions of residents. But in any case, ASH considers Councillor Bennett a hostile member of this Panel who has taken every opportunity to demonstrate that he has rejected our proposals in advance of them being made here today.

4. PRP Architects Comments on Ash Proposal

PRP Consultation

But this is not all. Further commentary on ASH’s design proposals, titled ‘Architectural Comments’ – comments which, again, are based on 5-inch images taken from our website – were made by PRP Architects, who have been employed by Lambeth Council first to conduct consultations with residents last year, then to draw up the plans for the redevelopment of the estate following the demolition of their homes.

PRP famously began their consultation by posting – again on Twitter – a photograph of the estate taken at night with the misspelt statement:

‘Consultation in South London. Would you walk down this alleyway!’

Their redevelopment plans, which were apparently not ready to be presented alongside the regeneration plans of ASH, were ready two weeks later, when they were presented to residents, again in this hall, between 10 and 3pm on Saturday, 5 March.

Among the 23 panel and one large model telling residents why every one of the 456 homes on Central Hill must be demolished, an entire paragraph was given to the consideration of their refurbishment, as follows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We find it highly unprofessional, not to mention odd, that an Architectural practice that has been commissioned by the council to design the redevelopment of residents’ homes on the ruins of their current ones should be regarded as a neutral, disinterested or objective commentator on the alternative plans by an architectural practice such as ASH that, for them, is simply a competitor in the market. But in any case, we hope their consideration of our proposals for the refurbishment of residents’ homes receives more consideration than their weighty 22-word thesis on the homes and lives of the more than a thousand residents whose homes they want to demolish for profit.

To this end, PRP Architects, like Councillor Bennett, have not let pass any opportunity to dismiss ASH’s designs and proposal – all, once again, on the evidence of 5-inch screen shots. On 24 March, only two weeks after Councillor Bennett’s comments, Brendan Kilpatrick, the joint Managing Director of PRP Architects, was quoted in the journal Building Design as saying:

‘He dubbed an alternative proposal by pressure group Architects for Social Housing (ASH) to increase density at Central Hill without any demolition as a “noble idea but not really practical”. Kilpatrick said any scheme had to generate enough income to pay for itself – and that ASH’s would not do that. He said PRP’s aim was to keep all the residents on the estate.’

Noble aims, indeed, but hardly compatible with the needless demolition of residents’ homes and their replacement with homes for increased rents, or the transformation of leaseholders into shared owners or even, as Councillor Bennett suggested last Monday, housing benefit claimants. Yet despite this, another director of PRP Architects, Manish Patel, was quoted on 11 March, again in the Architects Journal, as saying:

‘Regeneration is very, very hard for people and there are some voices that come through in the consultation process that play on people’s sensitivities. When community groups come from outside, their voices can sometimes be a bit louder than those of residents living on the estate. Some tenants, she says, had been “unnerved” by “scaremongering” on social media like Twitter and by residents from other estates. She adds: “The most important opinions are those of people who live on these estates.”’

We agree with Ms Patel. Regeneration is very hard for people when regeneration means the demolition of their homes, and when groups such as PRP Architects come from outside with a remit to play on people’s sensitivities, and use scaremongering tactics such as those used by her own practice on Twitter. We also agree that the most important opinions are those of residents, and we hope that both PRP Architects and Lambeth Council will start to listen to those of the residents on Central Hill estate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That said, we wonder why, since Brendan Kilpatrick, Manish Patel and Councillor Bennett clearly all take such interest in the validity of ASH’s designs, they did not turn up to see the presentation of our proposal on 20 February. This was a date they had presumably left free for their own exhibition, which they cancelled at such short notice, and at which, when it was finally held in these rooms two weeks later, there were considerably fewer in attendance than the 120 that turned up to see our exhibition, and half of those were Lambeth councillors and employees (above).

However, far more important than this smear campaign conducted in the architectural press by Lambeth Council and PRP Architects, or the attempt to dismiss our proposal before it has been presented, is Ms Cliffe’s statement to resident members of the Resident Engagement Panel that (and I quote this again):

‘Fundamental to the delivery of their [i.e. ASH’s] proposals will be the cost and funding of both the new build homes and also the refurbishment costs for the estate.’

In answer to this statement, which she puts forward with the absoluteness of all threats, we would like to make clear that the ‘fundamentals’ of our proposal lie somewhere very different. This does not mean our proposal will not address the cost and funding of our proposals. We will. We will even answer the ‘comments’ by the anonymous author or authors, and by members of another architectural practice that are no more than mercenaries employed by the Council to do the dirty work of social cleansing the Central Hill community.

But our proposal is founded on very different values. Before we get on to presenting our design proposals for Central Hill estate, let me say what those values are, as it is these that are, to use Ms Cliffe’s terms, ‘fundamental’ to the delivery of our design proposal, and it is these we advocate to the consideration of the residents of Central Hill estate, those both present and not present on the Resident Engagement Panel.

5. Homes for Lambeth

Savills Map of London

We were not surprised to learn, at the Lambeth Cabinet meeting on 22 March to announce the decision to demolish Cressingham Gardens, that Lambeth Council had called on the technical expertise of the real estate firm Savills in order to set up Homes for Lambeth. But we were surprised to learn, shortly afterwards, that the Chairman of this housing association that would have no employees but farm its functions out to private contractors was to be none other than Councillor Bennett.

I raise this point, not merely to question the conflict of interest in the Cabinet Member for Housing with ultimate responsibility for the demolition and redevelopment of tens of thousands of Lambeth residents’ homes also being chair of the housing association that profits from building their replacements, but to take the opportunity to pose again the question I asked at last Monday’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee into the demolition plans for Cressingham Gardens Estate, a question which has direct relevance to the future of Central Hill Estate residents.

My question, which was never answered, but which I repeated to the Committee Chair several times, and was asked again by Councillor Scott Ainslie who had called the scrutiny meeting, and even by one of Progress’s own members on the committee, was as follows.

On the Lambeth Council’s own website it says that in order to be sold, Homes for Lambeth would require the unanimous vote of the Lambeth Cabinet, the unanimous vote of the Homes for Lambeth Board, and the two-thirds majority of Lambeth Council. Now, since the Cabinet, including its whip and deputy whip, is dominated by members of Progress, the right-wing group within the Labour Party that dominates Labour Councils across London, and is driving its policy of council estate demolition; since the Lambeth Labour Council itself is dominated 60 to 3 by Labour councillors, and those who depart from the Party line are seriously disciplined, as evidenced by the recent whipping given to Councillor Rachel Heywood over her comments on the Council’s cuts to libraries and estate demolition programme; and since Councillor Bennett is the only member of the Homes for Lambeth Board we know of besides the likely representatives from Savills, my question is this:

Beyond the consciences of a Cabinet that has consistently refused to listen to the opinions of residents, of a Council that, whether in its cuts to libraries, the redevelopment of the Brixton Arches, or the demolition of six housing estates, is unified in pursuing a policy of the social cleansing of the borough, and of a Board composed of people who stand to benefit financially from the complete privatisation of Homes for Lambeth – beyond this collection of people who are actively pursuing the privatisation of Lambeth’s public realm, what guarantees do the residents have that Homes for Lambeth won’t be sold?

I ask this not merely out of an interest in the covert business dealings of Lambeth Council, but because of its direct impact on the residents of Central Hill Estate, and the likelihood of them being re-housed in anything like similar or genuinely affordable homes on the land their current council homes currently sit on. And to answer this question, which Lambeth Council have refused to answer, we should consider the role of Savills not only in setting up Homes for Lambeth, but in the demolition of council estates across London.

6. The Role of Savills in Lambeth Council’s Regeneration Programme

Savills Densification

In January of this year, Savills submitted a research report to the Cabinet Office, Completing London’s Streets: How the regeneration and intensification of housing estates could increase London’s supply of homes and benefit residents. In it they estimate that London has around 8,500 hectares of land currently occupied by local authority estates, and containing around 660,000 households. Of these, they recommend that 1,750 hectares be regenerated according to what they call their ‘Complete Streets’ model (above). It is indicative that Savills refers to these homes in terms of the land they occupy rather than the people they house, as the regeneration model they propose is exclusively for the total demolition and redevelopment of existing council estates at higher densities. By their own estimate, however, each hectare of land in local authority housing estates holds 78 homes, making a total of around 136,500 households. They don’t say how many people these figures equate to, but at a rough estimate of three residents per household, Savills’ report recommends the demolition of the homes of over 400,000 Londoners.

The basis of Savills’ report is the assertion that London’s council estates can and should be ‘densified’, a claim we hear repeatedly made by Lambeth Council. On the 136,500 homes they propose demolishing, Savills claim they can build between 54,000 and 360,000 additional homes. The selling point for Savills’ recommendation, and why it is so appealing to Lambeth Council, is their argument that the regeneration of housing estates using the Complete Streets model not only delivers more housing, but also creates what they call ‘value uplift’. Through the implementation of this model, they write, ‘underperforming, undesirable and low value’ locations – terms that will be familiar to residents of Central Hill – will be transformed into ‘actively sought-after, high-performing and higher value’ real estate.

Estate regeneration, under this radical restructuring, will become an active means of gentrification, raising house prices across the wider area according to what Savills calls a ‘multiplier effect’. To this end, the new homes built on the demolished council estates must necessarily be high cost if they are to serve their main function: this is the social cleansing not only of the estate demolished to make way for them, but also of the local community and neighbourhood around the new development. Savills even propose an investigation into whether this multiplier effect might be quantified in what they call a ‘value capture mechanism’, which they consider conducive to implementing estate regeneration on a ‘pan-London’ basis.

Savills go on to argue that such long-term projects must transcend local and national government policy cycles. Since local authorities, they say – and here we must agree with them – lack the leadership and technical skills necessary to manage large-scale regeneration, Savills argues that they will require the help of long-term investors. These will propose options to the local communities, draw up proposals, and then implement them with the backing of government legislation, whose job is to remove ‘policy, legal, fiscal and institutional barriers’ to the emergence of this new market.

In case we haven’t guessed whom they have in mind for this role – to take just four examples: Savills produced the viability assessment on the Heygate Estate redevelopment that convinced Southwark Labour Council to accept that out of the 2,700 new apartments only 79 will be for social rent; Savills were subsequently commissioned by Southwark Labour Council to produce a financial and sustainability analysis to decide the future of the remainder of the borough’s council housing; Savills are currently auditing the financial model for Hackney Labour Council’s regeneration programme which threatens 18 council estates with demolition; and Savills have, of course, been appointed to manage Homes for Lambeth, the Special Purpose Vehicle being set up by Lambeth Labour Council in order to demolish and redevelop 6 council estates, including Central Hill Estate.

If further proof were needed that here are the authors of London’s housing policy, and the architects of the programme of mass estate demolition being pursued by Labour Councils across London, Savills are also advising the London Housing Commission, and the housing policies of our new London Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, whose manifesto promise to build 50,000 new homes a year on demolished council estate land, are based on the figures and proposals in Savills’ report.

This movement of professional estate regenerators between London boroughs is not limited, however, to real estate firm Savills. The Strategic Director of Regeneration in the Borough of Lambeth, Sue Foster, one of five Lambeth officers on a salary in excess of £150,000 (in her case nearly £180,000), has been invited hot from her success in the demolition of Hackney’s estates to oversee Lambeth’s demolition of its own council housing stock. And she has brought with her Neil Vokes, Lambeth’s Assistant Director of Housing Regeneration, who sits with us here this evening on the Resident Engagement Panel. Although we do not have the exact details of Mr. Vokes’ salary, I would guess that Mr. Vokes is one of the 32 Lambeth Council officers earning over £100,000. Clearly, like Councillor Bennett, he has a lot at stake in seeing that Savills’ demolition plans are carried out under the guise of regeneration. But since his time is clearly so valuable, I will come to my question, which I pose not to him but to the residents on the Residents Engagement Panel.

Given the nature of Savills plans, what is the likelihood that Homes for Lambeth, a housing association that is being set up by Savills, will not be designed to pursue this aggressive policy of the demolition of council estates and their redevelopment as upmarket homes far beyond the means of the current residents? Because unless Councillor Bennett’s skills as a property developer are considerably greater than those as an architectural critic, it is Savills, and not Lambeth Council, that will be running Homes for Lambeth. Or, indeed, what is the likelihood that Homes for Lambeth will not be sold to one of the existing large housing associations – Peabody, Notting Hill Housing or London and Quadrant seem to be the favourites of other Labour Councils – and that the replacement homes that have been promised by Lambeth Council to residents, tenants and leaseholders alike, will never materialise?

To answer this, I draw your attention to the instance of Lambeth’s current promises – promises not guarantees – to residents of Knights Walk, a part of Cotton Gardens Estate, which is being partially demolished to make way for new homes. Having consistently promised to make 50 per cent of the new homes for social rent as late as two weeks before the final recommendation to Cabinet in October 2015, that final decision saw the promise quietly reduced to 40 per cent. And even these figures, they make clear in their proposal, are only ‘indicative’, and subject to what the council calls ‘further detailed analysis’.

Let me repeat: this reduction in homes for social rent by 10 per cent occurred between the final consultation with Knight’s Walk residents and the Council’s final recommendation to Cabinet. What chance is there that whatever half-promises that same Cabinet makes to Central Hill residents now will be honoured in the ten years’ time it takes to compulsory purchase leaseholders, evict tenants, decant them to temporary accommodation, demolish their homes, build the new developments, and then re-house them on the new Homes for Lambeth housing association development in what we can already hear being marketed as ‘a vibrant new community in leafy Crystal Palace with unparalleled views of London and quick and easy transport connections to the City?’

Or, will residents find themselves socially cleansed from yet another up-and-coming neighbourhood of London according to the ‘value-capture mechanism’ Savills have so accurately anticipated the benefits of in actively gentrifying an area, through driving up the house prices beyond the reach of the local community, let alone the residents whose homes have been demolished to make way for them?

This is the context in which Architects for Social Housing makes it design proposals: not as one among several regeneration schemes, not even as the only refurbishment scheme among plans for demolition; but as the only proposal that will keep the existing Central Hill community intact and in control of their own lives. The alternatives are designed to do one thing: get residents out of their homes, with the only ‘Right to Return’ that of their financial ability to afford the deliberately increased prices of the luxury developments that will be built in their place.

Conclusion

Much has been made by Labour Councils of the recently passed Government’s Housing and Planning Act, on which they have been quick to blame the social cleansing of council estates they have in fact being pursuing independently for the past two decades. At the Cressingham Gardens Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Bennett said that under the Act’s new legislation secure tenancies will no longer exist, and that Lambeth Council, by offering residents what they call ‘assured life-time tenancies’, are taking the best option to counter this attack by Central Government on council housing.

This is a lie. Under the new legislation, secure Council tenancies will not be passed onto children, as they once were, and new council tenancies will only be for between 2-5 years. But existing secure council tenancies remain just that: secure tenancies. They are residents’ last line of defence against eviction from their homes. That is why Labour Councils everywhere are so threatened by the obstacle they present to their redevelopment plans. Unlike the assured tenancies they offer, from which residents can be evicted on as little as 8 weeks late rent, secure tenancies require the reasonable judgement and discretion of a court in order to evict the tenant, and the onus is on the Council to argue why they should be evicted. None of that has changed.

If residents give that security up, it is highly unlikely they will ever return to the estate in the ten years time it will take to build their replacements. The offers residents have received from Lambeth Council to ‘bid’ for a home within the borough will soon become a compulsory offer to accept temporary accommodation outside the borough. In the three years up to April 2015, nearly 50,000 London families were moved by councils, and mostly Labour Councils, outside their borough, some to outer boroughs, some outside the capital altogether. At the moment, this is a policy used by Labour Councils on people in temporary accommodation or who become homeless. But that is exactly what residents will become when they give up their existing secure tenancies for the empty promises of an utterly unscrupulous council that has demonstrated at every turn, every meeting, every consultation, every review and every decision that it is not to be trusted.

Their figures for Central Hill Estate have not yet been made available, but Lambeth have revealed that rents on the new developments at Cressingham Gardens Estate will be between 10 per cent for 4-bedroom homes and 25 per cent for 2-bedroom homes over current rates. The new homes to which leaseholders have a Right to Return will start at around £435,000 for a 1-bedroom flat, going up to £860,000 for a 4-bedroom flat, with the compensation they are likely to receive from their current homes around £250,000 for a 1-bedroom home going up to £470,000 for a 4 bedroom home. The sums may be higher in Brixton than they are in Crystal Palace, but the relation between them is indicative of what will be on offer. In effect, Lambeth Council will be almost doubling house prices on Central Hill Estate.

Homeowners now will have to come up with 60 per cent of the equity on the new Homes for Lambeth developments, or share equity with their new landlords, whomever that may be by the time the new developments are built. Secure tenants now, as Councillor Bennett indicated last week, will be offered the solace of housing benefit . . . This shambles is what Lambeth are promising residents now. And there is nothing, beside the opinions and consciences of the Council and its Cabinet, to stop them changing those promises in the future.

In conclusion, we remind the council officers on the Resident Engagement Panel that Lambeth Council’s commitment to the residents of the council estates that voted them to office must be measured in different terms to those used by a property developer or housing association; they must be different to those used by Ms Cliffe when she talks about the cost of the new build homes in ASH’s designs and the cost of refurbishing the homes the Council has neglected for so long, but characteristically makes no mention whatsoever of the cost, both financial and psychological, to the people who live in the homes Lambeth proposes demolishing.

We urge the Resident Engagement Council and the residents of Central Hill Estate to adopt and support ASH’s plans for the infill, refurbishment and genuine regeneration of their estate, and the continued existence of the Central Hill community it is home to. Against the greed and lies of those who seek to destroy it for their own political and financial gain, long may it flourish.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

Central Hill: Design Proposals

1. Continuation not Demolition

Central Hill is an extremely well-designed estate whose masterplan, drawn up by LCC architect Rosemary Stjernstedt, is a model of community living and estate planning. Completed in the early 1970s, it consists of 456 structurally sound flats that are home to an established and strong community of over 1,000 people.ASH’s proposals aim to respect and continue the existing architecture, both its social vision and design intentions. These include the democratic access of all residents to views over London and the accompanying sunlight, the cleverly designed and well-proportioned interiors, the numerous outdoor and communal spaces, the car-free places where children can play in safety, and the many green ‘fingers’ that run through the estate, linking it to the surrounding neighbourhood of Crystal Palace and its parks. Far than demolishing the estate, ASH believes we should be exporting Central Hill as a model of council housing that can meet London’s housing needs.

The aims of our design proposals are threefold: 1) The continuation and improvement of the existing estate, with an increase in the number of homes; 2) The generation of the funds to pay for its refurbishment; and 3) The continued existence of the community it houses.

A1 HORIZONTAL2

2. Estate Overviews

In consultation with residents at workshops held over the last 9 months, ASH has identified 14 possible Infill sites where we believe we can add extra homes without demolishing any existing residences, while respecting the existing architecture and green spaces. In addition, we have also identified sites and methods for building Roof Extensions on top of some of the existing homes around the outer edges of the estate, respecting the existing views across and within the estate.

In the Overviews and Plans below, Infill sites are shown in yellow, and Roof Extensions in pink.

A1 HORIZONTAL3

A1 HORIZONTAL4

3. Plans: Infill, Roof Extensions and Landscape

We have identified opportunities for building up to 250 additional homes on Central Hill estate without demolishing any of the existing homes. This is almost as much as Lambeth Council’s lowest full-demolition option of around 310 new homes, and considerably more than PRP Architect’s infill option of 83 new homes, which has been discarded by Lambeth Council.

A1 HORIZONTAL5

A1 HORIZONTAL6

4. Site Overviews

 

On the Old Boiler House – A New Entrance to the Estate

Site 1. The Towers are a beacon that celebrates the history of Central Hill estate. In our proposal, the existing boiler structure is retained, and the ground and first floors are converted into workshops for commercial use. A new 6-storey residential block of flats is built on top, and a new 4-storey terrace is added on Lunham Road

A1 vertical_finalsm2

On Lunham Road and Pear Tree House – New Communal Spaces

Site 2. The Central Communal green space is improved and increased in size.

Site 3. The existing community hall is demolished, and all communal facilities are reprovided in the new buildings around the edge of the estate, with new housing above.

Site 4. The existing housing office is demolished, and reprovided at the base of a new building, with new flats above.

Site 13. Six new maisonettes are proposed in the garden of Pear Tree house

Site 18. The existing public square is to be refurbished. There is potential for the existing underground parking to be opened up, and new uses such as youth facilities provided in the adjacent spaces.

A1 vertical_finalsm3

Behind the Trees – A New Tall Building

Site 5. This 6-storey building is hidden behind the trees with direct access from the main road.

A1 vertical_finalsm4

On Central Hill – New Fringe Housing

Sites 6-9. This new housing along Central Hill respects the existing tree line, and maintains light to the existing 1-bedroom flats through a roof which resembles the Gypsy Hill part of the estate. Small walkways will connect the houses to the main road, with level access providing homes for the elderly and those with disabilities with direct access to the main road. Gardens are proposed above the parking between these new buildings and the existing 1-bedroom flats.

We propose that some of the new buildings resemble the architecture of the Gypsy Hill part of the estate in material and form. In particular, the adoption of their pitched roofs will reduce the impact of the new homes on the existing buildings, as well as allowing views through them. This is part of our commitment to honour and continue the architecture of the existing estate.

A1 vertical_finalsm5

On the Hostel – A New Gatehouse to the Estate

Site 10. A new 4-6 storey block could replace the existing hostel which would be reprovided as part of the new proposed scheme. The new buildings would reinforce the edges while keeping as many of the existing trees as possible.

Sites  11 and 12. New maisonettes and a new 4-5 storey block form a strong edge and corner to the estate. The use of concrete and white brick ties the new buildings in with the existing ones.

A1 vertical_finalsm6

On the Former Police Station – A New Tower

Site 14. We propose building a new Tower to the rear of the existing police station site. This could be an exciting new addition to the area with some of the best views in London. The front of the police station could remain a community space.

A1 vertical_finalsm7

On Existing 1-Bedroom Homes – New Roof Extensions

Site 15. Around the edge of the estate some housing is proposed on top of some of the existing homes, but only where they don’t affect the existing view within the estate. On top of the 1-bedroom flat blocks we propose to extend the existing stairs to an extra flat on top. These would be constructed of lightweight prefabricated timber elements and craned into place. These new homes would have zinc, pitched roofs for both durability and to address the problem of leaking caused by flat roofs.

A1 vertical_finalsm8

On Existing 3-4 Bedroom Homes – New Roof Extensions 

Site 16. On top of some of the 3-4 bed homes we propose adding an extra floor or two. These would be accessed off new stairs at the sides, constructed of lightweight, prefabricated timber elements, and craned into place. Structurally, without yet having carried out a detailed survey, our surveyor has said that, given the robustness of the existing buildings and foundations, it is safe to assume that the existing homes are perfectly capable of carrying another floor or two if built of lightweight construction. As a confirmation of this, on top of some of the existing homes there are concrete water tank housings.

A1 vertical_finalsm9

5. Strategies: Refurbishment and Landscape

 

Refurbishment Strategy

We know there are problems with the existing homes, such as mould and condensation. But these are common problems, in this instance caused by Lambeth Council renovations in the form of badly designed and fitted windows, and are very easily remedied by well-designed and careful refurbishment. ASH are working on a similar scheme in West Kensington, where we are also proposing infill and refurbishment, and some of these buildings have similar problems. The solutions are improved ventilation strategies, better double glazing and local insulation to cold bridges. We believe it is reasonable to assume the same strategies are applicable here. In no respect are these problems justification for demolishing an entire estate, as is argued by Lambeth Council.

We also propose to renovate the existing walkways to improve the surfaces, with a new lighting strategy, and to replace the wonderful planting throughout the estate that was part of the original scheme, but which has recently been ripped up by Lambeth Council as part of a policy of managed decline.

Environmentally, the proposal to demolish all 456 perfectly good homes would release tonnes of embodied carbon back into the atmosphere unnecessarily, and is contrary to Lambeth’s own sustainability strategy.

A1 vertical_finalsm10

Landscape Strategy

Central Hill currently has the key role of a green corridor between Ravenscourt Park and Crystal Palace. Demolishing the estate would separate the two green areas and have a negative impact on the well-being of local wildlife as well as that of the residents.

In spite of the negative representation of the estate by PRP architects, who were appointed by Lambeth Council to come up with the redevelopment plans, Central Hill is a beautiful garden to walk through. Residents recognise the value of their estate’s green spaces. Residents’ participation in the Open Garden Estates event in June 2015 demonstrates this, as does the daily use of the playgrounds and alleys by children.

Over the summer of 2015 ASH worked closely with Central Hill residents to come up with proposals for improvements to the landscape of the estate. The proposed interventions, which were developed in open consultation with residents, are light additions that tap into Central Hill’s great potential. These include new designs for balconies and patios, the introduction of a marketplace in the main square, vegetable gardens and playground improvements, and proposals for the reuse of the recycling castles.

A1 vertical_finalsm12

A1 vertical_finalsm11

A1 vertical_finalsm13

6. Costing and Conclusion

Lambeth Council’s own surveyor has estimated the cost of refurbishment at £18.5 million, around £40,000 per home. In contrast, replacing the estate’s 456 existing homes has been estimated by one of Lambeth’s own architects at £225-240,000 per home. That’s around £120 million before a single new home has been built in a reportedly broke Borough supposedly trying to reduce its housing waiting list.

At an average of £240,000 per home, the construction cost of ASH’s proposed 250 new homes is £60 million. To this we would need to add £18.5 million for refurbishment, and an additional £3.5 million for community facilities and landscape improvements, a total of £82 million. Based on Lambeth Council’s own sale values on new 1-4 bedroom homes for the redevelopment of Cressingham Gardens estate (1-bedroom £435,000 to 4-bedroom £863,000), ASH’s proposal would require the sale of approximately 125 homes, or around 50 percent of the new builds, to generate the necessary funds. The remaining 125 homes would all be available for council rent. With the 136 leaseholders currently on the estate, that would make a total of 261 leaseholders and 445 tenants, with 63 percent for council rent. By comparison, Lambeth are promising, without guarantees, only 40 percent social rent on their redevelopment at Knight’s Walk. And whatever percentage of the new homes they would actually end up offering existing tenants, by Lambeth’s own guarantees these would be assured, not secured, tenancies.

Given these figures, ASH is convinced that Infill is the best future for Central Hill estate, providing the ‘more and better homes’ that Lambeth needs and improving the estate for the community that lives there. We believe this is the only genuinely sustainable and viable option for Central Hill estate – environmentally, socially and economically.

Say no to the demolition of your home; no to decanting to temporary accommodation; no to waiting in line to apply for rehousing; no to waiting five years to see if Lambeth Council lets you back onto the new estate; no to new assured tenancies with no rights and increased rents; no to waiting to see what the Housing and Planning Bill does to the length of your new tenancy; no to compulsory purchase orders on your home; no to legal inquiries with Lambeth’s lawyers; no to the threat of enforced evictions; no to remortgaging to meet the doubled cost of your new home; no to watching your life’s savings halve in value; no to a ten year re-building plan; no to broken Council promises under new Government legislation; no to handing over of London’s council housing to private investors; no to doubling the burden on local schools, hospitals and roads; no to the environmental impact from the destruction of 456 homes; no to ten years of lorries driving up your roads; no to being priced out of your area; no to losing your view to the highest bidder; no to the gentrification of your neighbourhood; no to the social cleansing of your community. Say yes to infill, roof extensions and the refurbishment of your homes.

We hope you will support our proposals.

Community Consultation: The future of Central Hill estate

Exhibition Poster

On Saturday, 20 February, from 2-5pm, Architects for Social Housing presented their architectural proposals for the continuation and future of Central Hill estate at an exhibition and meeting held at Christ Church hall, Gipsy Hill.

The Save Central Hill Community campaign has been fighting since February 2015 to save their estate and the community it houses. ASH were invited to join them last June, since when we have been holding design workshops with residents and asking what they want for the estate. Residents have voted overwhelmingly against demolition and for refurbishment, and in response we have come up with design proposals that will save the estate from Lambeth Council’s bulldozers.

At the invitation of the Residents Engagement Panel, and as guests of the vicar of Christ Church who generously offered the church hall for our use, ASH exhibited its architectural proposals at a public event open to all. Our designs propose alternatives to demolition, with infill and build-over options that will increase the housing capacity of the estate by up to 250 homes, generate the funds to refurbish the existing 456 homes, and (most importantly) keep the existing community together.

Presentations were given by the Chair of the Central Hill Tenants and Residents Association and members of ASH, the contents of which can be found in posts on this website, including the full architectural proposals. Afterwards, the meeting opened to heated discussion from the floor that lasted for over an hour. Finally, residents and community members were asked to write down their comments and opinions about the proposals and stick them on the design boards.

The meeting was attended by over a hundred residents of Central Hill estate, as well as members of the Crystal Palace Community, supporters from Cressingham Gardens and other Lambeth estates threatened with demolition, journalists and a film-crew making a documentary about estate regeneration in London. Not one of Lambeth’s 63 Councillors attended.

The future of Central Hill estate lies in the hands of its residents, not in those of Lambeth Council. Please join us. 

DSC_0178

IMG_0476

DSC_0182

IMG_0479

DSC_0194

IMG_0481

DSC_0183

IMG_0482

DSC_0187

DSC_0197

DSC_0196

DSC_0198

DSC_0202

DSC_0208

DSC_0200

DSC_0209

©L.G.8195

DSC_0216

©L.G.8199

DSC_0218

DSC_0224

DSC_0226

DSC_0227

DSC_0230

DSC_0233

DSC_0223

©L.G.8260

DSC_0177

DSC_0168

DSC_0236

DSC_0241

DSC_0251

DSC_0257

DSC_0242

DSC_0240

DSC_0247

DSC_0262

DSC_0263

DSC_0252

Photographs by Leonie Weber, Geraldine Dening and ©L.G.