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Class war breaks out in Accordia as wealthy seek ban on alterations

Estate’s private homeowners campaign to list six-year-old scheme to guard against ‘damage’ by social housing residents’ modifications

Residents of Stirling Prize-winning Accordia in Cambridge have mounted an audacious bid to list the housing development and win conservation area status.

The residents’ association is seeking to safeguard the ‘architectural uniformity’ of the Fielden Clegg Bradley, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks-designed estate just six years after the first houses were built.

The campaign is led by owners of Accordia’s million pound properties – including several architects – who warn that private owners’ extensions and unsympathetic replacement of materials by social housing residents risk irreversibly damaging the internationally acclaimed development’s appearance.

While permitted development rights for extensions were removed under the masterplan’s original consent, recent deviations from the architects’ plan include two car ports and an upper deck on privately owned houses being transformed into additional rooms (pictured, top right). Wood staining has also been applied to timber porches on social housing which was intended to fade.

The association has already applied for conservation area status and is bidding for a more stringent Article Four direction to outlaw brickwork painting and all but ‘like-for-like’ door and window replacement.

If approved later this month, it will be the city’s first. An application to English Heritage for listing is expected within the year.

Architect and resident Bruce Stewart said: ‘Accordia is new and we haven’t reached the point where people have to replace windows and doors but when we get to that point it is possible people will compromise the look and go for change if there is no guidance and no legislation.’

Pointing to recent alterations, he said: ‘The whole thing hangs together because of its homogeneity. We are keen to get in there before damage is done.’

English Heritage’s East of England designation department team leader, Tony Calladine, supported the Article Four direction but warned that the housing scheme was ‘much too young’ for listing. He said: ‘Buildings under 30 years old are normally only assessed for listing if they are of outstanding quality and under threat.’

Cambridge City Council head of urban design and conservation Glen Richardson said: ‘It is a modern development and a lot of Article Four directions apply more to historic townscape than new areas.’

Keith Bradley, Richard Lavington and Alison Brooks have all supported conservation area status for Accordia.




Readers' comments (8)

  • We all get attached to our designs but it's easy to forget that it's the people who inhabit a place which make it live. Ultimately they are our design partners whether we like what they do or not. Legislating against individual expression is regressive and leads to fossilised places. Even historic buildings which are rightly protected are different from how they appeared as built; with all the technology and research in the world we can't hold back the effects of time, weathering or social change.
    Simon Watkins

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  • Corb had this problem with his Pessac housing. His response?
    "The architect is always wrong and people are always right"
    Or words to that effect.

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  • It is not "class war" and the headline is misleading and damaging. Let the Residents' Association sort it out without maligning either an excellent piece of design or reinforcing the negative view that social housing can not or should not be successfully integrated with private dwellings.

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  • David Rushe

    I think its wonderful that the residents have customised and personalised the development as a reflection of their individuality and have adapted and use the spaces to their needs. It is galling to hear Architects protesting the personalisation and habitation of a design they have no say over. The housing scheme has won numerous awards, has been featured in many publications and no doubt has given the relevant architects more commissions as a result. But how the buildings are used post design and occupancy is outside their remit.

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  • David Rushe

    @Louis - Pessac! That was the scheme that was on the tip of my tongue!

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  • I've always felt that what this development really needed was the odd bit of stone cladding and upvc leaded windows.

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  • Have the private tenants perhaps thought about building a high wall between themselves and the social housing aka 'the proles' so they dont have to look at their tasteless alterations?
    Perhaps one of the many resident architects could design the wall. A very tasteful wall. Obviously.

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  • Does seem to be a lose-lose situation should you move here. Your neighbours are either middle-class nimby 'aesthetes' or lumpenproleteriat.

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