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‘Dismayed’ heritage group objects to BPTW plans for Lambeth estate

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BPTW has submitted plans for the first phase of the controversial overhaul of the 1960s Central Hill estate in south London – to the ‘dismay’ of heritage campaigners

The practice, which has a studio in nearby Greenwich, applied to Lambeth Council for permission to replace the four-storey Truslove House on Roman Rise near Gypsy Hill Station with a seven-storey residential block.

The scheme, which would create 31 affordable homes, represents the first chunk of a revamp of Rosemary Stjernstedt’s 450-home Central Hill estate, which completed in 1975. A pioneering female architect, Stjernstedt led the post-war housing scheme for the Lambeth Borough Architects Department during the directorship of Ted Hollamby.

Conservation organisation The Twentieth Century Society previously attempted to secure listed status for the estate but the bid was rejected in 2016.

Now, in its latest attempt to protect Central Hill, the society has sent a letter of objection to the council over the plans for Roman Rise.

’We recognise that flexibility and compromise would be needed in order for Central Hill to be successfully refurbished as social housing, possibly involving the replacement of peripheral buildings of lesser significance,’ wrote Twentieth Century Society senior caseworker Grace Etherington to Lambeth senior planning officer Sinead Winship.

’However we consider that this should be justified as part of an estate-wide strategy, rather than the piecemeal approach shown in this application. Without any indication of the long-term future of the estate at this stage, we cannot see that a balanced judgement can be made regarding the level of harm these proposals would cause to the estate’s significance.’

BPTW said its scheme would ’provide high-quality, affordable homes and make more effective use of the site by increasing the number of dwellings currently provided’.

Planning documents say flats will benefit from minimum floor-to-ceiling heights of 2.5m; all living areas will be dual-aspect; and large patio doors will provide high levels of natural light.

The practice said the block was stepped in elevation, using different brick types to break up the streetscape along Roman Rise. 

Lambeth Council last year announced it was taking the entire regeneration of the Central Hill estate in south London back in-house, to be led by its own development company Homes for Lambeth, after ditching contractor Mace.

Homes for Lambeth said BPTW’s proposals would ‘significantly improve the quality, appearance and landscape of the local area’.

A new communal garden would provide ‘high-quality amenity and play space for new and existing residents’, said the body.

’Furthermore, improvements to landscaping and planting of new trees alongside Roman Rise and Central Hill will enhance the appearance on the street.

’All new homes will comply with the Mayor of London’s residential standards and be provided with private amenity space. The new homes comprise high-quality architectural design, which seeks to provide an attractive and safe place for people to live and visit.’

Is the listing process biased towards big-name architects?

As the battle over Central Hill intensifies, The Twentieth Century Society has raised concerns that buildings by big name architects were favoured for heritage protection over council-designed schemes.

The conservation champion renewed calls for greater protection of post-war housing estates crerated by less famous names.

Pioneering modernist Berthold Lubetkin’s 1966 Sivill House in Tower Hamlets was granted Grade II status recently. The official entry for the 20-storey housing block on the heritage list says it is of architectural and historic interest because the tower ‘applies themes found throughout Lubetkin’s work to exemplary effect on an important post-war building’. 

Yet the bid to secure listed status for Lambeth Borough Architects Departments’ 1975 Central Hill estate was rejected in 2016. Historic England said that although the development represented an early exploration of Le Corbusier’s ‘hill town’ concept in England, it lacked ‘the combination of finely construed architectural units, integrated into a creative and sophisticated plan’ to merit its listing.

Twentieth Century Society senior caseworker Grace Etherington said this week: ‘While we are delighted about [the listing of] Sivill House, we feel there is still little chance of the same [heritage protection] happening for post-war estates that don’t have an association with a famous architect, and the high benchmark means that many estates designed by local authority architects’ departments are overlooked, despite being of a similar high quality.’

In 2014, PRP was appointed by Lambeth Council to draw up options for a ‘higher-density’ redevelopment of the Central Hill estate, but the plans were not taken forward.

Meanwhile, alternative designs for Central Hill by Architects for Social Housing found room for an additional 242 dwellings through infill and roof extensions without demolishing any homes, increasing the estate’s current capacity from 476 homes to 718.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • In the context of the history of the best of post WW2 social housing in this country, if the work of Ted Hollamby's architects doesn't deserve really serious attention then there's something basically wrong somewhere - perhaps in the motivation of Historic England, as well as that of our government?
    I wonder what the current Lambeth councillors, and their staff, think of the development proposals worked up by ASH, and the reasoning behind these?
    And what are PRP up to - are architects who seem to be blind to social and cultural considerations excused from criticism because they need the work?

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