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Housing campaigners target HTA offices

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Activists opposing the overhaul of a south-east London housing estate gatecrashed a private planning meeting at the offices of architectural lead HTA Design to warn professionals off the project

The Fight4Aylesbury group, which is campaigning against the redevelopment of the 2,700-home Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, claims the scheme would lead to ‘social cleansing’, because increased rents and less secure tenancies will drive away current residents.

Designed by Hans Peter Trenton for Southwark Council and built between 1966 and 1977, the estate was brought to national prominence when Tony Blair used it for the backdrop of his first public speech after becoming prime minister in 1997.

Last month Notting Hill Housing Group (NHHG) won full planning permission for the 800-home first phase of the estate’s redevelopment and outline consent for a further 2,745 homes, as well as retail, employment and community facilities.

The proposals range from low-rise terraces to towers of up to 20 storeys and feature elements designed by HTA, Mae, Hawkins\Brown and Duggan Morris.

Fight4Aylesbury member Aysen Dennis said that around 15 of the group stormed Tuesday night’s meeting in Camden, north London and that architects would be targeted again in future.

‘We want these architects to back down from the project,’ she said.

‘We’ve told them that if they’re going to continue, we’re going to keep protesting like this and that will involve our network of housing activists across London.

‘They know there’s nothing wrong with our buildings that refurbishment couldn’t fix for much less than the £1.5billion they’re talking about for the Aylesbury.

‘This is privatisation and it’s ethically wrong.’

HTA partner Simon Bayliss told AJ that the event had been a private session with two of the other practices involved in the project, but had been disbanded when the protesters arrived.

‘We are of course sympathetic to their concerns but believe this project to be a real force for good,’ he said.

‘HTA has been working closely with Notting Hill Housing and Southwark Council since 2012 to develop detailed proposals for the regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate, in accordance with the adopted Aylesbury Area Action Plan from 2010.

We are of course sympathetic to their concern

‘We have led a team of committed designers and are incredibly proud of how this collaboration has produced such coherent and refined designs based around a new network of streets and an architecture that reflects the best of traditional and contemporary housing design in London.’

Last month NHHG said 50 per cent of the new homes built on the estate would be ‘affordable’, of which three-quarters would be let at ‘target’ rents, and the remainder sold on a shared-equity basis.

Fight4Aylesbury said the housing provider’s definition of ‘affordable’ was in stark contrast to current rents and service charges paid by tenants and leaseholders, and that the redevelopment would destroy break up the community.

A Notting Hill Housing spokesman said rents for the new affordable homes would be capped to a formula.

He said that while rates had yet to be set, rents at a nearby development ranged from £121.42 per week for a one-bedroom flat to £166.63 for a three-bedroom flat.

Work on the Aylesbury Estate redevelopment’s first phase is due to begin on-site in the autumn.

Previous story (AJ 06.10.2014)

Plans submitted for overhaul of London’s 1970s Aylesbury Estate

HTA, Hawkins\Brown and mæ have submitted plans for the ‘heroic but human-scale’ overhaul of the 1970s Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, south east London

The scheme for the Notting Hill Housing Trust will replace the Hans Peter Trenton-designed estate with 3,500 new homes - half of which will be affordable.

Detailed plans for the 815-home first phase, and an outline application for the remaining 2,685 units, were lodged with Southwark Council last week.

When completed in 1977 the 2,704-unit Aylesbury Estate - which will be completely flattened - was one of the largest social housing developments in Europe. However the area fell into decline.

According to the practices, the 18-year, £1.5billion regeneration programme will create a new ‘tight-knit neighbourhood based around a series of courtyards, parks and roof terraces.’

In a joint statement the design team said: ‘It has been a rewarding process working collaboratively on this project. The scale of the regeneration project is heroic, but the masterplan has allowed us to design at a human scale and create a piece of city together.

‘What has struck us about this project is a widening of tenures beyond the well-rehearsed private sale/social rent/shared ownership mix.

‘Existing Aylesbury residents will be able to move to new fuel-efficient target rent homes- and private rented housing will cater for the squeezed middle who can’t afford to buy a property. Market homes will cross-subsidise the project and the first phase will also include extra care housing for over 55’s and housing for people with learning disabilities.’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Ben Derbyshire

    Activisim, Equity and the Trolls.

    An equitable London would be a city characterised by fairness; one in which planning decisions can be seen to be just and right; the outcomes are reasonable and the processes transparent. And one definition of planning is that it's a democratic means of legitimising the disadvantage suffered by a few in the interests of the many.

    The invasion of our workplace by a banner waving group of activists interrupted an internal presentation with the message that they would continue to occupy our studio until the team of architects, landscape architects, designers and others who are involved agreed to withdraw from the project where we are part of a design team supporting the redevelopment of the sixties built housing there. I responded that there was no way we could agree to give up on a project that will bring about so much positive change.

    The group would not respond to my requests that they should leave having made their point and so of course the meeting had to be abandoned. Once the presenters and the audience had responded to my apologetic request to vacate the space, I was surrounded by an intimidating group, shouting accusations, abuse and taking photographs that were later posted on digital media, embellished with unflattering captions.

    The Aylesbury regeneration project has in fact been going on for years, with a huge investment of time and money in feasibility studies, consultation, planning, masterplanning, urban and landscape design, architecture, procurement of development partners, approval of grant funding leading finally to almost unanimous detailed planning approval for a first development phase of 830 homes and outline planning for the entire masterplan of 2,800 homes only a month before we were invaded.

    So it is at the very least implausible, but in any event undemocratic, to suggest so late in the day that an assault on the office of the design team, posted on digital media, might begin to unravel a process that has only got thus far because it is carried forward on a tide of middle ground support that has had years of opportunity to scrutinise and understand the pros and cons of the regeneration project. And it’s not ok to invade people’s offices, not ok to harass and insult people face to face or on social media. That's called trolling.

    Much as I can understand the frustration of this group of activists I can't accept that their approach is either equitable or civilised. London is a seedbed of invention and the ready availability of a diverse and affordable housing stock is not only necessary for reasons of fairness. If we are to retain our position as a world city we must sustain the opportunity for those we have attracted over the years to coexist, interact, exchange ideas and contribute to the constant renewal of our economy and culture. We won't stop London haemorrhaging its low paid, its young and its inventive, creative talent by standing in the way of development that adds to the stock of quality and affordable housing.

    And anyone who doubts my commitment to these principles should read my London Society paper, 'Building Greater London - an end to the capital's crisis of affordability'.

    Ben Derbyshire
    Managing Partner, HTA Design LLP
    Chair, The Housing Forum.

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