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Mayor attacks Hawkins\Brown’s ‘unacceptable’ Alton Estate plans


London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he has ‘serious concerns’ over Hawkins\Brown’s proposals to demolish and replace a large chunk of the landmark 1950s Alton Estate in Roehampton, south-west London

Earlier this summer Wandsworth Council and its development partner, Redrow, submitted plans for a major overhaul of the 12.5ha London County Council-built estate in Roehampton, which proposes 1,103 homes for the site.

The so-called Alton Green scheme, which has also been drawn up with Barton Willmore, TateHindle, and Gillespies, includes flattening and rebuilding 158 social rented homes and 130 privately rented units and adding just over 800 further new homes.

However, of these extra homes, only 53 will be classed as affordable – 30 for social rent and 23 shared-ownership – with a further 45 classed as shared equity. 

As well as questioning the amount of affordable homes being proposed, the Greater London Authority’s planning officers said that putting the social housing in two ‘segregated single-tenure blocks on the periphery of the site’ was ‘unacceptable’.

The report, signed off by Khan, added that the officers also had ’serious concerns’ about the ’quality of affordable housing and principles of inclusive design’. They added that the proposed scheme did not comply with the London Plan Policy as it did not deliver like-for-like replacement of social rented units, that there were ‘shortcomings in the consultation process’; and that the decant strategy was ‘significantly lacking in detail and [did] not take account of the impact of Compulsory Purchase Order process’.

The Mayor’s decision goes on: ’Furthermore, the disproportionate impact of the rehousing of non-secured social tenants on women and BAME occupants is also of concern and the applicant should provide further comfort that the rehousing of these residents would be managed to minimise harm.’

The report comes just weeks after The Twentieth Century Society put the 3,300 home estate on its latest ’At Risk list’. In July heritage campaigners also hit out at the new plans, with architectural historian Barnabas Calder claiming the ’the saddest single part of a bad proposal [was] the loss of the original entrance to the estate, Allbrook House, and the early-Brutalist maisonettes and shops opposite’.

Although Alton’s famous five ‘slab’ blocks, were listed in the 1990s, Allbrook House was left out and is one of the buildings due for demolition.

Yet, according to its backers, the regeneration scheme will breathe new life into the estate and includes a new ‘urban quarter’ featuring a village square and community building hosting the new Roehampton Library, a health centre, spaces to rehouse the BASE Youth Club, and a community hall. 

The council argues that the replacement homes come at a ‘significant cost’ and a ‘balance must be struck between affordable housing delivery and the wider strategic regeneration objectives for the estate.’

Allbrook House and library on the Alton Estate

Allbrook House and library on the Alton Estate

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgeezer/

Allbrook House and library on the Alton Estate

Last month Hawkins\Brown partner Seth Rutt defended the scheme, saying: ‘Our proposal retains the integrity of the estate masterplan while protecting its social purpose and prioritising community facilities. We are working with the council to achieve high-quality affordable housing meeting the council’s proposed target.’ 

He added that the changes to Alton Estate were part of Wandsworth’s Supplementary Planning Document which ‘predates’ the practice’s involvement.

In 2014, Studio Egret West won a competition to masterplan the regeneration of the estate but Hawkins\Brown was subsequently appointed by Redrow to take the project forward.

Responding to the latest Mayoral decision, Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said: ’Our ambitious regeneration proposals are for the construction of more than a thousand new homes to meet the housing needs of our residents.

’This number includes 280 new and replacement council homes to add to the more than 3,300 that already exist on the estate, leading to a net increase of more than 830 homes. There would also be new shops, a health centre, nurseries, playgrounds and other early years provision, improved community facilities, better open space and a revamped, bigger and fully modernised local library. It will offer people on the estate vastly improved living conditions.

The scheme has been developed over six years with extensive consultation

’The scheme has been developed over six years with extensive consultation with the local community and locally elected councillors. People in the area have played a central role in helping to produce these plans and ensuring the regeneration meets their day-to-day needs. It is our core guarantee that all residents living in the regeneration area will be able to remain part of their community and all secure council tenants are being offered a secure tenancy and a bright, modern new home on the estate, as are all existing resident leaseholders and freeholders.

’Our priority above everything else is to provide sustainable, decent, high-quality homes for our residents, which is why we are committed to delivering this project and contributing over £100 million from our own budgets in order to create this vibrant new neighbourhood.

‘We are still in discussions with the GLA and absolutely confident we will be able to satisfactorily address the points their planning officers have raised.’

 A planning committee date for the plans has not yet been announced.


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Readers' comments (7)

  • No wonder we have a housing shortage.

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  • Long ago and far away, Ahrends, Burton and Koralek were invited to build an extension to Butterfield's Keble College, Oxford. A little later Peter Ahrends addressed us students, and pointed out that their first suggestion to the college was that it would be more cost effective (it is not a rich college) to carefully repurpose and connect the big Victorian villas that lined the site. That one of the finest and most sculptural, compelling and beautifully functional pieces of new architecture in Oxford was finally built was only down to the college deciding they were unlikely to raise funds for anything less than a bold new building. In all respects the success was triumphant.

    Different prioroties now dominate, and once more the word 'Sustainable' has been abused, seemingly in the interests of a developer's financial spreadsheets, which also happen to enhance an architect's turnover.

    Nothing is more sustainable than re-using existing buildings through minimal upgrading, particularly when wholesale reconstruction/refitting means the criminal decanting of settled communities (where to?) and turning powerful architecture into what look like deadly dull speculative office blocks. The "Architects Declare" manifesto looked cynical and meaningless within minutes of the "Tulip" making its hilariously pointless appearance, and it now brings shame on all those who "Declared". How shocking - and depressing.

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  • Well done the Mayor of London. If VAT were equalised across refurb. and new-build housing, establishing a level playing-field, it would be possible to carry out objective cost-benefit analyses comparing the two procurement routes, rather than the present 20% incentive to demolish and rebuild, which externalises the waste of embodied energy and the social disruption costs.

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  • Clare Richards

    Absolutely right of the Mayor and GLA planners to take issue with the Alton Estate proposals. Putting aside the damage to a pioneering council housing exemplar and the flouting of planning rules, this shows a worrying disregard for important social design principles. The first is integration. Well-integrated communities are more successful for all sorts of reasons. It took resident mums at the Lilian Baylis development in Lambeth to call out the socially divisive (and clearly ridiculous) segregation of playgrounds. Scale that up to housing blocks and you have the Alton Estate situation and all the makings of a segregated community. Regeneration of London’s estates is already dividing communities and displacing long-term residents. Scale that up again to the challenge of building tens of thousands of homes and the implications become enormous.

    Then there’s the principle of self-determination. The more say and control people feel they have over their future, the better the outcome. It’s not good enough to be ‘consulted’ on a set of predetermined proposals — not just because it’s now bad practice, but because it adds no value whatsoever. To work collaboratively with communities and residents, from the earliest suggestion of regeneration, ensures buy-in and a better result. The social value it generates, in every sense, makes this a much more sustainable development model for all parties.

    (Listen to what local kids have to say about the regeneration at Manor House, in a short film ft’work made for the London Festival of Architecture. It’s very relevant: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=_NHyHz2JOyo).

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  • It seems like the council decided that they wanted 800 new homes (mostly private) a long time ago in a business plan, and also the maximum heights in the area. That's some big constraints to put on all the various different designers.
    These buildings do need an energy efficiency upgrade at least if we are going to reduce our carbon footprint though, we are going to have to find a way to refit all listed buildings if we want to keep using them in the way they were designed.

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  • Kate and Trimtrab make a good point on VAT. A petition is on-going to reduce VAT on retrofit. All our profession please support this

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  • Robert has nailed it once again...greed prevails. The idea is to ‘declare’ (words are cheap) and then just carry on with business as usual. We have a housing shortage because we haven’t built any council houses for 40 years…Do I have to keep repeating the mantra of neoliberalism, deregulation and privatisation? These are the reasons why we have an unequal and failed society, and shortly country if Boris Johnson has anything to do with it. Once the rule of law goes it’s best to reach for the shotgun, either for suicide or self defence.

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