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Just because you're a council tenant, it doesn't mean you can't have a say

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An estate resident and members of Hackney Council’s regeneration team on their experiences of the regeneration of London’s housing estates

Estate regeneration team, Hackney Council

At Hackney, we are making use of our land to build more than 2,760 new council homes for social renting and shared ownership – along with those for private sale to pay for it all. Our estate regeneration team is leading on the delivery of this building programme at all stages, from decisions on which estates and sites to redevelop through to setting the briefs for those sites, selecting architects, managing the design process and procuring contractors or developer partners.

The 18-site programme adopts a portfolio approach, rather than focusing on individual sites, and nearly 300 homes have been built so far, including 201 for social rent. The team is committed to good design and aims to build exemplary housing, public spaces and streets that will endure, be considered a success, and be a pleasure to live in. This commitment runs through all of the processes that are involved.

Ambitious, design-led briefs are developed for each project and talented design teams selected through design competitions. Particular attention is paid to elements often neglected in housing developments, such as the design of communal entrance lobbies, defensible space, and storage and utility areas.

Public realm is prioritised in the design process; the transformation of streets, squares and shared gardens is recognised as key to the success of estate regeneration projects. Every scheme is developed to a level of detail to ensure the design intent is preserved throughout the construction phases. With the Colville Estate in Hoxton we worked with Karakusevic Carson Architects to design a series of streets that seamlessly connect with the surroundings.

Colville Estate in Hoxton by Karakusevic Carson

Colville Estate in Hoxton by Karakusevic Carson

The materials palette has been selected to be similar to those found on a conventional London street. Informal play areas, community gardens and seating areas have been integrated into new streets to encourage a sociable and diverse street life. The project is characterised by a highly collaborative way of working with residents and extensive input from theresident steering group.

With the Kings Crescent Estate in Stoke Newington, the regeneration approach has been to treat the estate as part of the city. Existing buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s are being retained, providing continuity and transition. Karakusevic Carson Architects and Henley Halebrown Rorrison are leading the refurbishment of these buildings, based on a sympathetic understanding of their structure, form and function.

Consultation on the Karakusevic Carson's Kings Crescent Estate in Stoke Newington

Consultation on the Karakusevic Carson’s Kings Crescent Estate in Stoke Newington

The proposals include converting ground floor garages in existing blocks into new homes. Although technically challenging, the transformative impact on the estate – in terms of making it a welcoming, safe and lively place – will be considerable. As well as large-scale regeneration projects, we are also developing smaller plots.

At Aikin Court, which is a corner site in a terraced street in Stoke Newington, we are working with Stephen Taylor Architects to design seven new homes – five will be larger family houses for social renting and two will be for private sale to help pay for the works. Particular attention has been given to how the new houses sit within the terraced street, the design of front gardens and thresholds, and the internal configuration of family living areas.

Sarah Robbins, residents association, Bacton Low-Rise Estate

About 15 years ago they wanted to knock down the Bacton Low-Rise estate. We (residents) opposed this as we would have been unable to stay within the local area – they were going to ask us to move out of central London completely. So instead, we underwent a refurbishment programme. Then, around five years ago, the local authority put forward a proposal for demolition and new build – meaning we could stay in the local area and move just across the road. Because the refurbishment programme hadn’t gone according to plan the first time around, we decided that if this was going to happen, we wanted to be heavily involved. We wanted to be part of the design process and then invited to all the meetings about the project.

Our main concern was to get a decent home. At the moment we have high fuel bills because the homes have no insulation. The way we live creates ongoing health problems in family units because of condensation, severe damp and mould.

Consultation on the Bacton Low-Rise estate

Consultation on the Bacton Low-Rise estate

We held exhibitions and drop-in sessions, together with numerous fun days for estate residents and the wider community, to help us get through to the planning stage. We worked a lot with Karakusevic Carson Architects, going through the design stages, and were heavily involved in selecting the materials that would be used externally and internally on the project. It has been a bit of a learning curve.

I would recommend to other people that, if they want to stay local and they want to have a high-quality home, then they must get involved in the process as much as possible. If we had not done this, we would have ended up with nothing like the design we have now; we would have all ended up in a tower block. Instead, we now have a low-rise block that is only six or seven storeys maximum but contains lots of family homes.

Following the build, there has now been some Section 106 funding and we have new play areas for the community in the open spaces. We also have a local city farm that needed some money – and there was a chance that it might be closed, but a lot of people wanted to keep it in the area, so there have been other benefits as well. Just because you are a council tenant, it does not mean you cannot have a say.

This was first published in Exemplar Housing Estate Regeneration in Europe – a collaboration between the Architects’ Journal and Karakusevic Carson Architects

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