Laura Mark: 'What is the one key issue facing the profession at the moment?'
Ben Derbyshire: 'The extent to which we are valued by society in terms of our social, cultural and economic value.'
As Managing Partner of HTA Design, the lead practice in the Aylesbury Estate redevelopment, Ben Derbyshire will no doubt know
that the housing estate, which was completed in 1977, has around 2,700 homes holding 7,500 people. Once demolished, these will be replaced by 3,575 new homes, of which 1,470, it is promised by Southwark Labour Council, will be for social rent, a total of just over 40%. However, Notting Hill Housing, the Council’s development partner, has already substituted 'affordable rent' for 'social rent' on its Bermondsey Spar regeneration. In actual fact, Notting Hill’s contract with Southwark Council contains no reference to social rent. Instead it refers to something called ‘target rent’, which is set by Central Government. Even on its planning application for the Aylesbury, Notting Hill Trust admits that there will be a net loss of 934 homes for social rent.
On the Aylesbury Estate, the Silwood Estate, Bermondsey Spar, the Elmington Estate, the Wood Dene Estate, the North Peckham Estate and the Heygate Estate, a net loss of 4,275 homes for social rent has resulted from Southwark Council regeneration schemes. In addition, the 3,168 homes for social rent the council has promised to rebuild are far more likely to end up as ‘affordable’ rents, which means up to 80% of market value, bringing the total loss of homes for social rent to 7,442. Moreover, the Greater London Authority has predicted that Southwark will lose an additional 2,051 homes for social rent as a direct result of schemes the Labour Council is currently proposing across the borough.
At a 2001 ballot responded to by 76% of the Aylesbury Estate residents, 73% voted in favour of refurbishment and against demolition. Despite this, in 2002 the then Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition Council announced it was going ahead with the redevelopment. Four years later, in 2005, it claimed that the cost of refurbishment was £314.6 million, far beyond their means, apparently. However, a further ten years later, at the Compulsory Purchase Order inquiry held in 2015, Professor Jane Rendell was able to demonstrate that the cost estimate for refurbishment had been artificially inflated by £148.9 million for what Southwark Council called ‘external improvements’. This made up figure, for which Professor Rendell could find no justification, made up half the total cost of refurbishing the Aylesbury estate, and made it, said the Council, ‘financially unviable.’
The estimated total cost of emptying and demolishing the Aylesbury’s 2,500 homes is £150 million. That comes to around £60,000 per home. However, Southwark Council has already spent an incredible £46.8 million on the Aylesbury regeneration scheme – £32.1 million on acquisition and demolition, and £14.7 million on management and administration (i.e. their own salaries) – in the process regenerating just 112 homes. That’s an average cost of £417,000 per home. Compare this with the £20,260 per home the Council has spent bringing 611 homes up to the Decent Homes Standard elsewhere on the estate.
Perhaps Ben Derbyshire will explain to readers how being the instruments of, and complicit with, this level of political corruption and the social cleansing of working class communities will increase the social, cultural and economic value of the architectural profession in the eyes of society.
Architects for Social Housing