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Friday18 August 2017

Architects for Social Housing hail 'victory' in Mae regeneration scheme

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Group’s rival proposal ‘forced council to rethink total demolition’

Pressure group Architects for Social Housing is claiming a partial victory in its campaign against plans by Mae Architects to demolish homes on one of George Finch’s housing estates in Lambeth.

It claims a rival scheme which it drew up for Knight’s Walk put pressure on the council to rethink its plans to demolish the low-rise homes, part of the 1972 Cotton Garden Estate in Kennington.

Its version of events is strongly disputed by Mae whose founder Alex Ely said the proposal was “unworkable”.

It is the first worked-up scheme by Architects for Social Housing (ASH), a collective of around 35 architects and supporters best known for picketing this year’s Stirling Prize.

ASH said its scheme, designed by co-founder Geraldine Dening, an architect who lives in one of the Cotton Garden towers, exceeded the council’s density requirements without knocking down any existing homes.

She used infill – low-rise homes and two mid-rise buildings – plus the addition of two storeys on the existing bungalows to create 80 new homes.

“We estimated that not having to rebuild the 33 existing homes that were slated for demolition, or to recompense the seven freeholders would save the council around £10 million,” said Dening. “This equates to the construction of 70 new council homes, effectively paying for the entire project.”

Although its proposal was rejected, ASH claims it forced the council to ask Mae for more options to consider alongside 100% demolition.

A “hybrid” scheme by Mae, involving the demolition of only 18 of the homes, was approved by the council last month. It proposes 82 new homes, resulting in a net gain of 64 –16 fewer than ASH’s scheme achieved.

Ely said demolition was never a pre-condition and that the council had asked them to prepare three different schemes. He addeed: “Disingenuous propaganda that undermines fellow professionals hardly seems like the new face of ethical architecture.”

A fresh procurement process has been launched to find architects for the detailed design.

Simon Elmer, ASH co-founder, said the group would not bid the project because it involved demolition.

He urged any practices that do go for it to listen to the people who live there, to design the phasing so that residents can return as quickly as possible – and to hold the council to its promises of building at least 40% social rent.

“These are things that architects have to take responsibility for,” said Elmer. “If not they become tools of social cleansing.

“We’re not naysayers – we do propose increasing the number of units – but it’s about keeping communities together when they are so often displaced by these estate regeneration schemes. We are trying to influence the profession out of their complacency.

“We think it’s important that we are offering genuine and effective solutions and alternatives to demolition.

“There’s an awful lot of room on these late 60s and 70s estates. It’s really not necessary to demolish them to increase capacity. Infill and build-over can generate an enormous number of extra homes.”

Claiming partial victory, he added: “Some of the most important buildings are ones that don’t get built.”

In a statement today, Ely said: “Mae was commissioned by Lambeth council to ‘undertake resident engagement, options analysis, and production of the project brief’. The project brief was to ‘be the culmination of on-going conversations with residents to explore the most appropriate regeneration solutions for the estate.’

“Our proposed approach from the outset was to investigate ‘light-, mid- and high-intervention options’. The first option put forward involved no residential demolition and instead proposed replacing a garage block with housing. Numerous options were developed subsequently in collaboration with the residents, including infill, partial and full redevelopment, all of them with a single decant in mind.

“Architects for Social Housing independently put forward a proposal for overbuild, which was deemed unworkable both for structural, logistical and legal reasons whilst proposals to develop on the neighbouring park were resisted by the local planning officers.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • With regard to the options available in March 2015 when ASH was invited in by the Hands off Knight's Walk campaign, I copy in this leaflet handed out at the public consultation with Lambeth Council on 3 March, 2015, which you will find on their campaign website (https://handsoffknightswalk.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/the-facts-about-the-public-consultation/).

    Contrary to Mae's dismissive claims that ASH is using 'disingenuous propaganda' and 'slandering fellow professionals', we were answering a call by residents of Knight's Walk to address their dissatisfaction with both the consultation process conducted by Mae Architects and the options for full demolition it had generated:

    THE FACTS ABOUT THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION: A STATEMENT BY KNIGHTS WALK RESIDENTS

    On Thursday 26th February, the Knights Walk Residents and neighbours attended a “consultation” evening held by Lambeth, Soundings and Mae architects. In the interests of accuracy, we have summarised the proceedings below:

    - The evening was extremely well attended by the vast majority of Knights Walk Residents as well as residents of neighbouring roads and estates including Ariel Court, Dryden Court, Vanbrugh Court and Renfrew Road.

    - Also present for the whole evening were our MP Kate Hoey, Kate MacKintosh (widow of the architect of Cotton Gardens Estate and Knights Walk, George Finch and herself a former Lambeth architect) and a number of other experts in the field of architecture and estate design.

    - Lambeth officials attempted unsuccessfully to prevent entry of neighbouring estate residents and were reluctant to wait for elderly Knights Walk residents to arrive.

    - The Knights Walk Residents state that the consultation exercise so far is in breach of the fundamental rights for a fair consultation as set out by the Supreme Court in 2014 [the ‘Gunning’ principles] in all 4 principles. There has been no effective consultation.

    - Soundings reported that Knights Walk Residents are generally extremely satisfied with the estate with only minor criticisms.
    Mae Architects on behalf of Lambeth presented 3 options for Knights Walk ‘regeneration’:

    Option 1 – demolition of the whole of Knights Walk
    Option 2 – demolition of the whole of Knights Walk
    Option 3 – demolition of the whole of Knights Walk

    They rejected and misrepresented an option suggested by residents and ignored all their other suggestions

    All the Options proposed by Lambeth and Mae Architects were rejected outright by all present as totally unacceptable including our MP Kate Hoey.

    It was also revealed that there would be private housing included in the redevelopment despite the stated aim of the project to be to increase public housing.

    It was admitted that residents would not receive ‘like for like’ housing when rehoused.

    Knights Walk residents fully accept the need for increased public housing on Knights Walk and Cotton Gardens Estate, are fully willing to cooperate and have many ideas of their own as to how this might be provided but will not accept the planned complete destruction of their homes or this long established community.

    YES IN OUR BACKYARD – BUT NOT ON OUR HOMES!

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Thanks to Simon Elmer for this useful clarification. It is shocking that local authorities, which I believe have a responsibility to look after those who elect them, get into bed with developers (and their hapless architects), go through a sham "consultation process" and really couldn't give a shit about looking after their own voters.

    Local residents should send a clear message to their Ward councillors that if they want to be elected next time round, they need to straighten up and fly right.

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