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Thursday31 July 2014

Ricky Burdett warns against Olympic middle-class ghetto

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Ricky Burdett, the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s design guru, has called on his bosses to ensure that long-term plans for the area do not turn it into a middle-class ghetto.

Speaking during a public debate on the Olympic Park after 2012, Burdett warned that 30 years of investment in east London had done little to raise its socio-economic profile and that unless the Olympic Park was stitched into its setting, little would change beyond the park’s perimeter.

He said: “I am reminded by major urban developments of the last 60 years that have become nightmares that any large-scale intervention like this could do something very negative.

“The worst thing it could do is create a massive ghetto of people who are different from those who are there.”

Burdett said he was confident the amended masterplan would not do this because it aimed to create different neighbourhoods just like the rest of the city, but he admitted: “It’s not going to be easy to make this a normal piece of London.”

He added: “The real question for a masterplanner is how do you play with the DNA of the city? I would be positive about the plan because it has tried to create a very subtle framework which provides the bones of a city that will be created over time.”

Burdett was speaking on Wednesday evening as part of the British Library’s Story of London festival.

His comments came as Andrew Altman, chief executive of the legacy company, criticised the original masterplan, by Edaw (now Aecom), Allies & Morrison and KCAP, for being “choked with blocks of small flats”.

A nine-strong team of practices including these three firms has drawn up a radically revised legacy masterplan featuring designs inspired by traditional London terraces.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Simon Kaufman

    A middle class ghetto! Youre kidding! This area of London is SO desperate for change... it needs well connected places and properly designed neighbourhoods with long term value in the quality of the streets. At the moment it is just mile after mile of socially deprived, traffic locked council estates. The masterplan needs to connect the park to the surrounding neighbourhoods, and also needs to provide a balance of social housing and mixed tenants - but creating addresses with front doors, in decent streets - which in turn creates value for the residents who live there - should be the absolute priority for long term success.

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  • I think Ricky's comment shows a concern for the true pupose of regeneration. Are we aiming to regenerate 'the area' (which is how planners often think) or improve the lives of the people who already live there? It's nice to have proper mixed neighbourhoods but just plonking houses with gardens for market sale into the middle of a deprived area does nothing for the existing residents. I see it all the time in my patch of North Kensington; attracting rich people into a poor area delivers sanitised poverty - but it's still there.
    Councillor Emma Dent Coad

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  • Councillor Emma Dent Coad - would you care to explain precisely what "sanitised poverty" means and how the movement of those able to pay market prices for property "delivers" poverty in any way whatsoever?

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  • But Ricky my son, you're completely missing the point. Ghettos are what make London. You've got the ghetto of South Kensington, hugely entertaining based on the choice of 4 car colours alone (silver, burgundy, navy blue, and for the nouveux riche there is always BRG) . Poor dears have no imagination or aspiration.

    Conversely there's the massively vibrant Islington (Turkish), Hammersmith (Polish), Whitechapel (Former Soviet states and Bangladeshi - odd combo but who am I to criticise), Italians and Jews (Golders Green), the list goes on.

    Think about the commercial potential though. All the other nationalities in London could drop by The Park for the quintessential pretentious, middle class dinner experience.

    Cocktails after 6, canapes that were just thrown together over the course of an afternoon, stimulating but shallow banter, self consciously refined surroundings with some lovely vivacious Suttons that were picked up on a whim last time the family were passing through Fairford.

    Could be a major tourist drawcard...

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