Cameron pledges new wave of estate regeneration schemes

A programme to regenerate 100 of England's poorest-quality housing estates - in some cases with complete demolition and rebuilding with additional homes - has been announced by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Woodberry Down: cited as a 'successful example' of estate renewal (picture by Sarflondondunc, Flickr)
Woodberry Down: cited as a 'successful example' of estate renewal (picture by Sarflondondunc, Flickr)

Cameron said the strategy would be supported by a £140 million fund and a new Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel chaired by former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine. The panel is to report "in detail" on its findings ahead of this year's Autumn Statement.

No details of particular target estates were given, however the ongoing but controversial regeneration of the Woodberry Down estate in Hackney, north London, was cited as a "successful example" of estate renewal. 

In common with other London estate renewal projects, Woodberry Down is increasing the number of homes on its site, but has attacted criticism for the relocation of existing residents and the unaffordability of new properties.

Cameron's announcement cited research commissioned by the Cabinet Office from property firm Savills indicating that rebuilding London's estates on a low-rise high-density model based on traditional street patterns could nearly double the amount of housing per-hectare that could accommodated.

He said the latest regeneration programme would be part of a wider initiative to improve the life chances of people who live in deprived areas.

"For decades, sink estates – and frankly, sometimes the people who lived in them – had been seen as something simply to be managed," he said. 

"It’s time to be more ambitious at every level. The mission here is nothing short of social turnaround, and with massive estate regeneration, tenants protected, and land unlocked for new housing all over Britain, I believe we can tear down anything that stands in our way."

Savills research director Yolande Barnes said the firm's research showed that housing estates could deliver more homes and be made into better neighbourhoods by re-integrating them into the wider street network and creating or repairing the streetscape.

"The signs are that new developments of ‘complete streets’ cost less to build than conventional estate renewal," she said.

The Savills research indicated that up to 360,000 additional homes could be created on the site of existing estates in the capital based on its analysis of six estates, and that its modelling was based on 100 per cent of residents having the right to be rehoused on their existing terms and at the same location. 

The Prime Minister's Office cautioned that the Savills report was not a statement of government policy. 

Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at property industry lobby group the British Property Federation, said that if the government got the policy right, "it could be some of the best use of £140 million it has ever spent".

But John Healey, Labour's shadow minister for housing and planning, said the announcement would make little impact on the overall scale of the nation's housing crisis.

"People simply won’t see this small-scale scheme stretched over 100 estates making much difference to the housing problems in their area," he said. 

The Savills report can be read here.


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