Blog: 17 December 2015Estate Regen: density doesn't need to compromise quality

Greg Pitt

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Greg Pitt

Planning Associate

London office

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It’s been a topical few weeks in London’s housing industry. As well as interesting discussion at events including NLA’s conference on maximising the housing potential of public sector land and the National Housing Federation’s London Development Conference, the Government has launched a consultation on proposed amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

For London, it’s clear that housing supply is a fundamental issue with the mayoral candidates already vocalising their proposed solutions and targets (although from experience we know that these don’t necessarily relate to delivery). Land is regularly cited as a key constraint for this, particularly with any form of Green Belt review politically unlikely for the near future, so it is imperative not only that we utilise brownfield land, redundant public sector land and commercial land but we must also unlock and maximise the potential of existing housing estates.

Given that Housing Associations and Councils are facing financial challenges, the appetite to regenerate assets, namely housing estates, for financial reasons is clear. However, it is the social and environmental benefits of creating better places for people that often drives the industry to regenerate the estates.

What has been reflected by the speakers at recent conferences and within the NPPF consultation is that higher volume and density of development is required but there must be no compromise on the quality of place and homes being delivered.

Created to ensure that unit numbers did not sacrifice design excellence, outgoing Mayor, Boris Johnson’s London Housing Design Guide and Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance have ensured that housing quality is integral to the decision making process on planning applications. In practice, whilst estate regeneration proposals will always need to respond to the unique site circumstances, compliance with these Design Standards is now considered fundamental for any estate regeneration project, especially when increasing density.

An example of this in practice is at Kidbrooke Villagea designated Intensification Area in the early stages of delivery (approximately 1,000 new homes delivered since 2009) where the developer and public sector partners have scrutinised design quality from the outset and reviewed the extant planning permissions. This review has ultimately lead to opportunities being identified and Planning Permission for an additional 763 new homes being secured earlier this year.

In my opinion, the initial place shaping such as community infrastructure and high quality housing being delivered by Berkeley has been key to changing perceptions and demonstrating a long term commitment to delivering high quality homes alongside a new community. This coupled with the added benefits including additional jobs, homes, affordable housing, community and commercial floorspace, early delivery of replacement primary school and improved bus links has helped to realise the potential of the site.

Given London’s finite land resource, coupled with the housing challenge, I only envisage the trend of increasing density to continue and existing estate regeneration projects being worked harder. However, this should never be at the expense of quality and possibly one of Boris’s legacies will be the transformation of old estates into exciting new high quality places.

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Density, London, Estate Regeneration