How do we create places where people want to live?

Thursday 5 September 2013

How do we create places where people want to live?
That was the question grappled with by an elite panel of built environment and local government professionals at the NLA this morning as part of an event marking the 50th anniversary of housing association L&Q.

How, asked L&Q chairman Turlogh O’ Brien, can we avoid making the same mistakes we made in the past, so that we don’t have to demolish some of the housing estates we are building today in 40 years time? Perhaps partially that scenario could be avoided by adhering to some of the principles and commitments set out in ‘Changing places, changing lives’, a new report L&Q commissioned from Goldsmiths’ Centre for Urban and Community Research. The report looked at some of L&Q’s key schemes including Aylesbury 1a in Southwark and Green Horizons in Enfield and includes advocating tapping into local communities, local intelligence and local commitment, learning from different approaches and forging strong partnerships based on trust with local authorities.

In the discussion chaired by BBC news home editor Mark Easton, Deputy mayor for housing land and property Richard Blakeway said a significant amount of effort needed to be put into landscaping of housing schemes. For Vidhya Alakeson, Deputy Chief Executive of Resolution Foundation, the key challenges are around jobs and affordability, and the need to think about what a longer-term, private rented sector looks like. Levitt Bernstein director Barry McCullough agreed with HTA Design partner Simon Bayliss that community engagement is ‘fundamental’, along with the provision of other elements than the basic housing alone, such as shops and playgrounds. But densification is another critical consideration, with space standards becoming more important in the higher density schemes, and noise proving to be the biggest source of complaints from residents in super high-density developments. 

Requests from film companies keen to shoot scenes in its bigger housing estates continue to come into Southwark council, said its leader Cllr Peter John, although they tend to be zombie movies rather than ‘Love Actually’, he quipped. But Southwark no longer builds such ‘monolithic, mono-tenure estates’ and today, one of the most pressing issues governing estates revolves around management on issues like litter. At the Olympic Park, meanwhile, one of the biggest mistakes would have been to assume the area is a tabula rasa, said the LLDC’s Kathryn Firth, rather than a set of existing communities which need to be worked with. ‘It’s really about creating a normal piece of city’, she said, with high quality local landscaping an important aspect for the area’s existing communities, quite beyond the resource of the park itself.

David Taylor, New London Quarterly

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