Effective engagement with those communities affected by estate renewal lies at the heart of the success of development projects.
But there is no one solution or quick fix, and those schemes which offer realistic attainable goals rather than raising expectations unduly are more likely to get the support of the neighbourhoods as they face ‘scary’ levels of change.
Those were some of the key points to emerge at a breakfast talk on delivering successful estate renewal in London, held at the NLA this morning and sponsored by Bilfnger GVA.
Following an introduction to the topic by Future of London director Lisa Taylor in which she said estate renewal was ‘not just episodic but a phase of life in London’, Bilfinger GVA chief executive Gerry Hughes said that the idea you ‘can come along and masterplan a community is completely false’. ‘There is no design solution to this problem’ said Hughes; neither is there one custodian of all the skills required. ‘What you can do, though, is facilitate a process’. Stakeholders need to clearly state the objectives of any programme, and talk about what is possible rather than raise false expectations, he said. ‘When we get involved with these projects we stop using the word ‘estate’ and start talking about ‘neighbourhood’. At the Winstanley and York Road estate in Battersea, Bilfinger GVA is working on a refurbishment and development programme that includes creating 2000 additional homes. But key to success, he said, was ‘preparation, preparation, preparation’. ‘The community is not the problem; the community is the solution.’
Catalyst Housing head of business development Sue Cooper said that change could be ‘scary’ for people, so it was essential at the outset to have a plan on how to engage and communicate with locals, manage expectations, allow for easy engagement, involve local businesses and if possible have a consistent presence on site.
At Dover Court in Islington, Pollard Thomas Edwards partner Tricia Patel showed how infill development can help unlock the potential of an existing estate without undue upheaval. The project includes creating local authority and private sale homes and demolishing a series of garages, replacing them with housing for older people and extensive public realm improvements. For Haringey programme director – Tottenham, Helen Fisher one of the keys to effective estate renewal was to act as the ‘glue’, bringing stakeholders together, provide leadership and offer clarity of purpose and what you want from each partner. ‘Estate renewal is hugely emotive and you have to be honest with yourself and other people about why you’re doing it’, she said.
Finally, DCLG head of estate regeneration Simon Brown added during a panel discussion that the estate renewal team chaired ‘vigorously’ by Michael Heseltine was in ‘feedback mode’ with another session planned for next week. But he was keen to hear from any estate seeking renewal and emphasized the prime minister’s keen interest in the subject. ‘I have a crazy target’, said Brown. ‘I have to engage with 100 estates.’
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ