One of London’s largest housing estate redevelopment schemes has been named project of the year for 2018 and the best regeneration scheme in the whole of the UK by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The 64-acre Woodberry Down estate in Manor House, Hackney, built mostly in the 1950s, has been undergoing a demolition and rebuild programme following assessments by Hackney Council in the 1990s which found the housing blocks as a whole to be in poor condition and the majority beyond economic repair. The estate had previously been hailed as showpiece of municipal house building.
Over 1,400 new homes and amenities, including a community centre and secondary school, have been built so far through a partnership between the council, commercial developer Berkeley Homes, the Notting Hill Genesis housing association, the Manor House Development Trust and the resident-led Woodberry Down Community Organisation. There were 90 entries for project of the year award.
RICS noted that it is “impossible to tell the difference” between the new private and social housing, much of it adjacent to parkland and a local reservoir called the Woodberry Wetlands, which won a London Wildlife Trust Green Flag award in 2017. The new Woodberry Down is scheduled for completion in 2035, with its original 2,013 dwellings intended to be replaced by more than 5,500 of a mixture of tenures.
The RICS judges said that Berkeley Homes and architects Hawkins/Brown “have taken on the regeneration of this area with integrity and a genuine desire to improve not just the physical environment but also residents’ economic aspirations and social wellbeing.” They assessed work the first two phases of the scheme. Detailed plans for the third phase out of a total of eight are currently being negotiated.
The Woodberry Down project has been denounced by a housing campaign group as an act of “class war” and a 2014 Guardian “investigation” declared that the rebuilding of the estate wasn’t benefiting its residents. However, in that same year, Hackney reported that every one of the 394 new social rent dwellings completed at that time had been let to existing residents and that all 135 new intermediate “affordable” homes, for shared ownership, on the site had been bought by either existing residents or other people from Hackney (see paragraph 6.9).
The “tenure split” for a revised masterplan approved in 2014 was for 43 per cent of the project’s homes over forthcoming phases to be “affordable”, with 47 per cent of those to be let at social rent levels and 53 per cent for intermediate shared ownership (paragraph 7). Hackney Council has confirmed that every social tenant is guaranteed a new social rented home on the estate, and believes that the vast majority have so far accepted one while some have accepted offers of homes elsewhere.
Social rent levels for the new properties are generally slightly higher than for the older ones, in line with a formula set by national government.