As sink estates go, the sprawling Ferrier Estate in Greenwich must surely be among the grimmest in London. Built in 1972, it quickly gained a reputation as a nightmare of brutalist blocks, scary overhead walkways, and dark, crime- ridden, litter-filled corners.
Forty years on, this blot on the landscape, used as the backdrop for the gritty 1997 movie Nil by Mouth, is at last having a moment in the sun.
The 270-acre estate is being demolished to be reborn — and rebranded — as rustic sounding Kidbrooke Village, part of a £1 billion regeneration scheme considered one of Europe's most ambitious housing projects and second only in the UK to the Olympic Village.
When complete, which will not be until about 2029, there will be more than 4,000 new homes, a new school, a central square lined with shops and restaurants, a health centre, a park and nature reserve, and sports pitches. Kidbrooke station, close by, has rapid links to central London. You can be at Victoria, Charing Cross or Cannon Street in well under 30 minutes.
Some 38 per cent of the new homes will be affordable and aimed at first-time buyers either to rent, or to buy under shared-ownership schemes. The first affordable phase, named Boyd Way, has just been launched by the Southern Housing Group. There are 24 flats and 16 houses on offer now — with many more to follow.
Pricing is highly competitive. Buyers could take on a 25 per cent share in a one-bedroom flat for £46,875 (the full market price is £187,500). They will pay rent on the remainder (about £322), plus a service charge of about £150, bringing their total monthly cost to aproximately £800 a month.
A quarter share of a two-bedroom flat will cost £57,500 (full price £230,000), and with rent and service charge the total monthly cost will be close to £940. And for those who need a larger home, a 25 per cent share of a three-bedroom house will cost £96,500 (full price £386,000), with total monthly costs of £1,300. The first homes are becoming available to move into from April 2012.
Charlotte Floodgate, sales and marketing manager at Southern Housing Group, says interest in homes at Kidbrooke Village has been strong — and reflects, in part, the increasing age of average first-time buyers.
"We went to a house-buying exhibition and people were literally queuing up at our stand because we have three-bedroom houses to offer — which is unusual in shared ownership," she said. "The people who are interested are older than our usual first-time buyers, in their thirties or forties, and of course they have families."
The scheme will give priority to those who live and work in Greenwich, but will also be open to people who live and work across a swathe of south-east London. A minimum household income of about £23,000 will be required for those buying flats and £37,000 for the houses. No one who earns enough to be able to buy a home on the private market will be eligible.
The launch is a remarkable turnaround for the Ferrier Estate, which became a byword for deprivation and the failure of social housing — as well as a huge embarrassment to Greenwich council which prides itself on being a borough with world-class architectural credentials. It has the Greenwich Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory, stacks of superb Georgian housing in central Greenwich and Blackheath and is a centre for London's tourism. The council believes that in other parts of the borough it has shown how social housing can live cheek by jowl with middle-class communities, smart shops and bars and grand houses.
Paul Vallone, managing director of housebuilder Berkeley's urban renaissance wing, says: "Kidbrooke Village will look to learn from the lessons of the failure of the Ferrier Estate and create an inclusive, economically and socially viable community. "It is already setting new benchmarks in place-making, and has been described by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment as 'an exemplar for sustainable suburbs with social and environmental sustainability at its heart'."