London's housing estates become "modern suburbs"

A new masterplan for urban living is turning notorious housing estates into “modern suburbs” with a mix of well-designed homes
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Frobisher Crescent, Barbican, EC2
© Alex Magill
From £350,000: the curved structure of the former City University Business School is part of the redevelopment of Frobisher Crescent at the Barbican, EC2. Call Hamilton Brooks on
020 7606 8000
Next week, construction starts on 4,000 new homes at Ferrier Estate in south-east London, opening up a new era for affordable housing.

The demolition of the old buildings and this rebirth brings in not only new architecture but also new forms of tenure such as shared equity and low-cost home ownership.

The Ferrier Estate, close to Blackheath, was famously used as a bleak backdrop for the 1997 film Nil by Mouth, a gritty biopic by writer and director Gary Oldman, which portrayed a dysfunctional family blighted by drugs and violence.

Most of the new homes - 2,475 - will be privately owned, while about 500 will be shared-ownership. The remainder will be for affordable rent.

Houses and flats to rent in Blackheath
Houses and flats for sale in Blackheath

Berkeley Homes is spearheading the £1 billion project with Greenwich council and Southern Housing Group as partners. The architectural masterplan envisages a new “modern suburb” with shops, offices, a school, health centre, sports facilities, a hotel and a new transport interchange at Kidbrooke station. The first phase of 449 homes will be finished by 2011. Prices will be released nearer to completion but would-be buyers can register now.

Prices yet to be set: a new modern suburb is planned for Kidbrooke, part of the Ferrier development, with a low-rise mix of flats and houses. Call 020 8331 7130. For affordable homes, call 020 7553 6420
When the original estate was completed in 1972, it was seen as the way forward for social housing. However, the asbestos-ridden buildings quickly decayed, exacerbated by poor maintenance.

Moreover, the estate layout provided only two exits connecting the site to the wider area, causing it to be isolated. The relatively low-density of buildings left tracts of open, unused land, later colonised by gangs.

Instead of monolithic tower blocks and Lego-like apartment buildings, the new housing will be a low-rise mix of well-designed flats, three-storey houses with roof gardens and maisonettes.

Clusters of buildings will have semi-private courtyards and landscaped areas, while connections with surrounding neighbourhoods will be improved. A new central park will form a series of “outdoor rooms”. Intimidating pedestrian subways will be replaced by open walkways and cycle paths.

'With demolition comes not only new architecture but also new forms of tenure'

The new Ferrier has “the potential to be an exemplar for the redevelopment of local authority housing estates” claims the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. To register, email or call 020 8331 7130. For affordable home-ownership, visit, or call 020 7553 6420.

Brandon Road, Elephant & Castle
Prices yet to be set: work is about to start on new blocks of flats in Brandon Road as part of the regeneration of Elephant & Castle. Call L&Q on 0844 406 9000
Several other London council estates are getting a makeover or being flattened to make way for brand new housing. These include Woodberry Down and Queensbridge estates in Hackney and The Packington in Islington.

Houses and flats to rent in Islington
Houses and flats for sale in Islington

Heygate Estate is part of the ambitious Elephant & Castle regeneration where 5,200 new homes are being built across the 170-acre zone. London and Quadrant is the main housing association. Visit, or call 0844 406 9000.

Ironically, the most famous concrete council housing estate in London is going from strength to strength. The Barbican, in the City of London, celebrates its 40th birthday this year. The anniversary coincides with the release of 69 new flats in an original Barbican block.

Houses and flats to rent in Barbican Estate
Houses and flats for sale in Barbican Estate

Listed Frobisher Crescent has been refurbished by developer United House. Prices start at £350,000 for a studio. Call estate agent Hamilton Brooks on 020 7606 8000.

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