The campaign for traditional streets is growing but City Hall is still building more tower blocks

Boris Johnson’s plans to give Londoners better-designed homes will make it more difficult to tear down ugly tower blocks, according to a new think tank.
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Create Streets claims to have found “multiple biases” against restoring terrace streets in the Mayor’s London Housing Design Guide, which is intended to encourage good-quality and “more beautiful” house building.

Fifties and Sixties town planners are blamed for the often wholesale destruction of London’s Victorian terraces as part of “slum clearance”. Today such homes, once considered unfit for human habitation, are sought after.

The high-rise estates that replaced terraces were received initially with excitement. However, disillusionment soon set in. “The vast majority of people want to live in houses in streets,” says Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets, which published its first report with the Policy Exchange Tory think tank earlier this year. “Only a small minority favour multistorey estates, and those who impose them on society rarely choose to live in them.”

Friendly streets work best
Create Streets insists tower blocks are not essential for high density. “Low-rise Kensington and Chelsea is one of the highest-density boroughs in the country,” says Boys Smith.

The group cites the Olympic Park as a prime example of how lessons have not been learned. More than 8,000 new homes are being built on the site of the 2012 Games but the project has received mixed reactions. London Assembly member Andrew Boff calls for more conventional housing in his report, Radically Normal, and suggests the London Legacy Development Corporation “has a good vision of the future for the Olympic Park as one of predominantly family-orientated neighbourhoods”. He says: “Chobham Manor, the first neighbourhood to be built at the park, embodies this vision: 70 per cent of the homes will be family sized.” It is to be a “traditional family neighbourhood of terrace and mews houses, set within tree-lined avenues”.

However, two other neighbourhoods in the village, Sweetwater and Pudding Mill Lane, have tower blocks, while the overall plan for the development is a “mush of compromise and inconsistency”, say critics, who claim City Hall accepts tower blocks are generally unloved and that there is no financial imperative for them, yet insists on including new ones in the mix.

London's return to traditition streets
The Aylesbury Estate in Southwark is being redeveloped and in the first phase, architects Levitt Bernstein Associates, working for L&Q housing association, have reintroduced historic street patterns and fairly low-rise housing, ranging from two to 10 storeys. The mix of one-bedroom and family homes includes private and social housing and the Harvard Gardens phase has “continuous street frontages with front and back areas”.

Traditionalists probably won’t like the boxy-looking, flat-roofed new buildings: function apparently trumps beauty. Lambeth shows the same trend with the redevelopment of the Myatts Field North estate. The first phase, Oval Quarter, “pays homage to the past, with traditional street patterns, the reinstatement of a lost London square, and the reinvigoration of a local park”. There will be “striking contemporary architecture” though “classical” design is promised in later phases.

A project that has got the mix about right, says Create Streets, is Highbury Gardens in Islington, a mixed-tenure scheme from developer First Base using neoclassical architects Porphyrios Associates. It is widely considered a beautiful courtyard development featuring balconies and brick.

The Aylesbury Estate redevelopment, Southwark

The marketing name is Albany Place, and the project incorporates 127 private homes, 15 for intermediate rent, 18 shared ownership, and 101 affordable. The second phase is called Burgess Terrace and private sale prices there start at £320,000 for a one-bedroom home. Visit

Oval Quarter, Lambeth
This scheme provides for 808 new-build homes and the modernisation and refurbishment of 172 existing properties. The first private-sale homes, by Higgins Homes, were launched in September 2013.

Prices for these one- and two-bedroom apartments start from £272,500. Visit or call 020 8498 6001 for further information.

Kidbrooke Village, Greenwich
Berkeley’s £1 billion development will offer 4,800 new homes, private and social, including 1,525 affordable, in four neighbourhoods. Units are available now in Blackheath Quarter, off-plan in Meridian Gate, and some in future phases. Current prices include from £212,500 for a Manhattan Suite in Meridian Gate, and from £295,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in Blackheath Quarter.

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