Green space improvements could be part of "social contract" to help solve London housing crisis

Green space and play areas could be part of an overhaul of Section 106 where community improvements are agreed in advance with developers and planners in a "social contract".

McCafferty spoke passionately about involving communities at the event. Image: WAN
McCafferty spoke passionately about involving communities at the event. Image: WAN

This was one of the recommendations put forward in the World Architecture News Urban Challenge Task Force's report, which outlined a range of solutions to London’s housing crisis.

World Architecture News (WAN), sister publication to Horticulture Week, invited 25 experts from across the world to contribute to the manifesto, drawn up at a round table discussion in May.

Experts at the event also talked about the importance of increasing horticulture when building the hundreds of thousands of homes London needs.  

Task force members outlined the main points in manifesto pitches at the launch of the report last night, held at New London Architecture in central London.

Members of the task force, the London Assembly and London First in panel discussion

Jo McCafferty director at architect and landscape architect firm Levitt Bernstein, said that relations between architects, planners and local communities had become increasingly frosty over the past 20 years but "could change overnight" if an "open transparent contract" was drawn up between the community and the local authority over what Section 106 payments from developers were used for.

Rather than "vague promises" of new community assets in the future, this would "place communities at the heart of the process rather than forcing them to just be a witness to it", she told launch attendees. She said communities may want to make roads into play streets, or line them with trees or create a new park, alongside other key needs such as doctors’ surgeries and community centres. She said planning and development could be made so much easier if communities could see such improvements as a direct consequence of development.

McCafferty added that the idea of a social contract was "always important but particularly important if you're building lots of homes".

Fellow Task Force member Rolf Nielsen of Aarhus, Denmark-based C.F. Møller Architects pointed out that in Denmark development is much quicker and easier because of a series of pre-condition frameworks in the planning system. Nielsen said a similar system would be beneficial here, for example providing more green open land rather than separate private gardens would be a much better social contract for the citizens of London as a whole.  

A third taskforce member, co-founder of Studio Egret West, David West, also spoke about horticulture. "If we are going to turn up the housing density we need to turn up the ecology. We need more greenery and ecology in our lives. We need to keep putting more nature into our buildings and make better buildings."

London’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray said the draft London plan will look to other types of development besides tower blocks to find a way of increasing density, saying that London needed to "design density in a new way".

On the "social contract" he said: "Londoners are more supportive than ever of building new housing, so let's not squander that opportunity by building things that they don't want to be built. 

The task force was made up of 25 experts, drawn from around the world.

Planning, also a sister title to Horticulture Week is holding its Planning for Housing 2017 conference on 4 October. 

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