Landscape must be central to PM's housing estate plans, Farrer says

Plans to tear down some of the UK's worst housing estates and create thriving neighbourhoods in their place have been welcomed by the president of the Landscape Institute.

Housing estate. Image: Pixabay
Housing estate. Image: Pixabay
On Monday Prime Minister David Cameron announced some of the worst housing estates would be replaced with "attractive and safe homes", promising to put some £140m into the regeneration projects.

Writing in the Sunday Times, the PM said the government would work with 100 housing estates across the country to either radically transform them or knock them down and replace them, as part of a plan to "end poverty".

He wrote: "Within these so-called sink estates, behind front doors, families build warm and welcoming homes. But step outside in the worst estates and you’re confronted by brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals.

"Decades of neglect have led to gangs and anti-social behaviour. And poverty has become entrenched, because those who could afford to move have understandably done so."

Secretary of State Greg Clark added that the worst estates offered "huge potential" to be revived and become thriving communities.

The nationwide strategy will be supported by a new Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel, which will be chaired by Lord Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister who has long championed the regeneration of Britain’s inner cities. The Panel will report in detail by this year’s Autumn Statement.

Landscape Institute president Noel Farrer said the UK features many poor quality, badly designed housing estates and he "wholeheartedly" agreed with the plans to transform them.

"I sincerely hope that landscape architects are included on the Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel as landscape is a primary consideration in delivering places where people want to be, want to work and want to live."

Farrer's landscape architecture practice, Farrer Huxley Associates, specialises in housing estate landscapes. He was personally involved in estate regeneration schemes for the Abbey Orchard Estate in Wesminster and the Priory Green Estate in Islington, among others.

"I’m acutely aware of how important the aspirations of the community are in any regeneration.  I believe that a ‘landscape-led’ approach to future estate development is critical in increasing the supply of housing because of its role in helping make development more acceptable to local communities.

"Delivering housing without creating green infrastructure such as tree-lined streets and parks will not deliver the liveable housing environments we need."

A report from property advisor Savills, commissioned by the Cabinet Office, suggests the planned approach to regeneration could help catalyse the building of hundreds of thousands of new homes in London alone.

Yolande Barnes, Savills research director, said: "What the Savills research shows is that housing estates can deliver more homes and be made into better neighbourhoods by re-integrating them into the wider street network and creating or repairing the streetscape."

"This creates more highly valued neighbourhoods. The signs are that new developments of ‘complete streets’ cost less to build than conventional estate renewal."

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