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Report: Estate regeneration demands a new approach

Words: Laura Edgar

A fresh approach to regenerating London’s estates is required, and London businesses suggest that it could include building on disused spaces such as empty garages.

A report launched by London First, a business membership organisation, law firm Winckworth Sherwood LLP and planning company Terence O’Rourke, states that redevelopment of London’s public housing estates can help to solve London’s housing crisis.

The capital “needs to build a minimum of 49,000 homes a year but the city is systemically failing to meet this target”.

Jonathan Seager, housing policy director at London First, said: “It will be critical for any new scheme – either a large-scale redevelopment or building new homes in existing spaces – to deliver the right deal for residents as well as those building the homes. By unlocking more private investment, the benefits of regeneration in London will be seen.”

The report, Estate Regeneration: More and Better Homes for London, notes that there is “considerable scope” for estate regeneration to deliver more homes, but that doesn’t mean every housing estate should be redeveloped.

The challenge, the report continues, is to get more of these “typically long and complex” schemes to happen and to improve the quality of life of residents while at the same time ensuring that these schemes play their part in a “much broader effort that is required to increase house building in London”.

If estate regeneration is to work, the report recommends establishing and running an effective community engagement process. Any deal that is put in place needs to work for residents and be commercially viable and public policy must provide greater support to estate regeneration, it says.

Making use of empty space on estates has the potential to build thousands of homes, say the report’s authors. These projects, they say, could also help cross-subsidise improvements across the estate, improving the quality of existing homes or building new community facilities.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Where Compulsory Order (CPO) is the best option to progress regeneration, clear guidance should be provided to support the early preparation of orders so the formal process can start quickly once planning permission is granted. This aims to reduce the prospect of delay and uncertainty.
  • If schemes deliver more than new or improved housing such as community facilities, commercial space or transport improvements, government guidance should indicate support for local planning authorities to either exempt the payment of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) or to pay a reduced rate.
  • The government should abolish restrictions on the ability of local councils to borrow against the value of their housing stock, when this would be within prudential limits.
  • If the government implements starter homes through requiring a set percentage to be delivered on developments over a threshold then estate regeneration schemes should be exempt from this approach.
  • Local councils should provide clear estate regeneration policies in their local development plans.

Tim Hancock, managing director of Terence O’Rourke, said: “We need to see central government and City Hall encourage local authorities to look at the estates they have and make it easy for them to form partnerships with developers and local residents to regenerate them.

“If adopted, the series of recommendations presented in the report will go some way in helping to unlock the barriers and red tape that still exist in delivering the best possible outcomes for social and physical regeneration.”

The report and recommendations in full can be found here (pdf).

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