View Full Version : Archived: 'Welcome to failed Utopia' - Heygate estate SE17

25-08-2011, 12:44 PM
"Utopian is a dangerous word . . . but if you're working in local-authority housing you're bound to have a utopian view. What's the point of doing it otherwise? You look back now and ask why people were enamoured with modern architecture, and I would suggest it was to do with light, sunlight. At that time these inner-city areas were extremely nasty, smoky, dirty places. The Elephant was still pretty bad, with tanneries and God knows what else." The flats he designed were light and airy, and the now despised walkways were created to keep people away from cars, which back in the late 60s when the estate was planned were just on the point of becoming ubiquitous."

"I don't think it was in any sense a failed estate. There are failed estates, but this wasn't one of them. The hardware – what we provided in concrete and brick – was relatively OK. The problem was there wasn't the software to run the damn thing. There was a huge influx of new housing [in the 60s and early 70s], and management never really understood what they had." Tim Tinker - estate architect.





"It's ridiculously expensive to knock estates down, After they've knocked them down, they're still paying for them. They were all built on the basis of a 60-year payback period. These are not dysfunctional buildings. If you invest in them, they will be perfectly fine. There's been this vogue recently for this kind of approach, which says, 'This is an awful estate, we give up, we can't manage it, what we're going to do is knock it down, redevelop it at three times the density and fill it up with owner-occupiers who will be a good example to these feckless local authority tenants." Dickson Powers - former housing director



"The Heygate was fully inhabited with 1200 households, half 3/4 bed families, for 30 years, including, off the top of my head; teachers, taxi drivers, building workers, ambulance drivers, housing officers (!), health workers, admin assistants, office cleaners, train drivers, bus drivers, shop-workers, care assistants, youth workers – in short all the people that keep London working (but are finding it increasingly difficult to actually afford to live here)." From Southwark notes blog




"Despite numerous complaints from myself and other remaining residents, the council failed to clear the rubbish resulting from the decant process, and the gardens remained in this state for more than 3 years.

In April this year, we decided to clear the former garden areas ourselves and use the space to grow flowers and vegetables"

"This was not a clandestine operation, we informed the council and invited them to come and visit to see what we are doing. Of the 25 councillors and council officers that were invited, only one accepted the invitation who was very enthusiastic and said that he would give us his full support. However, in the meantime it appears that legal proceedings have been instigated against me for 'unlawful gardening' "
Adrian Glasspool - remaining Heygate resident




"For Heygate leaseholders, many have complained that spitefully low valuations made on their places by the Council mean they are unable to move to a similar property locally that’s up to the standard and space of the houses they had purchased on Heygate. This is why a few leaseholders there are refusing to be intimidated out of the homes for the sake of freeing up the land for more private and expensive housing to be built in The Elephant. Good luck to them, we say. Hold your ground." From Southwark notes blog




According to an MORI poll, 11 years ago, 55% of Heygate residents were satisfied with life on the estate, undermining the myth of the 'infamous' Heygate sink estate promulgated by the media.




Is the demolition of the Heygate estate in south London the welcome end of a misguided experiment? Or is it the push for regeneration that is flawed?