How urban villages can fix London’s housing crisis

August 4, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
How urban villages can fix London’s housing crisis

New research published by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Berkeley Group explores how urban villages could help address the capital’s housing crisis.

The report, called ‘New London Villages’, identifies six characteristics of a real urban village. These include being a place that is unique, mixed, locally driven and designed for social interaction. The authors then tested Kidbrooke Village in the Royal Borough of Greenwich against them and made a series of recommendations for all new major developments in London. In particular:

  • Private developers should lead on community development – specifically on long-term regeneration programmes during the initial five to 10-year period after the first residents have moved in.
  • Struggling London estates could become successful villages but the public sector has to prioritise quality and delivery, not just price, when they sell public land.

Kath Scanlon, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at LSE and joint author of the report, said, “London is a city made of villages. That heritage still matters and is incredibly popular. Our response to the housing crisis needs to draw on those qualities that still make them so desirable. Every time we look at a site or designate a Housing Zone, we should think about the social qualities that place could possess, not just how it might contribute to housing targets or the economy.”

The research makes clear that villages cannot be created instantly. They emerge over time, as local traditions and a sense of collective memory become established. But the process can be accelerated on new developments if someone is willing to act as a catalyst.

Today, the authors believe that private developers should pick up the role of community development previously occupied by councils. They recommend that developers should plan for these activities, resource them adequately and staff them with appropriate expertise. In return, planning authorities might trade off an element of capital expenditure on physical amenity for revenue funding to support community development.

Tony Pidgley CBE, Chairman of the Berkeley Group, said, “Fundamentally, housebuilding is about creating community. We have put our heart and soul into engaging with the residents and building a new London village on the site of the old Ferrier Estate. Today a real community is starting to emerge at Kidbrooke, with something for everyone, from each and every part of society. Clearly, not every major site has to be a village. But they are part of London’s history and I think they could help define its future.”

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