Estate regeneration

Prime Minister David Cameron last week announced his New Year plans for a new wave of estate regeneration schemes for 100 of England’s poorest quality housing estates. Cameron said the scheme would be supported by a £140m fund alongside a new Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel chaired by Lord Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister. The Panel is due to report on its findings in detail before this year’s Autumn Statement.

woodberry down

The Prime Minister came under fire for the plans at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn accusing Cameron of not thinking through his plans clearly enough. Corbyn said, “Every estate you wish to bulldoze will include tenants and people that have bought their homes under Right to Buy”.

The announcement drew upon Cabinet Office-commissioned research by Savills, which indicated a low-rise, high density model of rebuilding London’s estates could almost double the amount of housing accommodated per hectare.

The Savills report, Completing London’s Street reported that between 54,000 and 360,000 homes could be supplied through regeneration and infill rather than replacement.

Mayoral ambitions

With the race for London mayor seeing a change of gear as we enter 2016, it is worth noting that Conservative candidate and Richmond  Zac Goldsmith, has spoken similarly on the topic, stating in Autumn of last year that many 1950’s and 60’s housing estates are “poorly designed, many of them coming to the end of their lives”. Instead he spoke of a desire for, “attractive street-based developments that people actually want to live in”, in line with the low rise high density model.

The lack of housing in London has become an issue which rocketed to the top of the political agenda in 2015 and will likely continue to dominate the debate this year. Many would suggest turning to the Green Belt is the answer to London’s ailing housing supply.

Adam Smith Institute weight in

According to a recent report from the Adam Smith Institute earlier this week, the Green Belt around Britain’s cities acts as a “green noose” on urban areas, pushing up the cost of living. The paper said that development of only 3.7% of the Green Belt around London would provide enough land for 1m additional suburban homes, enough to meet the needs of an expanding city.

The author of the paper, Tom Papworth, has spoken against those defending the Green Belt against all costs, claiming the protected land has minimal environmental value. The Paper reports that 37% of London’s Green Belt is, in fact, intensively farmed agricultural land.

The paper estimates that the two and a half million new homes that will be required over the next decade could be built on just 0.5% of the landmass of England, or 2% of the country’s Green Belt land. However it seems as though the government is yet to embrace this option, as Cameron has pledged that “protecting the greenbelt land is paramount”.

Redwood will be following housing and planning developments in the build up to the London Mayoral election in May.