Four different approaches to the shortage of places to live, from four homes on a tight site to a 10ha scheme
We are looking at housing in this month’s Page of Consents. It is clear that there is no single solution to help us clamber out of this housing crisis, and these recent projects from London, Southend and Wolverhampton show just four approaches: estate regeneration, inter-generational housing, an urban apartment complex and four private houses on a small brownfield site.
We are relaunching this page as a regular column, so RIBAJ would love to hear about your recent planning successes, with particular interest in innovative and non-London projects. Contact RIBAJ to let us know about what projects you have ready to go to site.
BETTER QUEENSWAY, SOUTHEND-ON-SEA
Total area Approximately 10.08 ha
Client Porters Place, Southend-on-Sea LLP (a joint venture between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Swan Housing Association)
Planning authority Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Planning ref 20/01479/BC4M
An estate abutting the main Queensway dual carriageway which takes visitors straight to the sands of Southend’s beaches is set to be radically overhauled, modelled on a new masterplan by dRMM. Better Queensway, a joint venture between the council and Swan Housing Association, received outline planning permission which will see a vast dual carriageway-straddling site, to the east of the town’s train station, cleared for new mid-rise residential blocks alongside space for business startups, a creative industry hub and 10,000m2 of commercial units.
The four existing towers and houses of the post-war estate, totalling 441 homes, will be demolished as the area is overhauled into a place of ‘of inner-city regeneration to integrate live, work, and play’, says dRMM’s Jonas Lencer. The scheme will have 1,760 new homes, of which 512 are ‘genuinely affordable’ and 300 are for social rent. Lower than the authority’s requirements, planners felt that the scheme’s other benefits outweighed both this and the acknowledged harming of heritage assets.
The masterplan itself is based on a rigid grid of blocks, with a single central void left for LDA Porter’s Place gardens, designed by LDA. However, bisecting this greenspace as well as the whole project remains the dominant presence of the dual carriageway, meaning daytime sound levels in the greenspace are not expected to drop below 58dB, rising to 70dB closer to the traffic.
While it’s claimed that the road will be ‘greener and more sustainable’, with trees and cycle paths lining both sides, it is clear that in such a densely packed masterplan the pollution, noise and division of the Queensway will have a large part to play in the ultimate outcomes of these plans.
Total area Approximately 2,000m2
Client Phoenix Community Housing
Architect Levitt Bernstein
Planning authority London Borough of Lewisham
Planning ref LE/962/1/TP
This inter-generational housing scheme seeks to provide sustainability not only in its physical but also its social fabric. Two buildings with mirroring kinks will address one another across a pedestrian open space, with a considered landscape strategy of low-maintenance but biodiverse planting, and a new wildflower meadow to the rear of the site wrapping itself around Milcroft House – an existing seven storey tower which will remain in situ.
Phoenix Community Housing is looking to rent accommodation not only for older residents, but also to postgraduate students at nearby Goldsmiths College. These will be charged a lower rent in return for spending a few hours of time with the older residents on cultural and recreational activities.
Internally, the 30 one-bedroom flats are generously laid out at 58m2 with a clarity and care required for ageing residents, each flat allowing an additional room for flexible use such as a study or for a carer to temporarily stay over if needed. The two four-bed apartments – for the postgraduate ‘good neighbours’ – pack the living space tighter into 119m2, though these shared units also have individual external spaces, with some lucky residents also able to access green roofs. At the ground floor a community garden room and landscaping, also by Levitt Bernstein, offers a mix of enclosed and accessible spaces.
The two blocks are intended to be fully certified Passivhaus buildings, with the hope that rooftop solar panels can contribute over 33,000kWh/year. In its totality, the project has bold ambitions, with physical and social approaches to place which will require careful and consistent management. But it illustrates an approach to equitable and shared living which can support two sections of society often priced or built out of the city.
DUDLEY ROAD APARTMENTS, WOLVERHAMPTON
Total area Approximately 0.35 ha / 3500m2
Client: M&E Group
Architect: Ackroyd Lowrie
Planning authority City of Wolverhampton Council
Planning ref 20/00536/FUL
This scheme was significantly altered following pre-planning submission concerns around the project’s height from planners. The initial proposal of stepped blocks rising to eight storeys, with most of the remaining plot given over to hard-surface car-parking, has been reformed into an amended scheme which has submerged most of the parking into a basement. This hasn’t, however, provided greater opportunity for improved ground level landscaping or communal spaces, with a densely packed site squeezing in 100 one and two bed apartments over 5780m2, with a further 200m2 of office space for use by the developer.
The amended scheme has seen the height dropped to a uniform four storeys with set-back roof storey, though the new massing means no extra ground level space has been found for recreational or a landscaping offer. But each unit offers at least a balcony space, with ground floor units’ bifold doors opening onto small, paved patios.
Two communal landscaped spaces are provided, located at the second floor and essentially making connecting bridges between the three blocks. However, as spaces that will rarely catch any direct sunlight and offering little depth of design other than a grid of paving-slabs surrounded by raised planters of shrubs, these are unlikely to act as spaces of communal activity or recreation for future residents. But, perhaps marketed at a ‘young professional’ demographic, it is expected new residents will spend more of their communal recreation 10 minutes’ walk away in the city centre.
SINGLE FAMILY HOMES, ENFIELD
Total area: 664m2 (development land) and 457m2 (access road and refuse store)
Architect vPPR Architects
Planning authority London Borough of Enfield
Planning ref 19/03816/FUL
A cluster of 18 disused domestic garages in Enfield is due to be transformed into a trianglescape of pyramids under plans from vPPR Architects for four new family homes.
With land costs at a premium, and less-complicated sites gobbled up (and then often sat on) by mass builders, sites like this awkward, angular plot will be spaces in which homes have to be eked out of city fabric. They do, however, require intelligent architecture, with issues around access, overlooking and NIMBYism a risk to projects progressing. vPPR has wrestled with overlooking issues by creating a tight mass of four homes which aesthetically turn their backs on their neighbours, facing inwards towards a compact shared courtyard. Living spaces are raised to the first floor, above ground floor bedrooms, to maximise incoming light.
Not that the backs of these blocks are not things of intrigue, the triangular motif is picked out in a brickwork darker in hue towards the external edges of the site then fading to a paler red towards the heart of the scheme, while the low pyramid roofs with triangular solar panels create a motif picking up from nearby terrace pitched roofs to create an identifiable new typology.
These four homes are for a private developer, presumably to be sold on the open market, but schemes like this can illustrate the possibilities – with ingenuity and cunning – which can maximise these small plots across our cities for different tenures and strategies.