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Processes of Density

An Investigation on Sustainable Densification in London Eva Nella | ID No. 16057112 | Manchester School of Architecture | MArch April 2017 | Supervisor: Dr. Albena Yaneva

Abstract Current pressures from the rapidly rising population and the housing crisis, emphasise the in the

urgency London.

to This




dissertation process


explores achieving

sustainable densification in London. It starts by investigating historic processes of urban growth and the development of sustainability, by looking at key theories and policies that have emerged over time. It continues by analysing - as a case study - an ongoing process of densification occurring at the Heygate estate redevelopment in Elephant and Castle. Then, follow the results of the analysis, attempting to bind the data available from both the past and the present, in order to generate a guideline for a more informed and responsible process. This essay highlights the complexity of achieving a sustainable process in an economic environment which at the same time favours deregulation, whilst also underlining certain actors’ resposibility in ensuring that this is successfully delivered.

Contents Introduction


1.0 Theory and Policy


1.1 Early Theory on Density, Urban Form and its Sustainability


1.2 Recent Theory and Policy on Sustainable Densification


1.3 Theory and Policy Reflections


2.0 Case Study: The Heygate / Elephant Park


2.1 Elephant and Castle Planning History


2.2 Demolition VS Refurbishment


2.3 Open and Inclusive Space


2.4 Mobility and Energy


2.5 Mixed Communities and Uses


2.6 Case Study Reflections






List of Figures




A. Heygate Amenity Space Audit


B. Allot & Lomax Survey


C. Heygate Crime Statistics


D. Southwark Council Committee Report


Introduction London is currently facing an immense challenge.

housing market. The document places a strong

Its population is growing rapidly, and is expected

emphasis on land-use planning as a solution to

to reach 10 million by 2031, attaining megacity

the crisis. It argues that compared to other major

status (Pollard Thomas Edwards et al., 2015). At

European cities, like Paris and Madrid, London

the same time, the housing stock is growing at

is a relatively low density city that could provide

a much slower rate than the population (Fig.2).

the homes that are needed with more efficient

This lack of adequate supply has resulted in the

use of public and brownfield land, a term used

so-called “housing crisis”. The crisis is palpable

to describe disused land that has already been

nationally, yet in London it’s at its most acute,

developed. Current legislation defines density

where property is considered one of the most

as the amount of dwellings per hectare, however

reliable assets in the world and the average

there is no standard way of measuring density

home costs 12.9 times a person’s average annual

since it can also be measured by people per

wage (Jackson, 2017). Rents are soaring and

hectare. The term in itself is neither positive nor

exploitative, overcrowded living conditions are

negative, however public perceptions of high

becoming the norm, with negative implications

density can be negative as it is often associated

for the public’s health and well-being. The mayor

with overcrowding or high-rise buildings (LSE

of London, Sadiq Khan, stated in 2016 that “more

Cities, 2004). Nonetheless, the growing population

than 8,000 people slept rough in the capital (...)

of London as well as the housing shortage have

more than double compared with eight years

contributed to the governmental opinion that

ago,” highlighting the severest end of the crisis.

high density is a sustainable tool for growth

This relentless need for good quality, affordable housing is acknowledged by the government

within London’s existing boundaries (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2005).

who have placed housing high on their agenda.

The GLA conducted a study on the population

In February 2017, the Greater London Authority

growth of London from 1939-2015 (2015). Since

(GLA) published the White Paper “Fixing our

1991, the population of Greater London as a whole

Broken Housing Market” to set out reforms for the

has experienced sustained growth, surpassing


Fig. (1): Proportional Population Growth in London 1939-2015.

21% to 35% Decline

Inner London density has decreased, whilst outer London has experienced growth. Data

11% to 20% Decline

from ‘Population Growth in London, 1939-2015’ (Greater London Authority, 2015, p. 4).

10% Decline to 10% Growth 11% to 35% Growth 36% to 82% Growth

18% 16% 14% 12% 10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% Inner London

Outer London

London Total

Rest of England

Fig (2) : Change in Population and Number of Households 2001-2011.

Population Change

Growth in the number of households did not keep up with population growth (largely due to a lack of

Household Change

available housing). Data from ‘Housing in London 2015’ (Greater London Authority, 2015, p. 24). 07

its 1939 height of 8.61 million people in 2015, at

as “financialised housing markets respond to

8.63 million people. Upon closer inspection at a

preferences of global investors rather than to the

sub-regional level, a more complex transition

needs of communities” (2017, p.10). A powerful

is evident. The overall growth of the capital is a

example of this commodification is the amount of

result of a steady urbanization experienced at

long-term vacant units in the wealthy boroughs

the outer boroughs, of which three have had

of Kensington and Chelsea in inner London,

the highest percentage increases: Hillingdon,

which has risen by 40% between 2013 and 2014

Havering and Bromley. On the contrary, the inner

(Cumming, 2015).

city boroughs have experienced a substantial loss of 1 million people over the period 1939 to 2015, with Islington, Westminster, Tower Hamlets and Southwark all experiencing a 32-36% decrease in population density (Fig.1). According to a study conducted by LSE Cities (2011), London has a peak population density of 17,324 pp/km2, which is much lower than the average Parisian neighbourhood, at 21,500 pp/km2 (Elledge, 2015). It could be argued that London is capable of accommodating a much higher overall density both in its inner and outer parts, to appease the demand for housing.

The need for housing accompanies another topical urgency, the fight against climate change. Based on the 2008 Climate Change Act, the Government must achieve a reduction of 80% of the 1990 GHG Emissions by 2050 (Committee on Climate Change, 2017). Of all carbon emissions in the UK, buildings’ operation and construction account for almost half, without including embodied carbon (UK Green Building Council, 2014). This places a huge responsibility on developers, local authorities and architects to provide the homes that are needed responsibly, by reducing energy use and waste. At the same

The need for affordable housing is starkly

time, urban containment is being encouraged

contrasted by the construction of hyper-expensive

by policymakers as a more environmentally

real estate in the inner city. The United Nations

sustainable urban form for a city. Promoting

housing envoy, Leilani Farha, recently presented

high-density and mixed-use in cities and

this phenomenon as the “financialisation of

dissuading the use of the automobile in favour of

housing” where homes are seen as commodities

walking, cycling and public transport is seen as

and a way of accumulating wealth as a result

environmentally beneficial.

of the unregulated global markets (Human Rights Council, 2017). She sees this as a pivotal threat to humans’ right for adequate housing 08

Increasing density is considered to be a standard tool for inner-city growth. Yet it is still unsure

who is benefiting from the result. Do dense

positions and involvement, whilst also tracing

developments create homes for families or

the process of the redevelopment. The analysis

products for investors and do they help the

mainly utilises primary data from the time under

government achieve its climate targets? This

study, such as Southwark Council’s planning

dissertation aims to elucidate how and to what

documents for the neighbourhood, the developer’s

extent densification can be achieved sustainably

planning application for the development and

in London. Sustainability is a multifaceted

community activist blogs and testimonials.

concept, however for the purposes of this

Additionally, personal photographs of the current

analysis, it is mainly assessed in terms of its

state of the development are used to facilitate

social and environmental dimensions.

comprehension. Certain primary sources, which have been used to validate the analysis, which

Structure and Methodology In the first section of the dissertation, the theoretical framework is presented regarding urban form and

are not commonly available, have been included in the appendix. Secondary data is also employed to substantiate the argumentation.

sustainable densification.

The epilogue synthesises the past and the present,

Certain patterns over time are identified, as well

the theoretical and the empirical, in an effort to

as gaps in the theory, which require additional

develop suggestions for a more conscientious

empirical evidence to be bridged.

future approach. The ongoing nature of the

The subsequent section attempts to contribute to this pool of evidence by investigating and comparatively analysing an ongoing process of densification in Elephant and Castle, London. The variety of actors that have been involved in this type of development and have been responsible for its successes and failures are also critically

development presents some limitations regarding complete data collection and the conclusions derived from it. Only once the redevelopment is finished will the full implications of densification beceome apparent. As a result, the present essay is more focused on the process of density rather than the final product itself.

assessed, with the objective of exploring their accountability in the delivery of a sustainable process. A mosaic of quantitative and qualitative data is carefully assembled to represent all actors’ 09

1.0 Theory and Policy

Fig. (3): Model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” Plan. (Wright, 2014)

Despite the term “sustainable development”

the current gaps are regarding sustainable

being used for the first time in the 1972

inward densification. It is separated into two

book Limits to Growth, questions over the

sub-chapters; the Early Theory on Density,

sustainability of urban patterns have existed

Urban Form and its Sustainability and the

long before this date (Wheeler and Beatley,

Recent Theory and Policy on Sustainable

2009). Since the start of the 19th Century

Densification. The thinkers presented are

there has been a spirited and polarised

organised chronologically in terms of certain

debate concerning the relationship between

key trends and themes that have prevailed

density, urban form and its sustainability. This

over time. The government’s stance on the

chapter aims to draw out the main thinkers

debate during this time period is highlighted by

from this discourse in order to trace the

interweaving the key relevant planning policies

development of the debate and elucidate what

and documents throughout the analysis.


1.1 Early Theory on Density, Urban

decentralise, to redistribute and to correlate

Form and Its Sustainability

the properties of the life of man on earth to his

Decentrists and Outward Growth The highly dense industrial cities of the 19th century led to a vigorous wave of decentralisation (Rogers and Power, 2000). People were eager to escape the problems associated with congested, inner-city squalor, in favour of low density

birth right... and Broadacre City becomes reality” (Wright, 2011, p. 346). Compared to Wright’s proposal, Howard could be described as a much more moderate decentrist, as his imagined settlements were constrained by a boundary that didn’t allow them to expand endlessly.

suburbia. The first model of outward growth was

During the first half of the 20th century, several

Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City (1902) and it was

socio-economic factors contributed to the

implemented at Letchworth and Welwyn Garden

emergence of the suburban sprawl phenomenon,

City. Howard loathed the industrial capital and

resulting in a blurring of the boundaries between

aspired to combine the most desired aspects

urban and rural. Automobiles and railways

of town and country in a new type of contained

enabled a shift from micro-mobility to macro-

settlement, which would prove to be the first

mobility, thus people were able to travel further

retort to “centripetal urbanisation” (Breheny,

and faster and could separate their domestic



Soon after, Frank Lloyd Wright (1932) was able to reflect on Howard’s influential proposals. Wright shared a similar dislike of the equivalent metropolis in America, however he adopted a much more extreme approach. By marrying his acceptance of the automobile revolution with his strong ideology, he proposed Broadacre City, a planned city whereby each person would be allocated one acre of land and freedom would be reclaimed through individual ownership of space (Fig.3). His proposal begins with the following statement, “given the simple exercise of several inherently just rights of man, the freedom to





Additionally, the revolution of transportation caused undeveloped land to plummet in cost so the purchase and development of land became affordable to everyone. Planning regulations were also very lenient in terms of new development, as long as it followed the loose guidelines of the local town-planning scheme (Hall and Jones, 2011).

Centrists and Inner Growth Contrary to Wright (1932) and Howard (1902), Le Corbusier’s response to inner city congestion was extreme centralisation, as was thoroughly manifested in La Ville Contemporaine and La

Ville Radieuse (1925; 1933). His response to 11

overcrowding entailed an increase of density in

The Town and Country Planning Act, which was

the center of the city, which would consequently

passed in 1947, was the most seminal piece of

free up circulation and maximise open space.

planning legislation in British post-war history.

Another striking difference to both Howard and

The new law essentially nationalised the right

Wright especially, was that Le Corbusier’s ideal city

to develop new land, limiting the individual’s

visions were very rigid and controlled, permitting

power to develop land with no restraints. In the

very limited freedom to the individual. On the one

50’s the government made a start on subsidising

hand, La Ville Contemporaine depicts an entirely

high-density development within cities and

class-segregated designation of space and on the

designated green belts around them to disrupt

other, La Ville Radieuse is organised according to


rigid space norms as seen in Fig. 5 (Hall, 2002).

birth-rates and car ownership stifled urban

Another radical aspect of Le Corbusier’s vision

containment like never before, forcing families to

was that he called for a total demolition of the

bypass the green belt of the cities and build around

pre-existing built up environment, “therefore

their outer fringe (Hall and Jones, 2011).

the existing centres must come down. To save itself, every great city must rebuild its centre” he states in his 1929 book The City of Tomorrow

and Its Planning (in Hall, 1996, pp. 208-209).





It could be argued that the government’s approach to slum clearance within the cities was also putting a strain on urban containment. The approach of the state since the 30’s had

During the years of the suburban sprawl, a

been to demolish the existing plots of land and

movement of people formed which was against

to build large council housing in their place. The

the uncontrolled urban growth that was occurring,

rebuilding process could take up to two decades

led by Patrick Abercrombie, the founder of the

however and necessitate the use of double

Council for the Preservation of Rural England

the original space, while the families involved

(Hall and Jones, 2011). One of his first solutions

were kept in far worse conditions than the ones

to decentralisation was manifested in his Greater

prevailing in the original slums (Rogers and

London Plan in 1944. In this design he proposed

Power, 2000). This approach not only neglected

a green belt around the city of London which

the social repercussions of displacing the

would stunt its expansion (Fig.4). Similar to

city dwellers, but also led to overcrowding.

Howard’s contained settlements, Abercrombie suggested clustered neighbourhoods within the 12





Starting from 1946 until the late 60’s, low-density New Towns were devised by the government in

Outer country ring Green belt ring Suburban ring Inner urban ring

Fig. (4): Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan: The Four Rings ( Abercrombie, 1944).

The Administrative County of London

Fig. (5): Model of Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse (Artists Rights Society, 2013). 13

order to deal with the overspill of major cities

He believed that public servants were largely to

and conurbations as well as to clear the inner

blame for this low-density sprawl as their policies

city slums. These were based on the garden city

adhered to this sort of growth.

visions of Ebenezer Howard. While this initiative had many merits, it also created new development issues, especially due to a lack of comprehensive transport planning foresight. The low density of the towns encouraged dependency on the automobile and their satellite cities. Additionally, low population levels meant that regular maintenance was economically unviable and thus their infrastructure started to deteriorate over time.

Jane Jacobs was perhaps the most committed centrist of the 60’s, at a time when inner-city life was being increasingly rejected. However, her approach to city life and urban planning differed profoundly to Le Corbusier’s. Her book The Death

and Life of Great American Cities (1961) was highly critical of urban renewal projects in New York in the 60’s which bulldozed the existing urban fabric to make way for shiny new developments. She was passionate about retaining the diversity

During this time, the architectural critic Ian Nairn

and energy found in her existing neighbourhood

(1955), vehemently criticised this unrelenting

and was disapproving about low density in urban

dispersal in his critical piece Outrage, which was

areas. High density represented vitality and

published in the Architectural Review. In it he

diversity to Jacobs, contrary to Le Corbusier’s


control and uniformity. Dantzig and Saaty

This issue is less of a warning than a prophecy of doom: The prophecy that if what is called development is allowed to multiply at the present rate, then by the end of the century Great Britain will consist of isolated oases of preserved monuments in a desert of wire, concrete roads, cosy plots and bungalows. There will be no real distinction between town and country (p. 365).

He coined this phenomenon as subtopia, which he defined as “making an ideal of suburbia… the universalisation and idealisation of our town fringes...from suburb and utopia” (1955, p. 365). 14

echoed Jacobs’ urbanist philosophy in their 1973 proposal for a “compact city”. The citizens of this imaginary city would all live in a two-mile wide vertical tower, enabling all horizontal and vertical distances to be minimized. Energy consumption would decrease and the countryside would be preserved.

1.2 Recent Theory and Policy on

density and petroleum consumption (1989). Their

Sustainable Densification

findings indicated a clear correlation between

Rise of Sustainable Development After the 1972 Limits to Growth report, Britain made large strides in becoming more environmentally sustainable (Meadows et al.). At the same time, the social sustainability of planning was being questioned, both in America but also in Britain. The slum clearances and displacement of dwellers from inner-city areas as well as the general encouragement of suburban dispersal, had led to a fragmentation and decay of urban life and the planner’s role was being questioned. In 1987 The Brundtland Commission published





Development, in which it constructed the most widely accepted definition of sustainability as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). The contemporary debate on urban form reignited during this decade when sustainable

high urban densities and lower petroleum consumption. This research highlighted the importance of transportation in sustainability and the obligation to move away from automobile dependence. If fuel emissions were to be reduced, the two Australian academics argued that policies would have to promote a radical change in land-use planning and sustainable transport. A paper published in 1990 by the European Communities Commission entitled Green Paper

and the Urban Environment introduced the compact city theory to the United Kingdom. The theory was based on urban containment and the belief that higher densities make highquality provision of amenities and infrastructure economically viable in a city. The paper presented the theory as a solution to urban area issues, albeit with no hard evidence or justification to support this conviction. In fact, a compact city could risk becoming overcrowded and congested if its application is not controlled.

development established itself as a universally

Soon after, the UK government started adopting

accepted concept. It soon became apparent that

various policies encouraging urban containment

urban planning would have to play a major role in

and the “compact city”. One of these was PPG13,

its promotion.

a policy guidance document developed by the

Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy contributed profoundly to the debate through their research which measured the relationship between urban

Department of the Environment, which pioneered the emphasis of the role of land-use planning in sustainable transport strategies (1994a). It encouraged the implementation of higher urban 15

densities around transit nodes and set out policies which would stimulate the use of walking, cycling and public transport. It highlighted the responsibility of local authorities in actively managing the urban growth in their localities by preparing thorough development plans. The UK Strategy for Sustainable Development published that same year also encouraged urban containment and marked a major shift in UK policymaking where urban planning was recognised as integral to government policy (Department of the Environment, 1994b). The strategy presented the imperative to integrate economic development with social wellbeing and environmental sustainability and identified planning and transport as essential to spurring this integration. At



findings regarding the impact of one on the other. At the end of the 90’s the Labour government’s projections uncovered that four million homes would have to be provided in the next quarter of a decade. To deal with this mammoth task, the Urban Task Force chaired by the architect Richard Rogers, was commissioned to study how this provision could be met. The report promoted the use of brownfield land for the new construction and a revitalisation of urban life. Richard Rogers followed up this research with a book he cowrote with Anne Powers entitled Cities for a Small

Country (2000). In it he calls for higher densities in cities, insisting that they facilitate the formulation of mixed-use neighbourhoods, which are more socially and environmentally sustainable. He also asserts that socially balanced environments do


not occur as a result of the free market but are


the product of careful planning and design. One

started creating uncertainty in the promotion of

of his criticisms is towards the current demolition

sustainable development. It was believed that

of council housing, which he alludes to the inner-

policies would clash with the market and thus

city slum clearances that took place from the

would not be sustained by governments (Breheny,

30s until the 70s. Similar to Jane Jacobs, Rogers

1996). This doubt was affirmed by Breheny,

believes that preservation of the existing fabric of

Gurney and Strike (1995), who conducted a

the city is paramount to its vitality. He suggests

study questioning the effectiveness of PPG13 in

that the act of demolition in cities has proven

the free market. The study indicates developers’

over time to be an unsustainable solution to

unwillingness to develop on brownfield land. To

civic issues and that buildings should rather be

this day however there is an insufficient amount

adapted over time (Rogers and Power, 2000).






of research studying the relationship between compact policy and the market and no direct 16

Since then, urban compaction has become

Fig. (6): Aerial View of Curitiba, Brazil (Anzola, 2015). Higher density pockets indicate transit routes in an aerial view.

Fig. (7): Passengers disembarking a bus in Curitiba, Brazil (Zhu, 2009). Many urbanists, including Richard Rogers, have hailed Curitiba in Brazil as a good example of a sustainable city. It was redeveloped in the 60’s by linking land use and transport together. The city has a highly efficient bus system with development zones planned along the transport route. Densities are higher close to the public transport and lower further away from it. This was purposefully done to prevent people from using their cars, by making the bus route highly accessible and efficient. 17

widely popular and centrist views are promoted

than good if approached simplistically. To achieve

by national governments globally. Nonetheless,

it sustainably its application must be controlled

the precise advantages of the compact city have

and must work as part of a wider integrated plan

not yet been proven. Many academics doubt the

that includes, for example, adequate open space

advantages of the theory. Michael Breheny has

further away from the transit nodes.

questioned whether the positives of sustainability outweigh the negatives of high-density urban life. Additionally, Thomas and Cousins consider compact cities unviable in the current economic and political climate. Similar to Howard they are more in favour of a decentralised urban form which will nonetheless be physically compact on a local and regional scale and thus travel between the different clusters will be highly efficient. Perhaps its downfall is that, similar to the ideal cities of Howard, Wright and Le Corbusier, it attempts to apply one solution to a multi-faceted problem. Perhaps one principle and one type of urban form cannot apply to every city.

Ways and Processes of Densification Due to general governmental support of centric friendly theories in recent years, a dominant notion has prevailed that high density is positive. Edward Ng criticises this tendency in his book

Designing High Density Cities by saying that, “rather than rushing to ever higher densities, perhaps those who govern cities should consider how such cities can be future-proofed in terms of guaranteeing a secure supply of resources” (2009, p. 25). Densification can cause more harm 18








Power (2002), criticises the current trends of densification through substitution, which can often entail demolishing entire parts of the city to make way for new developments. He believes that Rodrigo Perez De Arce’s 1978 book

Urban Transformations and the Architecture of Additions can teach us a lot about sustainable growth by observing the adaptive processes of historic European cities. Contrary to the current popular substitutive method, historic buildings transformed



additively, whereby

parts were incrementally added to the existing building. The buildings were adapted, reused and reinhabited in ways that allowed them to organically evolve over time. This method was not only a low-cost and low-intervention way of updating the urban fabric, but also ensured that history was preserved and that there was a strong sense of continuum through space and time. Another book critiquing the substitutive method of urban development, is Collage City by Fred Koetter and Colin Rowe (1979). The authors condemn the total architecture of modernists’ utopias and propose a contextual response that, they argue, is more suitable to the organic growth

of cities. They present the term ‘bricolage’, as a way of developing the city through an assemblage of old and new, as well as different components found in the city.

tool for urban renewal. In terms of the more recent theories on urban form, Patrick Clarke (2008) speaks of a polycentric system, which is similar to Abercrombie’s

Hulshof Architects worked with this ethos in urban

clustered neighbourhoods theory. He describes

renewal projects in Rotterdam in the 80s. Their

this sustainable form as starting from the regional

goal was to transform deprived neighbourhoods

scale and talks about a need to holistically

and increase their density through a combination

understand the interdependence between town

of renovation and new-build. One of their key

and country. This interrelationship of urban and

ambitions was to make the users aware of how

rural is radically different to the previous theories

they can participate in the process and be more

discussed in this chapter. Even Howard’s garden

in charge of the final result. Ineke Hulshof was

city which was a combination of town and country

part of an exchange program between Rotterdam

had no relationship with the rural hinterland. On

and Shanghai which culminated in the creation

the city scale, Clarke talks about having a network

of The Upper City Foundation in Rotterdam.

of walkable communities, each consisting of a

Its aim is to add space to urban areas without

10-minute walking radius. These are positioned

sacrificing green space and without demolishing

along public transport routes and have higher

existing buildings. The main themes according to

densities closer to the transport links. Clarke also

Hulshof, “are linked to sustainability; increasing

talks about density in a way that is not apparent

density; reuse and reduction of waste, shortening

in previous thinking. Instead of high or low, he

journey distances and improving the urban

talks about the ‘appropriate’ density. He rejects



the idea that there is a fixed response to every

renewal” (2005, p.208). This concern seems to

situation and believes that the context must be

also be acknowledged by the planning system.

studied thoroughly in order to assume a suitable

By inspecting the Local London Plan, a clear

density. Furthermore, he believes that there

reference is made to preventing demolition,

should be a mix of housing tenures and housing

“through the reuse of existing buildings or their

types in order to avoid ghettoization.




main structures (…) using sustainably sourced materials and conserving water resources” (Greater London Authority, 2015a, p. 125). But demolition is still largely used as an accepted

Local community engagement is another theme that is brought up by Clarke and permeates most contemporary thinking on sustainable planning. 19

There is a general consensus that communities


must be part of the planning process to ensure


they benefit from the process. Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by the government under the Localism Act in 2011 in order to enable communities to create a plan for the future of their area’s development. The idea was to promote a more bottom-up approach to planning. Local Plans were also developed by each area of England and each borough of London, setting out what type of developments will be built and their location. The amount of benefit this brings to the communities still remains uncertain. All local plans must follow the National Planning Policy






guidelines for the whole country. The NPPF was developed as part of a radical move in 2012, when the Conservative Government decided to slash the existing planning system and replace it with a 65 page document. This move was reminiscent of the government policies of deregulation enacted in the 1980’s (Bartuska and Kazimee, 2005). The NPPF declares that; Pursuing sustainable development requires careful attention to viability and costs in planmaking and decision-taking. Plans should be deliverable. Therefore, the sites and the scale of development (‌) should not be subject to such a scale of obligations and policy burdens that their ability to be developed viably is









This emphasis on financial viability creates a




authorities at




must an


the the





prioritization market.

that balance






1.3 Theory and Policy Reflections

of absolute terminology and one-size-fits-all

The early period of experimentation results in the certainty that processes of growth affecting the density of cities are inextricably linked to sustainability. It indicates that the government is responsible for guiding this process and thus the sustainability of growth. Whilst low density





personal freedom, decentralisation has led to the awareness that it encourages car use and that low population levels cannot justify public transport infrastructure implementation. On the other hand, high density has started to be encouraged through urban containment by introducing the green belt, a regulation that still drives densification today. There is a dichotomy between proponents of centralisation during this time. Whilst Le Corbusier speaks of a tabula rasa approach, Jacobs is highly critical of it. A common thread running through urban renewal during this time is lack of awareness of the social implications of change. As manifested by the slum clearances in London and the demolitions in New York, local communities are often crippled by this change.

solutions. Current academics have extracted methods and systems from previous thinking to develop more comprehensive and integrated attitudes towards sustainable development. Mixed-use, high




still at the forefront of the discourse, however contextual and intelligent responses to sites are required in order to avoid severe social and environmental problems. A specific area which has been neglected by governments, planners and architects alike, is the process by which high density is currently achieved in urban environments. For example, it is unclear who is benefiting from current high-rise development in London. Considering the current pressure on the government to deliver new housing at a very fast pace, the deregulation of the planning system and policies of financial viability raise questions regarding how this new housing stock will be delivered sustainably. The case study presented in the following chapter analyses the development of a currently ongoing scheme in London, with an aim to gauge the ability of delivering urban high-density in a sustainable way.

It may seem like the more recent literature on the sustainable form of cities is recycling the same themes that have been expressed in the past. At the same time, there is one key discernible difference. Despite the ongoing popularity of landuse planning, there now seems to be an avoidance 21

2.0 Case Study: The Heygate Estate/Elephant Park

Fig. (8): The Heygate Estate in 1975, one year after it was built. (Hulchanski, 1975)

Mixed-use, high-density polycentric systems

Castle, London. Its purpose is to analyse

are still widely accepted as the most

the successes and failures of an existing

sustainable form for the future of city

densification process in order to develop a

planning and have become embedded in

more holistic understanding of how the city

national and local policy. At the same time,

can grow more sustainably in the future and

existing theory raises questions on the true

house its burgeoning population. The analysis

sustainability of compact systems and there

begins by presenting some background

is insufficient empirical evidence determining


how sustainably this densification is achieved

development history and the main body of

in contemporary urban environments. This

the case study unfolds in the form of an actor-

case study attempts to bridge this gap in

based analysis under three main headings;

the theory by analysing an ongoing process

Open and Inclusive Space, Mobility and

of large scale densification in Elephant and

Energy and Mixed Communities and Uses.





Whilst good design is an important aspect of successful high-density schemes, for the purposes of this study it will only be analysed as it influences sustainability.

can have on sustainability. Despite popular perception of high-rise tower blocks equating to high densities, most postwar council housing was deliberately built with

In order to strategically intensify development

a low density (Barnes, 2015). This was due to

within London, one needs to identify which sites

London’s managed strategy of decreasing the

are most able to accommodate this change.

city’s population after the war, as proposed by

This case study concerns the sustainability of

Abercrombie’s London Plan (1943). Partly due

intensification on underused social housing

to this low-density planning, London’s inner-

estates in London.

The redevelopment of

city population still fails to surpass its pre-war

the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle

apex (Greater London Authority, 2015b). The

(Fig.8) is specifically assessed as its location

council housing tower blocks were usually

could be characterised as ideal for compact

positioned in large, open spaces, giving low

densification. The estate has the highest

overall densities to the whole sites. These

Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL),

large expanses in the city constitute a major

which is 6, and is located in central London,

percentage of the land in boroughs and thus,

meaning that it can accommodate the

most inner-city councils own around 25-30%

highest range of density in the capital. So, in

of the land in their borough (Adonis, 2015).

this ‘ideal’ situation, how was higher density

It is fair to say, that these large plots that

accomplished, who were the actors involved

have existing residential use and low-density,

and who benefited from the redevelopment?

can play a major role in delivering London’s

Through the analysis of mainly primary sources,





documents, planning applications, films, newspaper articles and activist blogs, the environmental and social impact of the redevelopment is traced. This chapter aims to highlight the multi-faceted intricacies of adding density in a city where space is scarce and the impact that market-driven planning

housing needs if their land use is reassessed. It can also be noted, that as landlords of these largely underused sites, local authorities are largely responsible for achieving this delivery. Southwark Council is the largest landlord of social housing in London and owns a third of the borough’s housing (Independent Commission, 2012). This percentage is expected to drastically shrink in the future as the council is incrementally selling its 23

land to private developers who have the capital to fund large regeneration projects. The Heygate estate was sold off to private developers (LendLease) as part of a wider ÂŁ1.5bn regeneration strategy of Elephant & Castle. The analysis of the case study contemplates on how this public-private partnership impacted the sustainability of the scheme.


2.1 Elephant & Castle Planning

blocks and eleven maisonette blocks were built


on the estate, comprising 1,194 units and around

In the years leading up to WWII, the area was a thriving shopping district and was widely referred to as the Piccadilly (Circus) of the South due to its multitude of retail and entertainment offers (Southwark Council, 2012b). Between 1940 and 1941, the junction and its immediate surroundings suffered severe damage in the London Blitz. Following this devastation, a large percentage of the area was cleared for redevelopment and new masterplans were drawn up with the aim of reviving its pre-war prestige. Patrick Abercrombie’s County of London Plan (1943) also informed this vision by depicting the centre as a gateway to London from the south. During the 1940s-1970s various schemes were built, which would later contribute to a profound stigmatization of the area. Southwark Council described this redevelopment as leaving “a legacy of large, single use buildings and a traffic dominated road network that creates

24,000m2 of public amenity space, including 406 trees (Appendix A). The development was wellreceived by its inhabitants, as the apartments had modern living standards such as being spacious and well-lit. In the 2016 documentary

Larry and Janet Move Out, which follows the eviction of a couple, one of the tenants disclosed that, “it was a real community. Nearly everyone knew everyone else. I mean, you weren’t in each other’s pockets but you knew people”. Another essay on the Heygate community, documents life on the estate as a kid being, “more like (...) a community where if you did anything wrong, they would know your parents and, you know, they would give you little slaps and if you did it next time they would tell your parents and stuff like that, next-door neighbours and even from the next block,” highlighting the strong sense of neighbourliness and solidarity that was apparent in the estate (Romyn, 2016, p.203).

an unpleasant environment for pedestrians

The development suffered many years of media-

and cyclists and that disconnects adjoining

driven defamation, neglect and deprivation,

neighbourhoods,” demonstrating their negative

largely due to the council’s disinvestment and lack

image of the neighbourhood (Southwark Council,

of secure tenancy provision in the 90’s (Heygate

2012b, p.15).

was Home, 2017). As one tenant expressed in the

One of these schemes, which acquired a particularly negative reputation was the Heygate council estate (Fig.9). Six high-rise apartment

previously mentioned documentary, “the last time a decorator was here, for outside decorations, was 1974” (Larry and Janet Move Out, 2016). During the 90’s, Southwark Council had already 25

started devising plans for a new redevelopment of Elephant & Castle and in 2002 a new regeneration strategy for E&C kick-started with plans to fully demolish the Heygate estate. It was asserted that 4,200 new homes would be provided of which “a minimum of 28.5% of (the units) would be social rented housing i.e. 1200 units,” allowing all of the Heygate tenants to be rehoused (Southwark Council, 2003, para.39). MAKE architects were officially commissioned for the redevelopment and in 2004 they created a masterplan for E&C and its immediate surroundings, with the Heygate site at the forefront of the design. The developers of the project, Australian company LendLease, vowed to deliver a carbon-neutral scheme, which was selected by Bill Clinton to represent his foundation’s climate initiative of “the world’s most ambitious low-carbon projects” (C40 Cities, 2017).

Heygate began. Today the phased development of the Heygate is well underway, with phase one complete (Fig.10) and phase two in construction. Lendlease have plans to deliver 2704 homes in total, more than doubling the building density on the nine acre site of the Heygate. Of these homes, only 82 (3%) will be social rented, preventing the majority of the decanted ex-tenants from returning to the premises. The development has attracted a lot of attention so far, both positive and negative. On the one hand it has been derided as an act of “state-led gentrification and social cleansing” by academics (Lees and Ferreri, 2014). On the other hand, it has been lauded by the architecture community and the mainstream press. Amongst other high profile recognitions, the first phase of the development was nominated by the RIBA for the most prestigious architecture award,

E&C was designated as an ‘Area of Opportunity’

the Pritzker prize, and Bill Clinton praised the

in the London Plan, as well as a major town

scheme as ‘carbon positive sustainable growth’.

centre (Greater London Authority, 2011). Multiple

It is evident that the project’s reception has been

town centres were identified in the London Plan

highly polarised, which creates uncertainties

where intensification of development could be

regarding the validity of either side. The use of

planned. These centres were hubs of connectivity

primary data helps test this validity in the next

and therefore could accommodate high-density

part of the analysis by reflecting on first-hand

living to help deliver London’s forecasted housing

accounts of the process.

needs. These multiple centres are reminiscent of Clarke’s polycentric model (2008) and each centre’s redevelopment is executed with compact city policy. In the same year, the demolition of the 26

Fig. (9): The Heygate: view of the (almost) empty tower block from one of the walkways. (cityofstrangers, 2008)

Fig. (10): Elephant Park: view of the Pritzker nominated Trafalgar Place, the completed first phase of the Lendlease development. (Nella, 2017) 27

2.2 Demolition VS Refurbishment In 1970 the Heygate was built on slum-cleared land and just a few decades later, the Heygate itself would be declared a slum in need of demolition. Since the late 1880’s in the UK, the government has habitually renewed the city using a tabula rasa approach. As presented in the previous chapter, this substitutive renewal is criticised by many academics as an inorganic growth model for a city. Anne Power (2010) has presented a paper specifically arguing that “large-scale and accelerated demolition would neither help with meeting energy and climate change targets, nor would it address social needs.” Therefore it’s fair to assess the sustainability of this aspect of the redevelopment.

During the same year another survey was commissioned by Southwark Council as part of the Southwark Estates Initiative. The survey was carried out by consulting engineers Allot & Lomax Ltd and it evaluated the condition of the buildings on the Heygate estate and compared costs of repair/refurbishment against demolition (Appendix B). The company took both physical and social considerations into account in assessing the options. It found that all buildings were structurally sound and in good condition considering their lifetime. The option that was proposed was a partial demolition of the highrise blocks of the estate (six of the total nineteen), with new-build elements to replace them and refurbishment of the remainder of the buildings. The report states that, “it is not only the most cost-

NBA Consortium Services were commissioned by

effective option but also greatly improves the site

Southwark Housing in 1998 to survey the condition

environmentally, architecturally and socially” and

of all of their housing stock. This assessment was

more specifically that “this partial demolition will

completed in May 1999 and calculated the cost of

provide the opportunity, at a design stage, to have

refurbishment and maintenance for the following

a long term effect on the environment” (p.64; p.58)

thirty years. Of the entire 40,000 council-owned

Seemingly, there is insufficient evidence provided

units in the borough, the average maintenance

in the report to support the conclusion that a

and repair cost was estimated to be £23,363 per

demolition of the high-rise blocks will benefit the

unit over 30 years. The Heygate estate’s cost per

environment. In any case, the council rejected this

unit was calculated at the below average cost

option by stating that, “it was however recognised

of £21,742 per home. Compared to other council

at the time changing land values could make

housing, the Heygate was in good condition and

the complete demolition and redevelopment by

it would have been considerably low-cost to

the private sector a better option” (Southwark

maintain its buildings.

Council, 2012a, p.4). This exemplifies how the


council chose at the time to prioritize economic

pool of evidence for decision-making related

profitability over environmental and social

to the demolition or refurbishment of social

considerations. Nonetheless, the council sold the

housing stock. The report concludes that

estate to Lendlease for £50m and the total cost

refurbishment of social housing can be more

for acquiring the leaseholders’ properties and

environmentally beneficial and can improve living

emptying the site has been £51.4m (Southwark

standards for the inhabitants. It also advocates

Council, 2016).

that refurbishment can achieve equal energy

The Allot & Lomax survey cites poor energy performance as one of the global environmental impacts of the building. However, it does not acknowledge that refurbishment could greatly improve its environmental performance (Gensler, 2012). The survey also does not mention the high embodied energy of the building, as this concept was established in later years. In 2012, global architecture firm Gensler won an Honourable Mention for its entry in the HOME competition organised by Building Trust International. The brief was to create an urban dwelling for under £20,000 and the firm responded by showing how the Heygate estate could be refurbished for just £13,955 per home. Gensler argued that by

performance standards as a new building, as well as avoid the GHG emissions of demolition and new-build construction. Furthermore, emphasis is put on the unnecessary waste that is generated through demolition and construction. In response to this issue, Southwark cabinet member for regeneration Fiona Colley has remarked in a video interview that “all the concrete from the blocks [of the Heygate] has been crushed, is being stored on site and will be used in footings of the new homes” (35% Campaign, 2011). However, as there is double the amount of built mass on the new design, this does not legitimise the construction of new buildings which will encompass additional embodied energy.

preserving the concrete superstructure, 40,000

A strong public narrative was used to promote

tons of embodied CO2/m2 could be saved. Also,

demolition of social housing, promoted by

the trees and the landscape which had matured

councillors such as Peter John who wrote in an

over forty years could remain intact. The proposal

article that “crime, antisocial behaviour, health



inequalities and unemployment [were] the only

performance standards could be adequately met

things that flourished there” (2016). Met Police

through refurbishment.

records state that “Heygate estate crime rates



In 2014, UCL published a report reviewing the

[were] on average 45% lower than the borough average over 5 year period 1999-2003” (See 29

Appendix C) so the narrative appears not to be

home and the people you know. Their handbook

backed up by tangible data. This rhetoric also

emphasizes that some elderly residents are so

undermined the strong communities that had

affected by this drastic change that they may die

formed on the estate and that the demolition


endangered. New replacement homes were promised to the residents prior to their eviction, however when the decanting commenced the new homes had not been built or submitted for planning. The residents had been promised a collective relocation which would not harm their community.

The council has acknowledged the impact that the redevelopment has had on the community. In an interview published on YouTube by the

35% Campaign, Colley states, “I think it’s fair to say that the community has been broken up, I think that’s a fair criticism” (2011). In a MORI survey conducted in April 1999, the majority of

Several activist groups traced the extent of the

the tenants expressed their desire to continue

displacement caused by the redevelopment by

living on the Heygate. More specifically, “70% of

using the new postcodes of the ex-residents.

the Heygate residents expressed a wish to move



to a new home on the site of the Heygate estate”

Information request to the council. Of the 1034

(Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute, 1999).

secure tenanted households 216 remained in the

Southwark Council then reinterpreted this finding

original postcode and the rest were dispersed

to legitimise the demolition. In a committee report

across Greater London. Heygate was Home is a

in 2003, it was stated that “70% of the Heygate

website created by the residents of the estate,

residents expressed a wish to move to a new

documenting their personal experiences of the

home” (Appendix D).






regeneration. One of the residents’ testimonial was that “our parents never even contemplated leaving their family home, neither did many other long term residents and it broke many hearts. This broke up many families and friendships and scattered everyone far and wide.” Human displacement has a high cost. Lees et al (2014) warn that apart from breaking up communities it can also lead to severe mental and physical health problems caused by the anxiety of leaving your 30

The work of Lacaton & Vassal proves that refurbishment of social housing is a viable alternative





reconstruction, which is favoured by local councils in Paris. The firm has worked on many social housing schemes in the Parisian suburbs by listening to the users’ needs (Fig.12). By removing walls and floors, adding innovative structures to improve space standards and various other

Fig. (11): The refurbished Edward Woods Estate in Hammersmith & Fulham. (Rockpanel Group, 2014).

Fig. (12): Tour Bois le PrĂŞtre; refurbished social housing project by Lacaton & Vassal. (Druot, 2011). 31

creative interventions, the architects are able to improve the character of the area and the overall condition of the building, whilst also preventing displacement of the inhabitants (Spatial Agency, 2017). In England, Power (2016) refers to Edward Woods estate in Hammersmith & Fulham as a successful example of renovation (Fig.11). She describes how the existing building had reached the end of its lifecycle, with its materials being in severe need of repair and its energy performance not living up to standards. Because of this, many tenants suffered from ‘fuel poverty’. The building was retrofitted to improve its insulation whilst the tenants were residing in it during the period 20122014. The whole procedure took three years, cost vastly less than demolition and caused minimal disruption to the tenants. The data presented exemplifies that the choice to demolish was not only financially detrimental for the council but also induced severe social and environmental repercussions. It can be argued that refurbishment of the existing blocks with added infill development to heighten the density could have been a cost-effective option which would have improved the operational emissions of the building, improved links with the surroundings and avoided GHG emissions due to demolition and construction. This could have also preserved the community and cultural identity of the area, as well as prevented damage to the inhabitants’ health. 32

2.3 Open & Inclusive Space Open, green space has been a major part of the E&C regeneration marketing strategy. Lendlease have entitled the new development “Elephant Park”, have made advertisements which claim it is “Central London’s Greenest New Place to Live” and declare that it has “Central London’s Largest New Park in 70 Years”. It has also been central to Southwark Council’s Planning Framework which states that, “there is scope to create new green spaces on the Heygate development site, including a new park in its centre. Our strategy for the borough as a whole is to maintain provision of public parks at a level of at least 0.76ha per 1000 people over the next 15 years. The new park on the Heygate will help bring the opportunity area nearer to the borough-wide standard” (2012b, p.62). These statements not only appear to overemphasise the amount of greenery that is present in the new development, but also its accessibility to the public.

further uncertainty regarding the accessibility of the new park. It is stated that the development will be owned and managed by a private company to which Lendlease will lease the grounds. This privatisation of the open space means that public accessibility will be regulated and will potentially not be available at all times. The open space on the Heygate used to have public open space designation in the council’s Unitary Development Plan. This designation was removed in 2006 as it was deemed to be “principally addressing the needs of the Heygate residents” and was considered unnecessary following the demolition (Elephant Amenity Network, 2012). This reduction in public amenity space and simultaneous increase of density is a point of concern. Lack of public amenity space was already a problem in the opportunity area, as the council has stated that, “the population density in the area is high and the proportion of housing units with no access to private open space is the second highest in the borough after Bankside and Borough. Both

In the Park Area Strategy submitted by Lendlease

of these indicators suggest high demand for

for planning in 2016, the final park’s area is

open space in the opportunity area” (Southwark

9,228.3m2. This represents a more than 50%

Council, 2012b, p.61). High-density environments

reduction in the amount of space that is provided

must work in conjunction with sufficient public

compared to the 24,000m2 of the public Heygate

space, that can be accessed by all and that is well

amenity space (Fig 13; Fig 14). This reduction in

integrated in the design. In this case, not only has

public open space puts the 405 mature trees

the open space decreased in size but it has also

that were present on the site at considerable

been privatised, decreasing public accessibility.

risk. Their Estate Management Strategy creates

A community initiative that was very active in 33

opposing the deforestation and loss of access, was the Elephant & Castle Urban Forest campaign. The members conducted a valuation of the trees, which estimated their worth at £15m rather than Southwark council’s initial valuation of £700,000 (Moore, 2011). Labour councillor Peter John (2015) remarked that, “the fact that so many mature trees across the Heygate site have been saved and will form part of the new park (…) is a direct consequence of consultation and dialogue between the community, the developers and the council.” Thanks to this community campaign, half of the trees of the Heygate were preserved




took place on the premises after the removal of the public space designation, in order to raise awareness of the value of the forest.


Fig. (13): CGI render of the main park from the new Lendlease development. (Lendlease, 2016).

Fig. (14): Heygate Forest. (cityofstrangers, 2008).


2.4 Mobility and Energy The case study site is in the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) of London and has the highest PTAL. The Local Development Framework stipulates that all new development in the CAZ should be completely free of cars (Southwark Council, 2012b). This is in accordance with compact city theory, which rejects the automobile and encourages use of public transport where densities are higher. As previously mentioned, high density poses a risk if additional measures are not regulated, and one of these is car ownership. The framework mentions an exception which endangers the ability to regulate this measure. It states that in some instances a new development may experience difficulty selling homes if it’s car-free and thus its viability may be impacted. In this case, a financial appraisal can be submitted to justify the provision of off-street parking spaces.

the council (Comstock, 2005). When the scheme was selected by Bill Clinton, the regeneration plans proposed a high-tech services infrastructure (Multi Utility Services Company or MUSCo) which would deliver heating, cooling, electricity and hot water to all residents of the regeneration. The services infrastructure would play a major role in delivering the zero-carbon strategy by sourcing the water from an aquifer 100m below the site and by sourcing all of its energy from a biomass combined heat and power plant, which would be built in the borough (London SE1, 2008) . In 2011, plans for the multi-utility services company were dropped due to government cuts. Councillor Fiona Colley stated at the time that they were still committed on delivering a zero-carbon scheme and would be mainly achieving this through renewable energy technologies (London SE1, 2011).

Therefore the financial viability of a scheme

Southwark council requires that every major

can bend policy. This was also the case for the

development must reduce its site emissions

Heygate on which 616 car-parking spaces have

by providing 20% of its energy through on-site

been requested.

renewable energy sources (2009). The Energy

The E&C regeneration professed to be a zerocarbon development. “We’re going to make this project the greenest regeneration project in London. We’re tripling the amount of homes and shops but it will still be a carbon neutral development,” expressed Councillor Richard Thomas in a promotional video commissioned by 36

Strategy from the Lendlease planning application proposes the creation of a 925m2 energy centre, which will encompass two “high-efficiency” gas CHP units and back-up gas boilers. The energy centre will pump hot water as well as heat to all of the Heygate site. Rather than producing 20% of the energy on-site as required by local policy, Lendlease propose to buy biomethane gas from

an off-site plant, to be used in the energy centre. Whilst this will be cleaner than the gas boilers that were previously powering the Heygate, it hardly lives up to the initial aspirations of delivering a carbon neutral development and the energy centre is planned as part of the second phase of the development. Until, the second phase is complete, the first phase of the development will not be powered by any renewable energy. Taking also into account the embodied energy lost from demolition and the loss of public space, this scheme’s environmental sustainability is uncertain.


2.5 Mixed Communities and Uses Many practitioners and academics strongly believe





communities as being environmentally and socially sustainable. In their book, Cities for a

Small Country (2000), Rogers and Power discuss how social housing estates were built as islands within the city, segregating and isolating them from their context. The authors believe that these

regeneration, Fred Manson who said that, “we need to have a wider range of people living in the borough… social housing generates people on low incomes coming in and that generates poor school performances, middle class people stay away” (DeFilippis and North, 2004, p.79). The E&C regeneration was thus in part about attracting wealthier people into the area in order to improve its economic performance.

islands lack the self-sufficiency and diversity

The focus on wealthier customers is epitomised

found in mixed communities and that their

by Lendlease’s ambition to sell properties abroad

perpetual dependence on government support,

prior to the development entering the UK housing

disables them from developing into viable

market. Advertisements for the flats of the first

communities. Whilst they’re vehemently opposed

phase of the development were spotted in China,

to demolition, they emphasise that in its current

Malaysia and Hong Kong before construction

form social housing is unsustainable and that

completed (Dugan, 2013). According to a 2017

it should be revised to encompass mixed uses,

report by Transparency International, Land

incomes and tenures to ensure its survival.

Registry documents show that, so far, all the

The London Plan also promotes the intermixing of different people as it states that, “growth in private renting [will be supported] where this will result in (…) mixed and balanced communities and




London Authority, 2016, p.126). But Lees (2008) is weary of this narrative and characterises it as

properties of the new development have been bought by overseas investors. Many of these are likely to stay empty, as investors can accumulate more value on new-build if it is left untouched. A large proportion of vacancy could deter the neighbourhood from developing into a vibrant community.

“positive gentrification” that seeks to “rebalance”

To ensure that there is a vibrant, mixed

disadvantaged communities by injecting them

community, and not just the pretence of one as

with wealthier, middle-class people. This is

Lees warns us against, a diverse range of house

explicitly apparent in a controversial statement

prices and rent levels must be made available.

made in the 90’s by Southwark’s director of

Thus it is important to examine the range of


Fig. (15,16): Photographs of the newly completed South Gardens development of Elephant Park. (Nella, 2017). The South Gardens development was marketed by Lendlease as the most family-oriented part of Elephant Park, with the largest proportion of 3-beds. Land Registry documents show that all units have been bought by investors so far. 39

housing that will be offered on all of the Heygate.

acceptable” (Burr, 2015). A fourth of the scheme

The Affordable Housing Statement of the

will thus be affordable housing. A more scrupulous

application discloses that the new scheme will

assessment of the definition of ‘affordable’ will

offer 2704 units in total, of which 82 will be social

help inform whether a truly mixed and socially

rented homes, 198 ‘affordable rent’ and 316

equitable environment can be created with these

shared ownership schemes. Southwark Council


stipulates that 35% of all new developments must be affordable housing (Southwark Council, 2011). Once again, if this percentage impacts the financial viability of a scheme, developers can negotiate the requirement using the financial viability assessment. These assessments were previously unpublicized by councils as they held commercially sensitive information. During the Heygate redevelopment, two tenants were perplexed by the developers’ ability to offer less affordable housing than the local policy requirements. This led them to start the 35%

Campaign, which has been successful in retrieving the viability assessments for many schemes in Southwark. Since then, Islington, Greenwich and Borough have all introduced policies in making these assessments more transparent to the public.

Social rented housing supply has decreased drastically in England in the past few decades. According to the Shelter charity website, more than 1.8 million families are on the social housing waiting list, 81% more than 1997 (2017). In 2016 only 8% of British people lived in council homes compared to 42% of the population in 1979 (Harris, 2016). At the same time a new term has gained popularity, which has replaced social housing in policy documents across the country. “Affordable housing” is defined in the most recent London Plan as, “social rented, affordable rented and intermediate rented housing” for people “whose needs are not met by the market” (Greater London Authority, 2016, p. 117). Affordable rented housing, which is the majority of the lower cost homes offered on the Heygate, is defined as being let to up to 80% of the market price. In the

The assessment revealed that only 9% affordable

Heygate Viability Assessment, Lendlease assert

housing would be viable in the development.

that the affordable rented housing will be let at

Labour councillor Peter John disclosed in a

80% of the market rate. In order to rent a two bed

recent interview that Lendlease’s figure was not

flat at this rate in Southwark, a tenant would need

accepted and the council managed to convince

an income of almost £44,000 when the average

them to provide 25%, “That was a red line – we

income of the borough is less than half that at

insisted [that] no less than 25 percent was

£20,726 (Wiles, 2014). The shared ownership


schemes have also been criticised by the 35%

mixed-use. It is important that high-density

Campaign and other activist blogs for requiring a

environments are mixed-use in order to make

minimum wage of £57,500.

more amenities available within walking distance

The new scheme provides a wide range of uses which were not previously available on the

and thus discouraging car-use, as Clarke (2008) maintains in his “walkable communities” concept.

Heygate. Apart from residential units and the

The affordable housing prices do not represent

energy centre, the scheme also plans to provide

true affordability and certainly do not reflect the

multiple shops, as well as business, community

socio-economic make-up of the area. Whilst an

and leisure facilities. Fiona Colley has stated

intention to mix different economic classes could

that the scheme will provide 6000 new jobs to

be beneficial for a more sustainable development

the area (London City Hall, 2013). According to

of the area, the amount of affordable housing

recent research by UHY accountants, Elephant

that is provided and the nature of its affordability

& Castle is among three areas in London that

make it hard to foresee Elephant Park becoming

have experienced the highest annual surge of

a mixed community. In terms of the uses, the new

income out of all 150 UK regions (UHY Hacker

site will provide a wide array of functions, greatly

Young, 2016). It remarks that there is a high

improving on the estate. The ample retail and

influx of young professionals with healthy

business offer will also generate thousands of

incomes settling in the area and a relocation

new employment opportunities, greatly improving

of low-income residents out of the area. Colin

on the economic activity and performance of the

Jones, partner, observes that “the arrival of more

neighbourhood. At the same time, this spike in

people with healthy incomes is good news for

the economy will probably price many members

local businesses, but it has driven up property

of the community out of the area. Nonetheless,

prices which is putting pressure on lower income

diversifying the uses of the area will contribute

residents to cash out if they are homeowners.

to a more walkable community and will hopefully

Those longstanding locals who are in the private

reduce reliance on personal car use.

rental sector are likely to see their rents pushed up.” Elephant & Castle definitely seems to have benefited from the regeneration in economic terms, whilst it seems that the local community has not. At the same time there is a considerable environmental advantage to making the area 41

2.6 Case Study Reflections Elephant




the community has been unable to prevent the



accommodated a well-planned, higher density

social and environmental damage that has been caused by the scheme.

development sustainably due to its excellent

The entire implications of the redevelopment



will not be evident until at least 2025, when the

Additionally, it has been argued that underused,

construction of Elephant Park is anticipated to

publicly-owned plots such as the Heygate have

come to an end. At the same time, the market-

ample potential for sustainable densification

driven change around the site is unequivocally

in London. The analysis of this case study


has exemplified how sustainability will not


necessarily be pursued by the market-driven

small, sporadic patches of space. At the

actors of a development if it is not required by

newly completed South Gardens phase, the

law. The financial viability report is seen as one

immaculate brickwork of the new buildings is

way that the market actors have used in an

starkly contrasted by one of the vilified concrete

effort to not deliver on their initial commitments.

walkways of the Heygate, which has surprisingly

The more critical issue, however, has been

resisted the demolition. At another point on New

the council’s inability to guide the process

Kent Road, a small gate between the hoardings

of densification sustainably. By prioritising

of the site opens up to a miniature community

economic growth over sustainable development,


the local community has been displaced to make

featuring a makeshift cafĂŠ space with outside

way for higher-yielding, marketable commodities.

seating. This small sample of community-led

At the same time, this process has ignited the

place making is juxtaposed by the vastness of

formation of certain community groups, which

the construction site it sits in. Another observed

have fiercely opposed the environmental and

antithesis can be found behind the E&C train

social repercussions of the change that has

station where a lifeless square with newly paved

been unfolding. The community has been highly

hard landscaping faces the characterful mosaic

successful in raising awareness and in opposing

of independent shops and restaurants which still

the opacity of the planning process, as for example

occupy the brick arches. It is not hard to imagine

with the introduction of policies to make financial

how the highly dense neighbourhood will attract

viability assessments transparent to the public.

foreign investment, consequently improving the

Nonetheless, without support from the council,

economic performance of the area and achieving
















the council’s target for the regeneration. However, the present analysis has documented the council’s failure to achieve this target through a sustainable process. Simultaneously, the data presented demonstrates how this instance of achieving high density is unresponsive to the topical, pressing needs of the housing crisis and the UK’s climate change targets.


Epilogue Unless a more sustainable growth model prevails

environment and uses its resources to enrich the

in the future, transit-centric densification will

activities and performance of the area.

certainly be encouraged by the government to, at least partially, facilitate present and future demands for housing. Processes of comprehensive




historically contributed to societal inequity. From the slum clearances beginning in the 1930’s to the gentrification of neighbourhoods today, the government’s alleged commitment to sustainability has not been enough to ensure social and environmental well-being. As shown both in theory and in the case study, sustainable densification as a process of urban growth, is put at risk by permitting the market to override regulations




Regulations regarding social and environmental considerations are put in place to ensure both the short-term and long-term wellbeing of communities and should thus be strictly adhered to. Whilst high density and mixed-use may be successfully achieved in quantitative terms, the qualitative aspect of developments is just as, if not more important for the overall sustainability of the scheme. Densification should be a sensitive process that is informed by the local urban


The case study analysed, highlights the crucial responsibility of local authorities in managing the delivery of successful densification in their boroughs. Councils own a large percentage of the land in their boroughs, which may often be underutilised and can be strategically and sustainably densified. They are expected to respect their mandate by showing leadership and forming partnerships with private entities who can densify land in their borough strategically and sustainably. To achieve this, local development plans can only be carefully developed or updated with the professional assistance of experienced architects and planners to form a sustainable, integrated solution. This will both capitalise on existing transport infrastructure and deliver affordable, low-carbon housing, with demolition viewed only as a last resort. The case study analysis has shown that there is considerable opportunity to add density through quality infill development or refurbishments, which will benefit the community and provide continuity in time with minimal carbon emissions. As demonstrated by Hulshof Architects and Lacaton

and Vassal, these developments do not need to

densification has the opportunity to supply

prioritise profitability over sustainability to be

housing and reduce overall costs of housing by

viable. The scarcity of London’s land might point

increasing the supply. It can offer this whilst also

in the direction of preventing or controlling new

decreasing car dependency. Additionally, it has

housing being sold-off to overseas investors.

the ability to diversify mono-use neighbourhoods

Local buyers must be prioritised to allow vibrant

and create jobs for the local communities. All this

communities to flourish and to ensure the city’s

potential and more can be achieved, but only if

vitality and resilience over time.

confidence in the potential of creative, spirited





urban planning is restored and robust, dynamic management is spearheaded by local authorities.


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Appendix A

Michael Parkes Chartered Surveyors, (2002). Community Development Trust Debits and Credits. London, p.3-4. Available at: [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].



Appendix B

Allot & Lomax (1998). Heygate Survey and Option Appraisal Study. London, p.58, 64. Available at: http://betterelephant. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].



Appendix C

Metropolitan Police (2012). Offense Data for the period 1998 to 2003 for the borough of Southwark and the Heygate, p.1, 3. Available at: HeygateCrimeStats.pdf [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

Offence data for the period 1998 to 2003, for the borough of Southwark and Offence data for the period 1998 to 2003, for the borough of Southwark and Heygate Estate. Heygate Estate.

Protective Marking Suitable for Protective PublicationMarking Scheme

Not Protectively Marked Not Protectively Marked Yes

SuitableNumber for Publication37134 Scheme Yes Ad-Hoc Reference Ad-Hoc Reference Number 37134 FOIA/MOPC Ref Number 2012020000302

FOIA/MOPC Ref Number 2012020000302 Offence data for the period 1993 to 2003, for the borough of Southwark and Offence data for the period 1993 to 2003, for the borough of Southwark and Heygate Estate. Summary Heygate Estate. Creating Branch / Directorate DOI 1 (6) Creating Branch / Directorate Date Created 07/02/2012 DOI 1 (6)


Date Created


This report uses LIVE DATA extracted from CRIS MIS and Metstats This report uses LIVE DATA extracted from CRIS MIS and Metstats Date Live data was extracted: 20/02/2012 & 07/02/2012 Date Live data was extracted: 20/02/2012 & 07/02/2012

The data in this report reflects live data which may be subject to small changes over time The data in this report reflects live data which may be subject to small changes over time Police forces in the United Kingdom are routinely required to provide crime statistics to government Police forces in the is United Kingdom However, are routinely provide crime statistics to government bodies and the recording criteria set nationally. the required systems to used for recording these figures bodies criteria set nationally. However, thedata. systems used be fornoted recording these figures are not generic, norand are the the recording procedures used is locally in capturing the crime It should that for are not nor are the usedshould locallynot in capturing thecomparison crime data. purposes It should be noted that for these reasons thisgeneric, force's response toprocedures your questions be used for with these reasons this force's to youryou questions should not be used for comparison purposes with any response other response may receive. any other response you may receive.

Sheet1 Heygate Estate Crime Statistics 1999 - 2003

Southwark Heygate

1999 43734 278

2000 40447 230

2001 45707 251


2002 45960 290

2003 46276 396

18.0 16.0 14.0 12.0 10.0

Population Southwark Heygate

1999 247853 3000

2000 252726 3000

2001 256712 3000

2002 257364 3000

2003 257427 3000

Southwark Heygate

8.0 6.0 4.0 2.0 0.0 1999

% Crime Southwark Heygate

1999 17.6 9.3

2000 16.0 7.7

2001 17.8 8.4

2002 17.9 9.7

2003 18.0 13.2



Average: 17.5 Average: 9.6



100.0 % 55.2 %

Heygate estate crime rates on average 45% lower than the borough average over 5 year period 1999-2003 Source GLA & Met Police FOI request:


Appendix D


Southwark Council (2003). Elephant and Castle: Procurement Arrangements for Development of Early Housing Sites, p.2.

Processes of Density: An Investigation on Sustainable Densification in London  

Current pressures from the rapidly rising population and the housing crisis, emphasise the urgency to intensify development in London. This...

Processes of Density: An Investigation on Sustainable Densification in London  

Current pressures from the rapidly rising population and the housing crisis, emphasise the urgency to intensify development in London. This...