Demolish 'ugly and unhealthy' high-rise blocks and build real streets, says report
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Development
A report has recommended demolishing high-rise social housing towers and replacing them with streets of low-rise flats and terraced homes.
The right-wing think tank Policy Exchange says such a move would improve the lives of "thousands of people who suffer from living in multi-storey housing".
The report - 'Create Streets' - claims there are 140,000 households, 100,000 of which are social tenants, with children that live on or above the second floor of buildings in England.
It goes on to claim that there is a "wealth of evidence" that high rise blocks lead to higher crime rates, weaker communities, and poorer health and educational outcomes for tenants.
It further claims that tower block residents experience more stress, mental health problems, neurosis and marriage breakdowns than those in other forms of housing, and that children suffer from increased hyperactivity, hostility and juvenile delinquency.
The report says that in London, the Mayor could build an extra 260,000 homes over the next seven years by demolishing the "unpopular" and "ugly" tower blocks of the 50s, 60s and 70s that "scar" the Capital’s skyline and replacing them with low-rise accommodation.
Multiple studies, it says, have shown that terraced streets can exceed the housing densities - between 75 and 200 units per hectare - of most existing high-rise buildings.
According to Policy Exchange, the current planning system has led to the creation of "super high density and high-rise, box-sized flats" in major cities, which are the smallest in Europe and the smallest ever in the UK.
Apparently, the years 2003 through 2007 saw a seven fold increase in high-rise building, even though social housing tower blocks are extremely expensive to build and maintain.
Create Streets' findings include:
• 52,000 households with children who are social renters live on the third floor or above (40,000 of which are in London)
• 20,000 households with children who are social renters live on the fifth floor or above (16,000 of which are in London)
• At least 89 percent of Britons want to live in a house on a street, whilst one poll found that 0 percent said they wanted to live in a tower block flat
• Multi-storey housing costs more to build per square metre than other high density options. A ten-storey building is 10 percent more expensive to build per square metre than a five-storey building. A fifty-storey building is 60 percent more expensive. The disastrous multi-storey estates of the past were economically unviable but only possible due to government subsidies.
The report's recommendations include:
• The Mayor of London's office should commission a full study of how many homes might be delivered by redeveloping multi-storey estates into streets and houses, including case studies in specific areas and how many areas could be redeveloped
• The London Plan should remove super high density targets
• The London Plan should require that all large scale estate redevelopments are approved by local residents through neighbourhood plans and referendums
• London should aim to ensure that the proportion of social tenants with children living on the upper floors of multi storey blocks falls in line with the share of private tenants
• The Mayor should remove current building regulations that make it difficult to build conventional terraced houses and attractive streetscapes.
Nicholas Boys Smith, author of the report and founder of Create Streets, said: "It’s time we ripped down the mistakes of the past and started building proper streets where people want to live. We must not repeat mistakes by building housing which makes people’s lives a misery. Bulldozing the high rise tower blocks and no-go zone estates and replacing them with terraced homes and low rise flats is the best way to build both the number and the quality of homes that we need.
"We call on neighbourhoods to have the confidence of their convictions, on landowners to look to their long term returns not short term density targets and on the Mayor’s Office to take advantage of the National Planning Policy Framework to rip up their super high density targets that, perversely, are discouraging development."