The Coalition Government’s vision for sustainable development is evident in a number of reports and describes sustainable development as recognising that the “three ‘pillars’ of the economy, society and the environment are interconnected.” (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2011). The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD) has been actively involved in a number of estate renewal programmes over the years. This report will focus on a large scale estate renewal programme case study that was approved by the Cabinet on 6 July 2010 (LBBD, 2010). This report seeks to emphasise on the social issues and factors around physical design as well as the opportunities for regeneration and neighbourhood strategies aimed at tackling worklessness. The report will further undertake a critical reflection on the policy developments and how these have operated in practice. To do so, the report shall provide appropriate research evidence as a way of highlighting the challenges and constraints associated with efforts to regenerate sustainable communities.
The case study includes a programme involving the Gascoigne, Goresbrook Village and Leys estates being completely decanted and demolished. The programme affects 861 dwellings and includes decanting and re-housing 765 households and buying back 96 leasehold properties. The plan includes the facilitation of mixed tenure developments and is currently in the phase of constructing the planned mixed tenure developments discussed in this report.
The business case for this programme was largely based around the need to improve housing standards for tenants but also considered that the sites would not reach acceptable standards even with high levels of investment due to structural and design issues.
The case under study is based on the housing strategy set by Barking and Dagenham to “to improve the quality of life for all residents and to create a thriving community where families and single people live in safe and healthy homes in attractive neighbourhoods” (LBBD 2012, p. 4). It is the priority of the local council to build new homes and regenerate estate to improve the number of homes available as well as improve the quality of homes in Gascoigne, Goresbrook Village and Leys estates (LBBD 2013).
The aim of the Estate renewal programme is to improve the quality as well as the number of available homes in the borough. In other words, the programme aims at bringing forward redevelopment of Gascoigne, Goresbrook Village and Leys estates. The aim of the project meets the observations made by Smith (2010) that regeneration programmes are undertaken with the aim of not only improving quality of housing but also to create neighbourhood sustainability.
Through renewal programme in Gascoigne, Goresbrook Village and Leys estates, the objective is to create social sustainability which is considered in the following components as provided by Dempsey et al. (2011):-
v Increased security in terms of reducing crime and installing order
v Creating residential stability
v Creating sense of place and pride
v Collective community participation
v Social interaction among residents through social networks.
The key objectives of the regeneration programme as indicated in the LBBD Housing Strategy 2012–2017 are:
i. To deliver social and economic regeneration via building high quality homes, in addition to thriving communities.
ii. To provide good quality services
iii. To create and have sustainable communities (in terms of reduced crime, sense of place, and residential stability)
iv. Establish new ways to deliver high quality, decent and affordable housing to the communities.
To create sustainable communities, partnership with local security agents is emphasized as well as closer relationship between residents in the estates. As such, issues such as fear of crime, antisocial behaviours in the streets, and homes shall be solved. To deliver economic and social regeneration, the programme emphasises on creating employment opportunities, apprenticeship schemes, education opportunities and support, and skills and training initiatives (LBBD 2012). Quality services shall be provided by tacking tenancy fraud, ensuring value for money for services, repairs and maintenance service, and tackling antisocial behaviours.
The LBBD Housing Strategy 2012–2017 highlighted one of the benefits of the regeneration which is to replace outdated housing through estate renewal and regeneration schemes to provide more affordable housing for the local residents (LBBD 2012, p. 13). Other benefits associated with the Better Home these are such as
v Improved estates and home from which people can chose to live in
v A safer home for every child in the borough
v A clean borough characterised by low loves of graffiti and litter
As noted in the LBBD Housing Strategy 2012–2017, regeneration other than creating sustainable neighbourhoods, it also embraces the e Equality Standard for Local Government policy to promote cohesion, diversity, and equality. For example, decent and affordable homes are made available to different people ranging from people with disabilities to people of different ethnic backgrounds and colour.
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (2012) remove barriers to economic growth and assist leaders in strengthening their communities, in addition to supporting people get back to work. Moreover, it is through economic growth that sustainable opportunities are provided that address the issues of dilapidation and deprivation (Coafee 2009).
In their paper, Tyler et al. (2010) noted that regeneration improves existing housing stock and improves issues of security, which in turn, create sustainable neighbourhoods. As noted by Dempsey et al. (2011), sustainable strategies increases security in terms of reducing crime and order, creates residential stability, creates sense of place and pride, enhances collective community participation, and promotes social interaction among residents.
A big challenge for LBBD, however, is achieving the goal of delivering social and economic regeneration through building high quality homes and thriving communities. The Housing Strategy set out a number of objectives in relation to the case study discussed in this report. They included:
· New Homes leading to better health, employment, training and skill levels and community safety
· Achieving a resident satisfaction rating in new developments and regeneration sites of 90%
Taking into account that the new development is planned to be of mixed tenure it could be argued that the regeneration will positively help to boost the surrounding area and meet the objectives set out in the Housing Strategy. For example, neighbourhood sustainability shall be promoted through regeneration programme in the estate.
In a Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report titled “Mixed Communities: Success and Sustainability”, the authors gave details of the lessons learned from a Mixed Income Communities Programme, studying the experience of mixed communities and what makes them work. One of the key findings was that “mixed tenure and mixed income were “non-issues” to residents, and they saw their neighbours as “ordinary people” (JRF, 2006, p. 10). The implication is that regeneration and sustainability strategies in the project shall develop closer relationship and interaction between the residents. For this reason, antisocial behaviours and crimes are reduced as local residents are well acquainted with each other.
The Cabinet report stated that although the redevelopment of the properties in Wellington Drive and Birdbrook Close would undoubtedly be welcomed by residents and immediate neighbours, its overall regeneration impact would be relatively low when considering its location. The assessment criteria for the initial budget, which highlights value for money, development potential and regeneration impact, are summarised below:
The important thing that you haven’t explained is how each of these criteria will be evaluated and what each of them means.
The Estates Renewal Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA, December 2010) assessed the distribution of the first £7m of funding across the estates to understand the broad composition of the areas affected and analysed if the decisions made primarily for economic, physical and political reasons did not impact adversely on any particular group.
The available data for each of the identified areas for activity were further split to analyse any adverse impact within each estate area. It was anticipated that the results from the 2010 EQIA would form the basis for an ongoing action plan to be implemented as part of the borough wide-estate estate renewal programme.
This would ensure that the choices made for investment in the estate renewal areas would not adversely impact on any of the 8 equality groups (ethnicity, gender, disability, age religion and belief, sexual orientation, maternity and nursing mothers, carers) and to enhance community cohesion in the affected areas.
This section of the report will focus on the disability and religion equality strands and will also reflect on the socio-economic data that has influenced the overall strategy of this regeneration case study.
The 2013 EQIA published in August 2013 stated 14.1% of those affected by the regeneration case study considered themselves to having a disability or activity limitation, which is slightly lower than the borough average of 16.4% identified in the 2011 Census. This also broadly concurred with the 2010 EQIA, which recorded a prevalence of disability on the three estates, and within Barking and Dagenham as a whole.
Disabled people are more likely than other groups to benefit from the programme because of their eligibility for social housing and because of the detailed attention given to Building Regulations which addresses access and use of buildings. However, they are also more at risk of adverse impact through design failures not captured by the regulations.
A satisfaction survey of residents who have already moved into new accommodation received 3 questionnaire respondents (6.8% of total respondents) who stated that their new accommodation was better in terms of accessibility, with 2 stating that their new property had a wet room while their old flat didn’t.
It is recognised that people with disabilities may have very precise needs which cannot be accommodated at the design stage. However, the redevelopment of the Gascoigne, Goresbrook and the Leys estates will include a proportion of adaptable homes designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities in the future.
New homes under the estate renewal programme are being built to Lifetime Homes standards, and fully compliant with Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) housing quality standards (Adamson 2010). The funding agreement the Council shares with the HCA ensures development partners are placed under a legally binding obligation to deliver homes to Lifetime Homes Standards. In addition, where possible, regeneration seeks legal advice when drafting lease/tenancy agreements on new housing development to ensure that adaptable properties are retained for future need. An example of this is evident with the Lawns bungalows development.
Religion and faith cultures are a factor being considered in the master planning process. For example, having large or extended families is likely to create a demand for large housing units as well as other social infrastructure. Community networks and access to local places of worship are important aspects of many faith cultures. The 2013 EQIA support this point by saying that “the estate renewal programme aims to ensure that based on need, new development has good accessibility to places of worship, and if necessary new worship spaces are provided if required. Dwelling units within the estate renewal schemes will have different layouts and orientations so some suitable housing should be available to suit those from all religious groups.” (EQIA, December 2010
However, it could be argued that the design of housing may have an effect on faith groups if layout contradicts religious interpretation, such as sensitivities to do with the orientation of bathrooms towards Mecca for some Muslims. However, it is difficult to accommodate the specific requirements of all religious groups as these are multifaceted and complex, and Council dwellings need to be designed with flexibility in mind for future tenants who may be of any Religion/Belief.
The Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2010 show that the three estates are located in the three wards ranked within the 10% most deprived wards in England with the following IMD scores:
Gascoigne 55.47/ 1338 (71/4766)
Thames 51.18/ 1974 (172/4766)
Village 48.43/ 2491 (258/4766)
(Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2010)
All three estates have considerably higher levels of benefit claimants than the borough average of 36.4%, and higher than their respective wards:
· Gascoigne Estate 50.4% / Gascoigne Ward 44.67%
· Goresbrook Village 59.1% / Thames ward 40.7%
· Birdbrook Close and Wellington Drive 49.2% / Village ward 39.1%
The figures above also show that the estate renewal programme is targeting areas of acute deprivation. The three areas of redevelopment have substantially higher deprivation levels than their respective ward.
All three estate renewal areas have a disproportionate percentage of Local Authority housing, compared to the borough average of 26.2%:
· Gascoigne - 84.8%
· Goresbrook Village - 94.1%
· Birdbrook Close and Wellington Drive - 48.8%
One aim of the estate renewal programme is to introduce tenure diversity within the three areas, which is in line with the NPPF, Paragraph 50, which states that LPAs should deliver a wide choice of high quality homes, widen opportunities for home ownership and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities.
The aim of the estate renewal programme is to improve the quality as well as the number of available homes in the borough. Regeneration and sustainable strategies result to improved estates and home from which people can chose to live in, safer home for every child in the borough, and clean borough characterised by low loves of graffiti and litter
The equalities impact assessment sends out a clear message that the redevelopment would provide a long term, more cost effective solution for housing a greater number of deprived people, while ensuring the borough can attract greater inward investment in order to facilitate sustainable economic development (such as employment and training opportunities).
As a housing practitioner I am aware that all tenants eligible receive a Home Loss payment of £4700, and this allowed those with rent and other arrears to pay back monies owed. Findings from the satisfaction survey show that overall the decant process has improved housing outcomes for Council tenants. In some cases, the re-assessment of people’s housing needs has led to considerable improvements (such as older tenants who moved from non-supported high rise accommodation into sheltered accommodation).
However, several issues remain problematic, such as the potential for crime and anti-social behaviour during the final stages of the decant process, negative perceptions of decant tenants being ‘fast-tracked’ into better accommodation than other bidding households, financial issues with leaseholders, the reluctance of some long term tenants to move due to familiarity, and some issues with the move process (e.g. damaged furniture, lack of assistance with larger furniture).
Finally, there is a greater number of single person households than families on the Council’s housing waiting list. There is therefore strong demand for one bedroom units, which are in short supply across the borough.
This evidence will need to be taken into consideration when finalising the unit size mix on each estate renewal scheme (alongside design, environmental, cost and other relevant considerations). There are also growing occupancy rates within the borough’s housing stock which has implications for waste management and other Council services (e.g. housing enforcement - subletting, environmental health).
Adamson, M 2010, The impact of Chapter heading devolution: Area-based regeneration policies in the UK, viewed 20 August 2014, < http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/impact-of-devolution-area-regeneration.pdf>.
Coaffee, J 2009, ‘How will regeneration be recast in economic recession?’, Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, Vol. 2, no. 4, pp.301–303
Dempsey, N, Bramley, G, Power, S, & Brown, C 2011, ‘The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development: De?ning Urban Social Sustainability’, Sustainable Development, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 289-300.
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EQIA, December 2010
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Smith, A 2010, ‘The Third Sector, regeneration and sustainable communities: Rolling” with the New Labour agenda’, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 30 Iss: 1/2, pp.48 - 65
Tyler, P et al. 2010, Valuing the Benefits of Regeneration, viewed 20 August 2014, <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6382/1795633.pdf>.
CLG 2012, National Planning Policy Framework, London, HMSO, viewed 20 August 2014, <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf>.