human endeavour, photography, thoughts and ideas

The Death of a housing ideal.

Posted in Uncategorized by humanendeavour photography on March 7, 2011

The death of a housing ideal.

The following text is taken from the Guardian by Stephen Moss. Read complete article; here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/mar/04/death-housing-ideal

“Is the demolition of the Heygate estate in south London the welcome end of a misguided experiment? Or is it the push for regeneration that is flawed?

Look for my white Ford Focus estate,” Adrian Glasspool tells me. “It’ll be the only parked car.” It’s a useful tip because, after wandering haphazardly round the now almost deserted Heygate estate next to the Elephant and Castle in south London, it is the car – spotted from one of the walkways – that leads me to his maisonette.

Glasspool is one of just 11 householders left on an estate of 1,260 dwellings completed in 1974, and an articulate critic of what he believes has been the unnecessary destruction of the Heygate.

The estate comprises half a dozen huge, grey, monolithic blocks confronting the busy roads around the Elephant and, between them, groups of three- and four-bedroomed maisonettes such as Glasspool’s.

“Welcome to failed utopia,” he says, when I eventually reach him. He’s being ironic – even its most ardent fans would be hard pressed to call the Heygate utopia, though now in its abandoned state you can hear birds twittering, and squirrels come scampering up to you looking for food. But nor does he think the estate deserves to die. “There’s something beautifully simplistic about these blocks,” he says.

“They’re not very pretty and they have become unfashionable, but they’re structurally sound and functional. Just because they’re a bit grey doesn’t mean people can’t live here happily.”

Southwark council has spent the past 10 years talking about regenerating the Heygate and the past three or four emptying the estate – “decanting” to use the horrible developers’ euphemism – its residents, the great majority of them council tenants but with a smattering of leaseholders who exercised their right to buy.

Glasspool, who bought his flat here in 1997, argues that a tightly knit community, with many residents who had been here from the beginning in 1974, has been destroyed and scattered to distant parts of the borough. He says one elderly woman, long decanted, still comes back to walk her dog.”….

 

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