‘No Hackney High-rise’?.. So where is everyone going to live?


Despite London’s status as a leading world capital our city has some very serious problems affecting its potential and that of its inhabitants – namely a chronic and dire housing shortage, the smallest room-sizes to be found anywhere in the western world, and prices so high that they exclude all but the very wealthy from buying a home and which leaves others with the prospect of life-long rental in expensive and tiny accommodation or gruelling long daily commutes – all with the very real possibility of a serious brain-drain from London.

The highly-respected think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) predicts that by 2025 London will have a shortfall of a shocking 325,000 homes!

And all of this is in the context of the greatest problem of them all: catastrophic climate change, which – if we are to seriously address it – rules out the option of an ever-expanding London which is increasingly sprawling into commuter-land, where residents have a far larger carbon-footprint than inner-city dwellers.

The answer to this set of interdependent dilemmas would seem obvious in almost every other world capital – build far more homes in taller buildings closer to the centre where people work!

But some are having none of it – no matter what the cost!

No Hackney High-rise‘ (NHH) was formed in 2009 to oppose a proposal by housing charity Southern Housing Group to build a 19-storey, mixed housing development on London Lane – a former brownfield site close to London Fields station.

The group, founded principally by surrounding residents, initially dismissed the 19-storey proposal as being too tall, and on their website they presented the existing Peabody Nile Street development of 6 to 9 storeys as an exemplar of “high-density without high-rise”.

Then NHH co-founder Siobhan Marwell said they would be “happy” with up to 6 storeys.  So SHG went back to the drawing-board, reduced the height of their development by almost half, meaning the loss of some 20 homes, and proposed something very close to NHH’s “exemplary”  “high-density without high-rise” presentation. But even this was opposed by NHH, this time stating that they now oppose high-density, and requesting just “3 to 4 storeys”. Will nothing be “exemplary” enough for this Nimby group?

It simply isn’t plausible that this group’s architectural objections are sincere. What is more plausible however is that their objection is rooted in a fear over the kind of people who will move into any new accommodation. As NHH have already stated; “we are worried the flats will be used as buy to lets which will create a more transient population and spoil the community spirit”. Is this the “community spirit” that would seek to deny homes to the community?

If we are to relieve some of the severe social and economic pressure from the housing pot the council simply must be more pro-active in its housing provision – of all kinds. Housing charity Shelter state that in order to buy an average home in Hackney you now have to earn £55,425!

Other local opposition groups are at it in Stoke Newington with complaints that a proposed very modest five-storey development “would impinge on the adjacent Abney Park“.

This state of affairs is just not sustainable if London is to remain a world capital. Conservative planners and Nimby groups have together delivered London a housing nightmare of existential proportions. But even when all the social and economic pointers are indicating danger, we are still confronted with planners who simply stick their collective heads in the sand and continue to develop land as if the primary purpose of architecture is to evoke the past with low-rise brick-clad buildings rather than to actually address contemporary housing need. If planners and opposition groups support planning policies more suited to a provincial heritage town than a world capital, eventually the latter will become the former.

What a tragic irony that these inner-city Nimby groups with their constant knee-jerk opposition to development, often with the desire to create exclusive affluent quasi-“villages”, are collectively seriously damaging.
the viability of the city they claim to love.

43 Responses to "‘No Hackney High-rise’?.. So where is everyone going to live?"

  1. Andrew Boff  30/08/2011 at 2:03 pm

    Benjamin’s comments fill me with nostalgia for the 60’s with the very arguments whose legacy gave us the hell holes that some Hackney estates became. Quantity orientated arguments that treat housing developments like they are just warehousing for families, evocations of the threat of us not being a “world capital” unless we build the soulless monstrosities that litter every other city whose burghers have been seduced by the flashy hype of developers. Accusations that unless we have THIS plan then we obviously don’t care. Oh, and not a single mention of the quality of housing that might be provided.
    Now here’s a thing … I don’t give a monkey’s if London is a ‘world capital’ or not. What matters more to many of us is that people have good quality sustainable housing that results in strong communities and provides a nurturing place for people to bring up kids. Claustrophobic tower block flats with no garden space are not the long term solution to the horrendous problems that we have in London with chronic overcrowding and the lack of affordable properties.
    Benjamin’s accusation that the opponents of the gated development at London Fields are not sincere is simply not true and seems to be based upon postings on websites. The many residents I have talked to in the area want to see the site developed with the same advantages that the other homes in the street have. The class orientated remarks and sneering at the concept of urban villages are the biggest hint that Benjamin hasn’t actually met any of them. Then again, it is always easier to attack the player rather than deal with the ball.
    There are plenty of examples of innovative high-density low-rise designs that would blend with the area . Look at Bedzed, look at the new Holly Street: templates for urban living that don’t sacrifice our humanity for the sake of political targets. The pile ’em high sell ’em cheap philosophy is not one that should be used for housing families.

  2. Benjamin Counsell  30/08/2011 at 6:31 pm

    Well, once again, we have the same tired old references to ’60s council estates and social problems. But as I have pointed out to you before (without response), you cannot attribute the social problems of poverty to architecture. Social problems have followed those living in poverty whether in the low-rise terraces of 19th Century (I can’t remember seeing any high-rise in Hogarth’s prints) or council estates (high and low-rise) of the 20th. If high-rise living was the cause of these problems why isn’t the Barbican awash with social-workers? Why aren’t there riots in Canary Wharf? Hackney’s most infamous estate is probably the low-rise, red-bricked and gardened Pembury Estate. Stop blaming architects for social problems – it’s dishonest.

    You say that I make no reference to housing quality even when I make explicit references to the smallest room-sizes in the western world that the low-rise planning, that you favour, have delivered us. Surely the size of rooms is the most important aspect of quality housing, and yet you advocate a “plan” that has delivered us both ridiculously small and unaffordable accommodation. Then you poo-poo taller buildings that deliver larger room sizes as “claustrophobic”. Quite bizarre!

    You then say that “What matters more to many of us is that people have good quality sustainable housing that results in strong communities and provides a nurturing place for people to bring up kids.”. Well I’m sorry to inform you Andrew that your plan has failed catastrophically in that endeavour. Your low-rise plan has given us the largest housing shortage, the most unaffordable prices, the smallest room sizes – all provided in an environmentally unsustainable manner.

    As you well know, my belief that ‘No Hackney High-rise’s architectural objections are not sincere is based on their documented and self-evidently contradictory statements.
    Finally, if you sincerely believe that quality homes of the same number and size can be accommodated in low-rise as can be accommodated in high-rise, then please could you inform the Royal Society as I believe your “plan” has just defied the laws of physics. Similarly, with your idea of solving the housing crisis by building “houses with gardens” in inner-city London. Or are you simply trying to sell lies to Nimbys as a means of trawling for votes?

    But to dismiss you as a joke would be a mistake since you are on both the London Assembly Planning Committee and a member of Friends of the Earth, even though you advocate a housing plan that can not tackle the housing crisis and simultaneously fosters the most unenvironmental form of urban development – urban sprawl. That is truly frightening!

    But, for once, I have to thank you for your honesty when you say that you “don’t give a monkey’s if London is a ‘world capital’ or not.”. Perhaps you should use that as your next campaign slogan?

  3. Andrew Boff  30/08/2011 at 8:45 pm

    you cannot attribute the social problems of poverty to architecture I can and I do.
    Stop blaming architects for social problems – it’s dishonest. I won’t and it’s not as they are’nt entirely blame free
    Surely the size of rooms is the most important aspect of quality housing Not really. More important aspects are the number of rooms to resolve the problems of overcrowding and the access to private play space.
    Your low-rise plan has given us the largest housing shortage Since 1997 the shortage has matched a reducing proportion of low-rise and family-sized properties being built. It is the increase in high-rise and flats that has coincided with the worsening shortage.
    As you well know, my belief that ‘No Hackney High-rise’s architectural objections are not sincere is based on their documented and self-evidently contradictory statementsPerhaps you would like to meet these people you accuse of being insincere? You can call me on 07778 059 290 and I’m sure we could arrange a meeting.

  4. Benjamin Counsell  31/08/2011 at 8:20 am

    If you think social problems are caused by the number of floors, why aren’t there riots in the Barbican or Canary Wharf? Do you anticipate Dalston Square to be the epicentre of ASBOs? Why are tall blocks with social problems comletely transformed when more affluent people occupy them – just like low-rise? If you examine a list of all the social problem hot-spots, they won’t all be high-rise, and they won’t all be low-rise, but they will all be poverty stricken. Poverty causes social problems not architecture.
    The constraints on both the number and size of rooms stems principally from the limitations of height. Your low-rise plan fails on both counts, as any child with Lego could tell you.
    Not only do you not address the basic physics of space, but you even claim that constructing buildings of greater volume has created the housing shortage!! Is there nothing you won’t say?
    You can peddle this nonsense as long as you like, the facts are that people are perfectly willing to live in tall buildings and pay good money to do so. They are being prevented from doing so by planners and self-serving Nimby groups who would rather see unenvironmental urban-sprawl. I’m surprised that a Conservative pro-free market politician would feel that the market is capable of virtually anything apart from addressing housing need.
    Finally, I’m quite capable of reading NHH’s statements via their extensive website, press coverage and the highly-paid planning consultant they’ve employed to help them in their aim of limiting housing supply.

  5. Andrew Boff  31/08/2011 at 10:11 am

    Due to the severe housing shortage, people on a waiting list have no choice but to move where they are told, however unsuitable to their needs. How many would choose to bring up a family in in a tower block? Certainly not the people who can afford the Barbican (the social housing there, I believe, is in the low rise properties on Golden Lane) who don’t also have weekend escape in the Cotswolds. But that is where people in housing need are told to live and they have no practical choice in the matter. Take the example of the last remaining tower block on the Holly Street estate. It worked as a happy community after the rest of the estate was demolished because the allocations were limited to tenants who were 50+. This policy has now been relaxed due to the lack of available properties and families are moving in to a block with no play space for children. The existing, many elderly, residents (or self-serving Nimby groups in your terms) are concerned about this because of the tension that that may create in the future due to the noise that young families, inevitably, create in a design that ignores how people relate to each other. And no, it’s not the fault of the families (just in case you wanted to segue into that accusative line). It’s the fault of the planners who should be designing properties where people can live together interdependently and the policy makers who failed to build the right size and number of properties.
    Finally, if you don’t want to properly debate face to face with the people that you accuse that’s fine. You can carry on calling them nimbys, slurring their names and making up their motives with the comfort of never having to look them in the eye. It’s a small schlep down to London Fields. One day, I hope you make it.

  6. Bill Parry Davies  31/08/2011 at 2:50 pm

    B Counsell’s views are oversimplistic. His argument (in summary) is that if it wasn’t for NIMBY groups we could build more residential tower blocks everywhere so homes would become cheaper and London a more sustainable world capital.
    Our recent experience in Hackney is that high rise is not sustainable for affordable family housing – that is why Hackney demolished the old Holly Street, Kingshold and Trowbridge estates’ towers. One reason is that high rise means high maintenance in the medium/long term – wealthy owner occupiers in the Barbican & similar private towers can afford the service charges but in Hackney we couldn’t. Hence we had weeks and months of broken lifts, communal heating system breakdowns, standpipes in the street, multiple floodings, defective entry phones leading to burglaries and vandalism, chronic infestations etc etc…
    Buildings have an environmental context – why shouldn’t local people object to towers being built in conservation areas like London Fields and which are not within designated tall buildings areas, particularly where they won’t meet local housing need? Why should developers be entitled capitalize on a desirable location at local people’s expense? Why should the unique character of conservation areas be replaced by buildings which could be anywhere?
    One reason for the desperate housing shortage is that public money has had to be used to bail out bankers’ greed, not support affordable housing. Another is that bankers still won’t lend to private buyers and particularly not on new build flats – which is why volume house builders like Barratt are now concentrating on building houses, not flats. Another is that despite all the tax and other subsidies to private house builders they deliberately limit supply to maintain sale prices. In Dalston, Hackney and the GLA used the arguments which B Counsell advances but, despite the massive public subsidy for Dalston Square, there is virtually no affordable housing there at all.
    These complex issues really need more thought than B Counsell has given them.

  7. Benjamin Counsell  31/08/2011 at 5:22 pm

    Bill Parry-Davies – “high rise means high maintenance in the medium/long term”. That’s just not correct. High-rise means less roofing, less gutters, less boilers etc. They are low maintenance compared with the same number of homes arranged as houses with gardens. If Hackney Council/Hackney Homes were too incompetent to organise effective maintenance then that is a separate issue. I know Hackney Homes manage many traditional houses in Hackney and some of those are in a dreadful state of repair. This is a management issue.
    “Why shouldn’t local people object to towers”? Well of course they have a right to object, but the real question is whether the planning office should take much notice of them. I say they shouldn’t because although they may have a desire to live in a low-rise neighbourhood that desire shouldn’t take priority over people’s right to housing.
    I’m with you on bankers bail-outs, but we’re not just talking about public money here. Planners and Nimby groups are blocking very real, ready-to-go private developments which is drastically hindering supply. And if bankers lent more money, that would only push prices even higher than they are now. The problem is low supply and that supply is being hindered by planners insisting on low-rise.
    The financing and politics around Dalston Square were abysmal, but again, that is a separate issue. The buildings themselves seem a success in that they house a large number of people over a compact area and the residents (that I know at least) are very happy there.

  8. Benjamin Counsell  31/08/2011 at 5:42 pm

    Andrew Boff – your details about a very particular building within a particular social housing estate cannot be extrapolated as an argument against all tall buildings. There is nothing wrong with children being brought up in flats so long as those flats have adequate rooms, and adequate rooms are more easily achieved in taller buildings. We are lucky enough to have an abundance of parks in London generally and Hackney especially. But what troubles me is your insistance on misleading people into thinking that all families could be housed in “houses with gardens”. That is (again)dishonest.
    Finally, both ‘No Hackney High-rise’ and I are literate. There is no need for me to look them in the eye to understand their words. And incidentally, my “slurring of their names” amounts to no more than quoting their (contradictory) words.

  9. Andrew Boff  01/09/2011 at 5:24 pm

    There is no need for me to look them in the eye to understand their words. So let’s get this straight. Planners should ignore objections to tower blocks because of the shortage of housing, No lessons can be learned from our experience of tower blocks in the past and kids don’t need a personal space in which they can play supervised by their parents. AND you’re not willing to have a discussion with people who might have a different view. Anyhoo …
    Could you quote the reference for They (Tower Blocks) are low maintenance compared with the same number of homes arranged as houses with gardens ? The extra costs of Tower Blocks aren’t just capital expenditure on roofs. Tower blocks need security services (ideally concierges) which are very expensive on an ongoing basis. Standards of health and safety are, quite rightly, different and more time consuming in Tower Blocks which, as we know from bitter experience at places like Lakanal House, cannot be shortcut for the sake of saving a few bob. There is also maintenance of lifts (pricey)! .
    These costs are passed on to the residents via service charges. There are service charges on low rise homes on Council estates but these are typically much lower than for Tower Blocks.

  10. Benjamin Counsell  01/09/2011 at 5:57 pm

    Andrew – you’re getting silly. As you’ve already pointed out modern tall buildings have been utilised in virtually every other leading city in the world to great success. You are the unenlightened one claiming that the laws of spatial physics and economics for some bizarre reason don’t apply in London.
    Furthermore, it still seems as though you’re trying to mislead people into thinking that all families in inner London can have houses with gardens. You keep doing this even when you know it’s impossible.
    And, it may have escaped you but I AM having “a discussion with people who might have a different view”.

  11. Andrew Boff  02/09/2011 at 5:52 am

    modern tall buildings have been utilised in every other leading city in the world to great success Name one. Mixed tenure and with family homes.

  12. Andrew Boff  02/09/2011 at 6:51 am

    Furthermore, it still seems as though you’re trying to mislead people into thinking that all families in inner London can have houses with gardens. You keep doing this even when you know it’s impossible. Hardly impossible. The first phase of development on the Olympic Park has been changed from your dreary idea of accommodation to mixed tenure terraced houses with gardens after lobbying from yours truly and others. I’m sure you would have preferred a London banlieue.

  13. Benjamin Counsell  02/09/2011 at 7:21 am

    As you know, I said you “mislead people into thinking that all families in inner London can have houses with gardens.” You then point out that you’ve got some housing with gardens built. Of course it’s “possible” to build houses with gardens in inner-London. But it is absolutely impossible to house all families in houses with gardens – as you well know.
    Also, building houses with gardens in inner-London will only have dire consequenses for attempts to address both the chronic housing shortage and catastrophic climate change. If anyone was ever daft enough to believe the Tories’ claim of being “the greenest government ever”, please take note.
    You also seem blind to the fact that in stopping building tall apartment blocks, you are increasing the pressure on our period family houses with gardens to be converted into flats. One of the last few houses in my road is currently being converted – with a healthy profit to the developer precisely because planners keep blocking large developments with apartments. The demand is for apartments and yet you keep blocking them because of your irrational Trumptonesque vision.
    But bravo on your little bit of Olympic legacy! I wonder how many people you’ve denied housing to? It’s a shame they can’t be identified so you could have an “eye-to-eye” with them.

  14. Andrew Boff  02/09/2011 at 8:56 am

    One of the last few houses in my road is currently being converted – with a healthy profit to the developer precisely because planners keep blocking large developments with apartments. So far I have a pretty good success rate in opposing the break up of family properties in Hackney. I object to them regularly. Just follow @PlanningHackney on twitter and as they come up put in an objection. I’ve been quite impressed with Hackney’s planners accepting the argument that there are not enough family homes in Hackney and they should resist sub-divisions. The more people who do it the better!
    Where do you get the idea that the greatest demand is for flats? The greatest unresolved demand is for family housing. If those homes were made available then families currently squeezed into flats could move and free up an apartment.
    As to the bravo – It was as a result of many “eye to eyes” (you know, I actually like to talk to people rather than blog at them) to people in desperate housing poverty, on waiting lists in temporary accommodation, in appalling overcrowded conditions and isolated in drab soulless tower blocks that made me realise that a quick fix is not going to work. Sometimes you’ve gotta just step away from the laptop and knock on few doors!
    Still waiting for you to name a mixed tenure Tower Block that you think is the model for family housing.

  15. Benjamin Counsell  02/09/2011 at 9:13 am

    Well despite your Twitter campaign, the majority of London’s period family housing stock has been converted into flats precisely because the demand for flats was not met by new builds. If the new sites around the Olympic zone are used for low-rise houses with gardens, then we can be sure that the demand for flats will be met – to some degree – by converting the existing Victorian family houses of Stratford, Leytonstone etc. into flats. You’re just not addressing market reality.
    Empire Square, designed by Rolfe Judd was the winner of the Housing Design Awards 2007 and a CABE Gold Award. It contains 572 residential units (37% affordable).

  16. Benjamin Counsell  02/09/2011 at 9:14 am

    How many houses with gardens would you have fitted on to that site?

  17. Andrew Boff  02/09/2011 at 10:11 am

    Do you mean the Tabard Square buy-to-let paradise that has a maximum of 3 bedrooms (only 6%!!!) with most of the affordable housing ghettoed off into separate lower-rise blocks? To quote the Times property editor “Although Tabard is not quite a rental ghetto, owner-occupiers could feel outnumbered by tenants, many of whom are likely to come home only to sleep. This is a development aimed at the “work hard, play hard” City type and not those planning to put down roots. “

  18. Benjamin Counsell  03/09/2011 at 1:22 pm

    Sorry Andrew, is there a point made there? Are you now suggesting that home purchasers should not be allowed to rent out property? How many houses with gardens did you say you could fit on this site again?
    I’ve got to say that in our little exchanges I’ve had cause to pause more than a couple of times to ask myself whether the poster of comments is actually London Assembly Planning Committee member Andrew Boff or someone fraudulently posing as you with the aim of sabotaging your career.
    First you say that you don’t care if London retains its current status.
    Then you suggest that the housing shortage was caused by the construction of buildings of greater volume! And continue to repeat your unachievable “plan” of solving the housing crisis by housing all families in houses with gardens in inner London.
    You notably fail to address the fact that, despite your Friends of the Earth membership, you promote the most environmentally unfriendly form of urban development; low-rise sprawl.
    Similarly, you don’t appear to have any concern for the economic ramifications of having home prices so high that we run the risk of brain-drain and a business exodus.
    Then, despite being a member of a pro free-market political party, you seem to think that the market is incapable of addressing – or even defining – housing demand, and instead block developers plans for apartment blocks and impose plans for low-rise houses with gardens on huge sites with immense potential. When I point out to you that the net effect of this is to increase the pressure on existing period houses with gardens to be converted into flats, you state that you have a Twitter campaign to try to block those as well, which – if it were successful – would only serve to push apartment prices even higher than they are now.
    When I first started looking into London’s housing shortage, I couldn’t understand how a leading world city could get itself into such a mess and fail its residents quite so badly.
    But having realised that the London Assembly Planning Committee includes members who are demonstrably spatially, environmentally, economically and market illiterate, it all makes sense.

  19. Andrew Boff  03/09/2011 at 7:34 pm

    Play the ball Ben, play the ball.

  20. Andrew Boff  04/09/2011 at 1:42 am

    Sorry, didn’t have much time earlier to resume our dialogue.
    How many houses with gardens did you say you could fit on this site again? About 100.
    First you say that you don’t care if London retains its current status. How many homes does ‘status’ build?
    most environmentally unfriendly form of urban development; low-rise sprawl BedZed?Similarly, you don’t appear to have any concern for the economic ramifications of having home prices so high that we run the risk of brain-drain and a business exodus There’s a difference between providing homes that people want to invest in and those they want to live in.
    The rest of your comments have been covered though I suspect that we are the only ones reading this now. Happy to have a chat about his – 07778 059 290.

  21. Benjamin Counsell  04/09/2011 at 10:20 am

    Andrew, you’re an elected poltician and planning committee member. You cannot dive on the ground and roll around screaming “foul” every time someone points out that the policies you’re peddling don’t make any sense. You end up looking like a politician who can’t take responsibility for their own words.
    I’m all for high standards in environmental building design but repetitious citing of a decade-old single development in outer London (where residents are more likely to consume more energy in commuting) does not negate the fact that low-rise urban sprawl is environmentally unfriendly.
    London’s status is dependent on it being able to accomodate a large and increasing population within costs that can be afforded by residents and the businesses that employ them. Low-rise planning in inner London forces prices up and room-sizes down. Prices are now so high and the shortage so dire that something has to change. Mass building of apartments – of all sizes – in inner London, where most people work and want to live, would help resolve this.

  22. Andrew Boff  04/09/2011 at 12:56 pm

    I’m quite used to personal abuse I just think it’s a bit boring for people who want to talk about the issue rather than the usual hoo-hah about someone’s character. I have repeatedly said that my concern is the quality of the living environment not meeting numerical targets. You seem to indicate that you think its fine for families in need to be brought up in Tower Blocks, I don’t. You seem to think London’s status is of primary importance, I think London’s status is a by-product of it being a nice place to live in. You think housing policy should feed the market, I think the market needs to serve the people and that means by providing many more (but not exclusively) family housing. You think the mass building of apartments is a neat solution and we can’t learn from history, I think that would deepen the crises in overcrowding, low educational attainment, criminality and ill health. I like talking to people to form my opinions, you prefer blogging at them. Each to his own.

  23. Mustafa Korel  04/09/2011 at 4:53 pm

    Coming back to the issue, I’d have to agree that high rise is not the answer.

    Perhaps this discussion could lead on to asking why around 80,000 homes are empty in London – over 2,000 of which are in Hackney (http://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2010/04/emptyhomes/) and looking for solutions with existing housing ‘stock’.

    Retrofitting these properties would be a much more cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally sound solution to providing decent quality housing.

  24. Benjamin Counsell  05/09/2011 at 8:16 am

    There you go again, rolling on the floor pretending to be a victim. My comments were pertaining to a politician’s and planning committee member’s lack of understanding of the fundamental issues around the policies. That is not “personal abuse”.
    Accusing a member of the public of mounting slur campaigns when all they’ve done is accurately cite another’s contradictory quotes might be viewed differently.
    You keep repeating this “we can’t learn from history” theme. The lessons to learn from 60s high-rise are the same as from low-rise – principally, buildings must be well constructed, well maintained, provide good room-sizes and don’t ghettoise poverty. I note that your “argument” against modern mixed tenure tall buildings is dependent on evoking the social problems found in some 60s social housing. That is as daft/deceitful as me claiming that low-rise housing doesn’t work because there’s plenty of social problems on low-rise council estates.
    You now say that you have no concern about tackling the housing shortage! And you regard inner-London dwellers as a problem to be dispersed rather than as assets to be accommodated.
    Then you claim that constructing buildings of larger volume would “deepen the crises in overcrowding” (we’re back to spatial illiteracy again).
    You the say that you “think the market needs to serve the people”, even whilst you are blocking the market from supplying the housing that is being demanded (we’re back market illiteracy again).
    Your demonstrable failure in both understanding and delivery cannot be ducked by claiming “personal abuse”.

  25. Andrew Boff  05/09/2011 at 11:40 am

    Anyway – looks like it’s all repetiton now. Unless you can come up with another prime example of tower blocks where affordable housing isn’t ghettoed? I’m sure you should be able to come up with one because they are the future aren’t they? Just one. Just one solitary example of Ben’s brave new world?

  26. Benjamin Counsell  06/09/2011 at 8:42 am

    Mustafa Korel – I agree that empty homes are a problem but it would only scratch the surface of the shortfall. And unless a property falls into serious disrepair/dereliction, it’s very difficult to force an owner to do anything.

  27. Benjamin Counsell  06/09/2011 at 8:53 am

    Andrew – “ghettoed”? What are you talking about? They’re mixed-tenure!
    But here’s a new question for you – what would your objection be to high-rise with the lower two floors dedicated to family homes with access to private gardens, but with the upper floors accomodating smaller apartments? Wouldn’t that solution cover all bases? Or is your opposition to high-rise simply a subjective aesthetic one?

  28. Andrew Boff  06/09/2011 at 7:46 pm

    As I understand it the Tabard Square development keeps the social housing in a separate low rise block (may be wrong but that’s what my reading of the planning applications indicates). The high rise apartments are market rate properties, many of which are buy to let. Buy to lets have a pretty poor record with regard to overcrowding and safety. With two floors of family sized apartments at the bottom you’re confining people to a family ghetto. Dividing people up into whatever social category they fall into is just wrong. Far better to have proper tenure blind developments.
    The objection to high-rise is not just an aesthetic one. While there is a shortage of housing the authorities will always be tempted to put families in need in them and if they are the only type of accommodation on offer then that is what they will get. I also think that local peoples’ opinion is paramount in determining whether or not tower blocks should be given permission. If they want one, then so be it. Few do.

  29. Benjamin Counsell  07/09/2011 at 8:18 am

    I think you’re abusing terminology a bit here aren’t you. You can’t claim that it is of paramount importance that families have access to small private gardens and then claim that they are being “ghettoed” when placed on the ground floor!
    I think that the correct term in planning parlance is “clustering”.
    “While there is a shortage of housing” the market will incentivise house owners to split family houses into flats. And yet you oppose the large-scale building of flats which would take the pressure off family houses to convert.
    “While there is a shortage of housing”, prices will remain unaffordably high to most people and so inevitably buy-to-let investers cash in. And yet you block the large-scale building of flats which would ease the shortage and help make prices more affordable.
    “Local peoples’ opinion is paramount in determining whether or not tower blocks should be given permission”. But “local peoples’ opinion” is represented principally by home-owners who have a vested interest in keeping housing scarce and prices high. Where does the opinion of those without homes get considered? It doesn’t. This results in the situation that policy affecting the housing shortage is vetoed by small groups that have no interest in tackling the shortage. This is why I believe that Nimby groups wield too much influence over planners, and why I wrote this article. But you think that’s unfair aswell don’t you?

  30. Andrew Boff  07/09/2011 at 5:47 pm

    But “local peoples’ opinion” is represented principally by home-owners where is the evidence for that?
    Where does the opinion of those without homes get considered? If you ask families without homes what kind of home they would like to live in and give them a choice between an apartment or a house with garden, which do you think they would choose? Your solution gives them no choice at all.
    “Clustering” 🙂 – You’re kidding right? So Townships were just “clusters”.

  31. Benjamin Counsell  08/09/2011 at 9:12 am

    Andrew, your silliness is becoming offensive.
    The definition of a Township is a racially segregated area in South Africa established by an aparheid government as a residence for non-whites who were systematically discriminated against.
    The definition of a ghetto is a poor section of a city inhabited primarily by people of the same race, religion, or social background, often because of discrimination.
    Placing family sized accomodation on the ground floor so that it can enjoy the privilege of private gardens (which you deem essential to family accomodation) warrants neither the label “ghetto” nor comparisons with Apartheid. Would you like to withdraw your last comment?

    If I “ask families without homes what kind of home they would like to live in and give them a choice between an apartment or a house with garden, which do you think they would choose?” You’re really scraping the barrel now! A politician who would rather publicly feign stupidity than address the issues honestly.
    If you ask someone would they rather an apartment or a house with private garden and swimming pool and tennis courts, I’m sure they’d pick the latter. But the question is what is achievable for all people. Addressing London’s housing shortage with houses with gardens simply isn’t feasible – and is doubly stupid in that opposition to building apartment blocks is resulting in family houses with gardens being converted into flats. In effect what you are doing is asking homeless people what they would rather, then leaving them homeless. Contrary to your assertion, my solution provides both family accomodation with private gardens and a large number of apartments located in areas that people actually want to live in, in a manner that is cost effective and reduces sprawl and carbon emissions. For some unspecified reason you believe that all the space above family housing should be wasted.

  32. Andrew Boff  08/09/2011 at 3:18 pm

    You build more houses with gardens and the churn in the housing system liberates the smaller flats for others to move into. It brings down the prices of the larger properties so they aren’t just available to off shore investors and keeps London as the place that makes it special, a low rise city with a lot of gardens. It addresses the problem of severe overcrowding and builds communities. It reduces the impact of overpopulation on services and the environment. I know you have difficulty believing that people can hold these views honestly but I would humbly suggest that that is your problem, not mine. Anyhoo, this really is getting to be a dialogue and I’m pretty sure that there are not many people reading this.. Gimme a call and perhaps we can discuss it more.

  33. Benjamin Counsell  09/09/2011 at 2:13 pm

    Andrew – it’s not a question of me simply having difficulty in believing in your sincerity. When you consider a projected housing shortfall in London of some 325,000 homes by 2025, your “plan” simply doesn’t stack up.

  34. Andrew Boff  09/09/2011 at 11:40 pm

    Perhaps you may wish to support this one as it’s so near to you: http://t.co/0wbKSuF
    I’m opposing it.

  35. Benjamin Counsell  16/09/2011 at 4:27 pm

    You may think you’re opposing it, but by blocking the large scale building of apartment blocks you are in effect encouraging these type of conversions of period family houses.
    Still, comforting to know you’ve been researching where I live.

  36. Benjamin Counsell  16/09/2011 at 4:50 pm

    Besides, you’d be wasting your time since it’s been in existence for over 4 years. Because Hackney Planning doesn’t have a properly functioning Enforcement Team, and because of the 4 year rule, you’d be highly unlikely to have significant affect on the loss of our period family houses to flats.

  37. Andrew Boff  17/09/2011 at 2:06 pm

    Now I’m confused. Do you approve of these conversions?

  38. Benjamin Counsell  17/09/2011 at 7:10 pm

    I’m ambivalent about them. Obviously the best design solution would be to meet the huge demand for flats with large purpose built apartment blocks filled with well designed homes and leave the period family houses intact. But since that’s impossible because of opposition from Nimby groups and conservative planners, then it’s inevitable that the demand will be partially met by the conversion of period houses.
    I’ve got to say, it’s a bit rich you feigning concern for period family houses when it’s the policies that you support that makes their conversion inevitable.

  39. Andrew Boff  17/09/2011 at 11:39 pm

    Nothing is inevitable. So will you oppose or support that conversion or not bother?

  40. Benjamin Counsell  18/09/2011 at 6:53 am

    “Nothing is inevitable”? Is that your plan for the housing crisis? Wishful thinking!
    What do you think is the percentage of inner-London’s period houses that have been converted to flats?
    I’ve already written a comment to the plannng office regarding that conversion along the same lines as my comments above. “Opposition” or “support” is irrelevant since it’s long passed 4 years.
    Generally, I don’t bother opposing them because I see it as an inevitable consequence of the shortage. It’s a bad design option but it goes a small way to addressing demand when Nimby groups and market illiterate planners block well-designed apartment buildings.

  41. Andrew Boff  18/09/2011 at 8:15 pm

    Would you be supportive of those period houses being replaced by apartment blocks?

  42. Benjamin Counsell  19/09/2011 at 7:03 am

    That’s a bogus scenario since there is plenty of available sites in London that are suitable for high-rise without having to consider the scenario you pose (which would be extremely difficult anyway since the average period street in inner London is of high value and probably in the hands of umpteen different private owners).
    But in the long term, if you’re genuinely interested in their preservation, you should be arguing that when larger sites become available they are developed with high-rise so as to lessen the pressure on heritage assets.

  43. Benjamin Counsell  20/09/2011 at 7:40 am

    Or if you were trying to enquire whether I’d support high-rise “in my back yard”, the answer is yes. In fact I supported the proposed Pembury Circus redevelopment just down the road from me. I guess you opposed it?

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