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Community is king: how new London villages can help solve the housing crisis

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New research published today by LSE and the Berkeley Group explores how urban villages could help address the capital’s housing crisis. 

The report, called ‘New London Villages’, identifies six characteristics of a real urban village. These include being a place that is unique, mixed, locally driven and designed for social interaction. The authors then tested Kidbrooke Village in the Royal Borough of Greenwich against them and made a series of recommendations for all new major developments in London. In particular:

  • Private developers should lead on community development – specifically on long-term regeneration programmes during the initial five to ten year period after the first residents have moved in.
  • Struggling London estates could become successful villages but the public sector has to prioritise quality and delivery, not just price, when they sell public land.

Kath Scanlon, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at LSE and joint author of the report, said: “London is a city made of villages. That heritage still matters and is incredibly popular. Our response to the housing crisis needs to draw on those qualities that still make them so desirable. Every time we look at a site or designate a Housing Zone, we should think about the social qualities that place could possess, not just how it might contribute to housing targets or the economy.”

The research makes clear that villages cannot be created instantly. They emerge over time, as local traditions and a sense of collective memory become established. But the process can be accelerated on new development if someone is willing to act as a catalyst. 

Today, the authors believe that private developers should pick up the role of community development previously occupied by councils. They recommend that developers should plan for these activities, resource them adequately and staff them with appropriate expertise. In return, planning authorities might trade off an element of capital expenditure on physical amenity for revenue funding to support community development.

Tony Pidgley CBE, Chairman of the Berkeley Group, said: “Fundamentally, housebuilding is about creating community. We have put our heart and soul into engaging with the residents and building a new London village on the site of the old Ferrier Estate. Today a real community is starting to emerge at Kidbrooke, with something for everyone, from each and every part of society. Clearly, not every major site has to be a village. But they are part of London’s history and I think they could help define its future.”

Berkeley has now committed to produce a Community Plan for all its new developments.

Posted: 12 July 2016

For more information

For a copy of the report and images of Kidbrooke Village, contact: Kate Owen at Berkeley Group (kate.owen@berkeleygroup.co.uk) and to arrange interviews with Kath Scanlon, contact Sue Windebank at LSE (t: 020 7955 7060, s.windebank@lse.ac.uk).

Notes to Editors 

The six characteristics of a London village defined by LSE are:

  1. Small and intimate – it can be comfortably covered on foot.
  2. Unique – an identifiable centre with its own atmosphere and sense of place with defined boundaries.
  3. Designed for social interaction – ample public and green space, facilities for      community events and a central hub to generate social interaction.
  4. Locally driven and locally responsive – residents are fully involved in decisions that affect their community.
  5. Functional – well served bypublic & private transport with core services nearby such as a doctor’s surgery, food shops and schools.
  6. A mixed community – a mix ofages, ethnicities, tenures, long-standing residents, newer arrivals.

About LSE

This study has been commissioned via LSE Consulting, part of LSE Enterprise – the global business arm of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The company draws on the world-class teaching and research of LSE to undertake consulting, commercial research and customised executive education for governments, public and private sector organisations.

  About the Berkeley Group

  • The Berkeley Group builds homes and neighbourhoods. It is a publicly-owned company listed on the London Stock Exchange as a FTSE 100 company.
  • Berkeley Group is the only housebuilder to have won the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development twice in 2008 and 2014. In 2015, Berkeley was voted Britain’s fifth most admired company across all sectors and also named British Housebuilder of the Year by the Sunday Times.
  • Visit http://www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/about-berkeley-group for more information

About Kidbrooke Village

Kidbrooke Village is the redevelopment of the Ferrier Estate. The Estate was constructed by London City Council between 1968 and 1972. It was originally an award winning development but by the 80’s it had become one of the most economically deprived areas in London. Once complete, Kidbrooke Village will provide homes for nearly 5,000 people. Over 1,224 homes have already been delivered along with 229 permanent jobs and 76 apprenticeships. Alongside the new homes will be shops, schools, healthcare facilities and a new train station.