History: Aylesbury Estate

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Below you will find a series of picture links which will reveal additional information about key places of interest from Walworth’s rich history:

                  

The Aylesbury Estate

• Location: Walworth, borough of Southwark, bordered by Old Kent Road, Albany Road, East Street & Walworth Road
• Architect Hans P Trenton lead a team of architects for the borough’s architecture & planning dept.
• Construction was completed in 1977
• Demolition to take place during 2009-2029

Background

The estate was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the aftermath of a large slum clearance programme in this part of south London.  There had been a proposal called the ‘Aylesbury Road Development Area’ planned for construction in the late 1960s.  When the former metropolitan boroughs of Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark joined to form the London Borough of Southwark in 1965, the scope of the project was extended to include other slum clearance areas and a proposal for the 60 acre ‘Aylesbury Development Area’ was approved in 1966.

At this time there was pressure to build homes quickly to help ease the shortage of modern dwellings and the majority of the blocks on the estate are constructed using the Jespersen large panel system. Industrialised building methods were in fashion at the time and the concrete panels were manufactured off-site and then assembled on site and this was quicker than traditional construction methods.  The estate was built by John Laing Construction Ltd with an initial budget of £10,996,178.

The homes were built in line with the Parker Morris standards which granted generous space standards and included generous allowances for storage and private amenity space.  It also followed the principles of the modernist architecture movement with “walkways in the sky” – separating pedestrians from street level, which was to be the territory of the motor car and service vehicles – and the homes had modern services and amenities for the time.

Initially the new residents welcomed the move from the antiquated homes the estate replaced and marvelled at the modern facilities, including the indoor bathrooms!  But from the outset, the design was criticized for its large “dehumanizing” scale.

The initial design proposal had been stripped back due to budget constraints and once built it soon became clear that it was going to be a challenge to maintain the whole estate.  Parts of the estate were regularly vandalised.  There were intermittent issues with the estate-wide district heating system, leaving residents without heating or hot water.  There were also problems with the lifts in the high rise blocks.  Increasing anti social behaviour led to the removal of some of the high level walkways and link bridges in an attempt to cut off escape routes.

The estate had become a notorious example or urban decay.  In 1999 the estate was awarded significant funding (£56million) as part of a 10 year New Deal for Communities (NDC) programme set up by the new Labour Government to tackle social exclusion and to improve the life chances of estate residents.

The NDC made great strides in improving education attainment and the health of residents.  There has been a reduction of crime and the fear of crime.  The NDC also funded various construction projects including outdoor gyms, a community garden as well as significant funding in Burgess Park.

In 2001 a proposal to transfer the management of the estate to a specially set up housing association went to the ballot and was comprehensively rejected by the residents.  Following the no vote, Southwark council investigated the option of a part-retention/part-redevelopment scheme where some blocks would remain and some would be demolished to make way for new homes.   This proved to be prohibitively expensive due to the large costs associated with bringing the old blocks up to modern ‘Decent Homes’ standards.

In September 2005 the council made the decision to completely redevelop the estate on a phased basis and, in close consultation with the local community, established a planning framework called the Aylesbury Area Action Plan (AAP) that would act as a guide for the regeneration over the following 15-20 years.

The first new homes on the estate footprint are now being delivered and Aylesbury residents are moving in.  As the remaining blocks become empty they will be demolished and more new homes can then be built.

Supporting this there has been significant investment in the local schools – Michael Faraday School and Walworth Academy have been rebuilt, Surrey Square School has benefitted from investment from the NDC and a new purpose built academy that will specialise in maths and science is due to complete in 2013.  Burgess Park is being significantly remodelled and will reopen in 2012.

In 2010 the NDC wound down and its successor body Creation Trust is a resident led community trust that will continue to support social and physical regeneration on the estate.

Sources
Aylesbury Regeneration Team
Local history section of John Harvard Library  

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