A new start for a new place
Erith Park is a transformational regeneration project in the London borough of Bexley which makes a significant contribution to the Mayor of London’s vision for new affordable housing in the capital. The first phase has successfully delivered 343 new homes for affordable rent, shared ownership and outright sale and is now fully occupied, including 60 of the original residents who have chosen to remain in the area. Phase 2, to deliver a further 244 new homes, is currently on site.
Setting a precedent for the area, Erith Park encourages community cohesion and social diversity. Broadway Malyan's approach focused on creating a new sense of place for residents, designing a scheme that would enable them to thrive and interact as a community and enjoy a higher standard of living than their previous development had provided.
At Erith Park we are putting into place the elements that sow the seeds of a successful community
Built in the 1970’s, the Larner Road estate in East London was an unpopular and stigmatised ex-local authority estate. Situated on a main access road in Erith, the towers formed a formidable landmark.
The modernist aesthetic typical of estates of this era and a high percentage of one bedroom flats and bedsits made the estate unpopular with both residents and the wider community.
The estate transferred to Orbit Housing Association in 1999 and in consultation with residents and stakeholders, it was agreed that rebuilding was the preferred and most viable option for long-term sustainability. Erith Park is the result of this redevelopment.
The success of Erith Park has largely been down to the close collaboration and teamwork of the key delivery partners: London Borough of Bexley (LBB), Greater London Authority (GLA), housing association client Orbit Homes, builder/developer Wates Living Space and architects Broadway Malyan.
The collaboration at Erith Park has seen the right group of people brought together as the right time. Each stakeholder has brought different skills and resources to build an open and integrated team that was willing to listen to and learn from each other. Each organisation was heavily invested in the project but approaching it from slightly different angles, making the team dynamic, unique and constructive.
LBB and the GLA were determined to meet their housing targets, Orbit Homes wanted to deliver a genuinely affordable new community while Wates were brought in at a time when they were looking to expand their portfolio of partnership housing ventures. All of the partners have been driven by the shared goals of delivering excellence and leaving the community with a sustainable and lasting legacy.
From initial consultation there was local support for whole sale regeneration, combined with a level of cynicism about whether it could be achieved. To ensure that all residents had a say, a Resident Core Group consisting of interested residents of the estate and surrounding streets was formed to advise on the proposals.
Periodic newsletters, exhibitions, events and a well-used Facebook page helped the community to keep in touch and a community engagement officer worked with residents to build a sense of pride and ownership and encourage participation.
Walk the Talk
A digital art project called ‘Walk the Talk’ allowed local residents to record their memories of the area via a ‘digital suitcase’. Designed to make technology more accessible to those who might not regularly use it, the project led to interactive screens being set up in stairwells, allowing new residents to interact.
“The work being done in Erith Park is brilliant… and I congratulate all involved in this innovative scheme aimed at using technology to build community engagement.”Ed Vaizy, MP
The vision for Erith Park was to create a desirable and contemporary residential neighbourhood, a place where residents of all tenures would be proud to live and which has a lasting legacy. The design ethos is one of inclusivity, accessibility, safety and connectivity.
The overall scale of the development is significantly reduced in height from the former tower blocks while overall density remains the same.
Apartment buildings have been located to address the edge condition along the busy North end Road. The changing mass of the buildings helps to articulate and reveal the entrances and routes into the site and adds variety into the streetscape along North End road. New pedestrian and vehicular entrances have been provided to enhance the permeability and connectivity of the site, in particular better routes to leisure amenities, allotments, local schools and Erith town centre. Green buffers have been introduced to mitigate the noise and pollution created by the road. A proposed new access road for Phase 2, lined with soft landscaping, will provide a distinct sense of arrival further enhancing the sense of place.
The apartment buildings are shaped to reduce their mass through a series of staggered roof terraces down towards the domestic scale of the contemporary terraced housing behind. The houses follow regular street patterns that promote active streetscapes and facilitate natural surveillance within the development.
Combined with the traditional street patterns, continual frontages and a cohesive architectural language are used to reinforce the sense of place within the scheme. As part of Phase 2 a striking new community building and nursery will form the heart of the new neighbourhood.
A place to call home
Providing residents with a permanent sense of belonging to somewhere of value was the overriding principal behind the development of Erith Park. Everything from the design layouts and orientation of rooms, to amenity spaces and the relationship of houses and neighbouring apartment buildings, was designed to create a place where residents of all tenures would be proud to live.
The high percentage of one-bedroom flats and bedsits in the previous estate did not match the needs of the community and it was decided that the new development would have a more diverse range of housing sizes. The apartment buildings contain a variety of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments while the terrace housing composes 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses. All houses have a private garden to the rear, typical of traditional terrace housing. Apartments have a private balcony or, on ground level, a private garden space.
To create a sustainable community, whilst retaining 80% affordable housing in this disadvantaged area, the client needed a mix of tenures. They felt that a minimum of 20% outright sale was essential in repositioning the site as an area of aspiration.
The development adopted a ‘tenure blind’ approach which integrated the character of the site through the creation of a uniform architectural language. Homes for sale or rent are designed to the same high standards and the different tenures are intermingled and indistinguishable from the street. The application of this singular language for the building elevations has also created a distinguishable and positive identity for the scheme.
Regarded as unsafe, the existing inherently featureless open space at Larner Road was largely unusable by local residents, so integral to the success of the scheme has been the creation of a hierarchy of high quality open space and play provision.
The Dell is an area of local ecological importance, brought back to life to provide amenity space for residents. Small pieces of play equipment, bespoke benches and a timber sculpture designed by a local artist have been installed, encouraging visitors and adding interest whilst retaining the essentially wild nature of the space. The space has proven popular with local residents, with several public event hosted in the Dell since it opened.
A ‘home-zone’ forms the centrepiece within the first phase of the masterplan, designed to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists by reducing the speed and access of cars, providing safe spaces for children to play.
The home zone formed a key part of the character of Phase 1, and has been successfully been adopted to act as the ‘heart’ of the community. This street is the hub of social interaction and a safe play space for young children. In Phase 2 the site layout has been carefully considered to provide overlooked and contained spaces to form ‘pocket parks’, enhancing the quality of the public realm and creating opportunities for door-step play.
All apartments comply with Level 4 in the Code for Sustainable Homes, with features including solar panels and energy efficient combi-boilers in the houses, and a communal heating system to serve the apartments.
“I want... to help thousands more Londoners own homes and create more developments like Erith Park delivering excellent affordable properties.”Boris Johnson, Mayor of London