CASE STUDY

ST CLEMENTS BOW

THE
VISION

Many people living in London have begun to feel the pressure of being pushed out of a city they have come to view as their home. The certainly can apply to families who have lived there for generations but is also now the experience of many who have in more recent times moved to London for education or jobs and have stayed there. London Citizens have been a campaign organisation who attract a lot of support from local communities across the capital.

Around 2007, certain members of the East London brain of London Citizens felt the need to campaign on behalf of those whose communities where under threat from the gentrification of the East End and the general rise in house prices across the capital. Many people were faced with the choice of living in smaller and smaller accommodation or deciding when to move and where, as it was now impossible for them to buy a property in their own community.

By 2010 the idea had developed of setting up a Community Land Trust (CLT) as a means to deliver truly affordable housing in perpetuity in the East End. Our practice NIA architects were based in Westferry not far from Bow and having also gained recent experience working with the Princes Foundation in Shoreditch, Noel was invited to be a founding member of the Board of the East London Community Land Trust (ELCLT). A site, a former victorian hospital known as St Clements had been spotted for sale in Bow and quickly became the focus for delivering the first urban CLT in the UK.

THE
CHALLENGE

The biggest issue was in getting the leaders of the city to take on board the idea of delivering a Community Land Trust at a time when few knew about CLT’s. A trip to the US by a member of London Citizens had convinced them that truly affordable housing was possible in the capital at a time when ‘affordable’ houses in London by many peoples standards were no longer affordable.

The model was based on purchasing only the bricks and mortar whilst the ‘land value’ element of the cost remained with the Community Land Trust. The key was that once purchased, the property remained in the ownership of the occupier as long as they wished to continue living in their community. In this way affordability in perpetuity could be guaranteed. The price a potential purchaser would have to pay would be well below that of the affordable housing on offer at the time. The trust would then be a vehicle for retaining the designated properties and for encouraging community participation by members of the CLT and they neighbours.

Noel’s role changed form participating community member to a technical advisor on the project and was instrumental in selecting the consultants and designers to deliver the project. In addition his skill in setting up community engaging workshops was used to share the idea with members of the local community and potential member of the CLT. A membership scheme was set up and before long the growing number of members meant that in time members who wished to take advantage of the offer would have the opportunity to purchase a CLT property and secure a lasting home in the capital in their community.

THE
DESIGN

The disused hospital site was on the market to buy and could deliver up to 300 homes. The majority would be market houses and the affordable quota would be taken up partly by the normal affordable housing channels (Registered Social Landlords) and a CLT. By this time the mayor Boris Johnson had agreed to deliver a CLT scheme in the capital through the cleaver campaigning tactics of London Citizens, an agile organisation of skilled community organisers.

The process of developer selection by the HCA (Homes and Community Agency) was a mainstream development process. Noel along with other members of the committee selected a sympathetic national developer and a housing association order to put together a bid. A full team of consultants were gathered and design options explored for how the scheme for regenerating the hospital site would work with the main focus for the CLT members, on how the proposed ELCLT housing would integrate with the main development.

Noel lobbied successfully for the inclusion of a public square to be integrated in the area of the plan which would be surrounded by the mixed used element of the scheme, to be housed in delightful listed buildings fronting onto the main Bow Road. It became clear early on that the CLT would become the catalyst for community involvement not only in the inception of the scheme but in the on going life of the community. This would give the development as a whole a ‘heart’ from the start which would ensure a quality of life and inclusive atmosphere for the project long term.

As the bidding process was finalised the developer we had teamed up with in a consortium was not selected, however the winning bidder soon realised the value of the CLT to the scheme and established a relationship with our board that went on to deliver the first group of CLT housing in London. Out of the design and community engagement process emerged the ‘Shuffle Festival’ based in the refurbished buildings which was given a boost by the local celebrity film maker Danny Boyle. The arts festival has become an established all year round festival organisation delivering events and programs in the community throughout the year.

The first CLT members to have had the opportunity to buy a property are now living in affordable and appropriately sized properties in the heart of London with their families which before was a fast fading dream. Their presence continues the tradition of all great cities for diversity and inclusion in the face of increasing segregation by price.

  • Community Engagement Event

  • Developing The Vision

  • Developing The Vision

  • Existing Building

  • Original Hospital Building

  • Preliminary Plans

  • View Down The Avenue

  • Shuffle Festival

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