Plans afoot for Hoxton skyscrapers

Colville Estate

High time for change: Colville Estate. Photograph: Hackney Council

Hackney Council has launched a competition for architects to design two residential tower blocks for Hoxton’s Colville Estate regeneration in a bid to create more affordable housing in the area.

The brief states the towers must have “distinct character and identity” but the skyscrapers will loom over Shoreditch Park and replace low-rise 1950s buildings with blocks of up to 14 and 20 storeys high.

Concerns have been raised over the notoriety surrounding tower blocks and Hackney Council’s history of demolishing some existing high-rise flats in the 1980s and 1990s because of poor housing conditions.

Shopkeeper Imam Sumbul from Whitmore supermarket said: “They will be too high and it is not nice – they will block out the sun and there will be more people and more trouble.

“They need to bring more housing into the area but not on this estate; there are too many flats here already.”

Although the regeneration is welcomed by residents, there has been some friction regarding temporary accommodation, eligibility changes and loss of amenities for residents.

In a controversial move, Conservative councillor for Leabridge ward, Linda Kelly, was called upon by Colville residents in De Beauvoir ward to help with issues raised.

Cllr Linda Kelly said: “One lady said she didn’t want the regeneration, all she wanted was a refurbishment – a proper bathroom, toilet and kitchen and she would have been happy where she was.

Resident Jennifer Hutchinson said: “Hopefully they will learn and realise that they are not just dealing with numbers for decanting but human beings who have been settled in a home for nearly 40 years and who don’t really want to leave.

“I am not in agreement with the two towers – to me councils should have learnt long ago about tower blocks…

Cllr Linda Kelly said: “The idea was we would move away from the high rises because they breed depression and isolation and they are not pretty things to see on the landscape.

“At the end of the day, we are putting people in boxes. Like a young mother with a young child and no extended family, just give her one of these flats.

“Build a six or seven block but make them more spacious. Make them family-friendly and make them fit into the environment.

“You have got to look at what they take away from the community – they may need to tick a box saying they have built 15,000 houses but where is the human aspect of it? That is not fair.”

Vice-chair of the Colville Tenants’ and Residents’ Association Michael Jones, of Bridport Place, said: “I’ve lived on the estate all my life and I am a little upset but I don’t want to stop the regeneration – I’m all for it, we asked for it.

“The regeneration is going to be lovely, I wanted to move to Essex but now I’ve got a new place which is beautiful. The old place was freezing cold with cracks in the walls and damp everywhere.

“But I’m going to lose the community garden which I’ve had for eight years – we had it landscaped and brought it to life.”

The £25m “mixed-use” project will provide social renting, shared ownership and private sale properties, which will generate income for the estate’s development. The homes are said to be “high quality and energy-efficient”, with residential capacity increasing from 412 to 884 over ten years.

A spokesperson for Hackney Council said: “Changes to the way local authority housing is funded means that Hackney, like other councils, directly manages funding for its social housing regeneration programmes.

“Colville will be a mixed-tenure neighbourhood, with revenue raised from private housing being used to deliver high quality social housing. This development represents a critical source of income in terms of financing the overall regeneration and renewal of the estate.

“Local residents, ward councillors and other stakeholders have been involved at every stage of the regeneration project.”

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