Lewisham Homes, the London Borough of Lewisham’s housing company, has been involving residents on the Achilles Street estate in New Cross to find the best way to build new council-owned homes for social rent. From the beginning, the project has focused on making sure residents are involved in shaping any decisions.
Architects Levitt Bernstein have now been selected jointly by Lewisham Homes and the Achilles Street Resident Steering Group to begin designing the new estate. The steering group is currently formed of six members, totalling 150 years of living on the estate, and includes tenants, leaseholders and a youth representative.
Explaining why Levitt Bernstein were ultimately selected, one member of the steering group said: ‘They are really focused on ensuring the residents are happy with the process. We were looking for a company that is not only going to engage with the steering group but also all the residents. They really demonstrated the importance of social value and engaging with the residents.’
Levitt Bernstein’s proposal comes with a comprehensive social value action plan covering professional support to local projects; social investment projects; engaging with local schools, Lewisham College and Goldsmiths; sustainability and green living initiatives; plus creating work experience and training opportunities.
Levitt Bernstein director Jo McCafferty commented: ‘We are so delighted to have been selected as architects for the Achilles regeneration project. Working with WR-AP and ZCD Architects, Lewisham Homes, the RSG, Achilles residents of all ages and local businesses, we are looking forward to designing exemplary, sustainable new housing and commercial space. It is such a strategic site in the local area, so there is an incredible opportunity to create a new neighbourhood which brings benefit to all local people.’
Cllr Paul Bell, Lewisham Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, said:
“The regeneration of the Achilles Street estate demonstrates our commitment to ensuring resident and community engagement is at the heart of our work. The original resident ballot showed overwhelming support for proposals to rebuild the estate and I am delighted that residents continue to be closely involved in developing this scheme.
It is fantastic to see the active role residents have played in choosing and appointing Levitt Bernstein to design their new community and I look forward to seeing their continued involvement in shaping proposals for the Achilles Street estate.”
Young residents on the estate created a video with the help of an animator as a message to the architects about what is important to them. Watch at youtu.be/auQn_mDku0s
The Achilles Street estate was identified as suitable for regeneration in 2016, with a plan put forward by the council to demolish the current buildings and build new homes on the site.
The proposal was backed by 73% of eligible residents in the first ballot to take place in the borough under rules brought in by the Greater London Authority in 2018 to ensure that residents have a meaningful say in regeneration schemes which require demolition.
The ballot followed an extensive consultation process which included weekly resident engagement meetings. Overall, 92% of eligible residents cast their vote.
The redevelopment will see a minimum of 35% of the total homes built being Council-owned homes for social rent for existing residents and people on the housing waiting list, and a minimum of 50% of the total homes being affordable. The remaining half will be housing to help fund the development.
Council tenants and leaseholders on the estate will be offered a home in the new buildings, with the development and demolition phased so no one has to move more than once.
Lewisham Homes has been working with the community and providing training to resident representatives so that they can fully participate in the process of procurement and design development.
Plans were temporarily thrown into uncertainty by the lockdown and subsequent restrictions, but with training and meetings moved online, a Resident Steering Group (RSG) was formed in June 2020.
The new homes will be built by the council and its housing company, Lewisham Homes, to modern energy efficient and safety standards. The development will also give residents improved access to public and green spaces with communal gardens or balconies.