Taking a collaborative approach to transform a suburban council housing estate.
Circle Housing Merton Priory (CHMP) acquired the Eastfields Estate in Mitcham alongside two others nearby with plans for regeneration. Working closely with residents, the focus is on providing better homes and better connecting them to the wider community.
We knew the key to improving Eastfields was to add variety, and so we proposed collaborating with Proctor and Matthews and Cullinan Studio – two practices with whom we share a very similar culture and ethos. This collective approach paid off and we were jointly appointed to develop a new masterplan for the estate.
Unusually, it was identified very early on that the redevelopment of Eastfields was not financially viable in its own right. CHMP took the view that all three estates needed to be treated as one project, and with the other two having so much more potential, they fund the development of Eastfields. However, it was also imperative that we maximised value as far as possible to prevent the viability of the overall regeneration of the three projects being put into jeopardy.
A number of existing homes had been purchased under Right to Buy legislation and were occupied by a mix of leaseholders and freeholders. From the outset, we carried out extensive consultation with tenants and home owners to explore their needs and to tailor the masterplan to accommodate these. This process has been ongoing, will continue as the scheme is taken forward, and has been run in parallel and informed by the evolution of ideas for the financial offer from CHMP.
Built in the 1970s, the existing development features a perimeter building with homes around a large central green, creating two distinct zones: inside the estate and outside the estate. Not surprisingly, this Radburn layout, typical of town planning at that time, has cut the estate from its surroundings and created anti-social behaviour issues. Despite the quality of housing being quite low – many had been poorly converted and leaked heat and water – residents were very hesitant about redevelopment. Together with CHMP, our challenge was to create support from the local community.
Our concept for the renewed Eastfields Estate was to turn the existing site inside out. The central green has been retained, along with all of its mature trees, but the architectural monolith around it has been recreated as a series of buildings of varied scale, with a hierarchy of routes through to it. Homes now front onto this new green heart, enabling it to be better used and more secure.
By reinstating a more traditional street pattern, we will not only better integrate the neighbourhood within its context, but be able to significantly increase the density on the site. What currently accommodates 470 homes will instead create space for 671, an increase of 43%, all of a much better quality and with private amenity space.
As part of the process, we devised a masterplan with three distinct character areas for the neighbourhood. Firstly, a series of new lanes lead into the site. These small scale mews streets are suburban in scale and character, and provide the majority of the family homes. Building heights increase nearer the green, up to a maximum of eight storeys. Larger scale, more robust buildings are located to the northern edge to form a distinctive skyline with townhouses overlooking the adjacent cemetery.
Although still at the masterplanning stage, we looked closely at housing typologies and devised some innovative, flexible options, including a multigenerational home with an integrated granny annex. We made physical models of each of these, which became invaluable in establishing what residents liked and disliked.
With a strong financial offer and high quality design, the local community are now very supportive of our proposals, which we will take further with both Proctor and Matthews and Cullinan Studio.