The Right to Build Task Force experienced an innovative take on community building on a visit to the Leathermarket Community Benefit Society’s (LCBS) Marklake Court scheme, recently.
Built in consultation with the local community on the site of former garages on the 1960s Kipling Estate in Bermondsey, London, the 27 new council homes have enabled existing tenants to move to more suitable new homes, allowing them to stay in their neighbourhood, while freeing up their existing homes for other families.
The scheme, designed by architects Bell Phillips and local development specialists Igloo Community Builders, has taken on board the needs and wishes of local residents about the future of the under-used garage block, providing much needed affordable homes in the region.
Although not custom build in the conventional sense, the project is a vision of how higher-density custom homes can be incorporated into regeneration projects, giving residents input into the process of creating homes for social rent. This ensure that development happens with and for the residents, rather than to them.
The Leathermarket Joint Management Board (JMB), the tenant management organisation (TMO) that runs the Kipling estate, established The Leathermarket Community Benefit Society to build genuinely affordable housing to meet local need, resulting in the new Marklake Court scheme.
Just down the road from the Shard, the project offers residents a choice of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes across a two new seven- and five-storey blocks, with rents higher than the rest of the estate, but still affordable. The JMB reports that a one-bed will be in the area of £130 per week, which is massively affordable compared to open-market rent locally.
From the start, Igloo Community Builders and Bell Phillips facilitated a resident-led approach that offered community benefits, based around resident meetings and workshops. This approach gave the residents a real say in what was built locally, what the needs of the future residents might be, and explanations about which requests would, or couldn’t work, with explanations of why.
And the development’s attracted welcome attention, particularly from London Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured with residents and CBS directors) who praised the development on a recent visit, commenting on how it was an exemplar for retaining mixed communities as part of the vibrant city mix in high-value areas.
It’s also benefitted from support from both the Greater London Authority and the labour council in Southwark.
In fact the council facilitated the scheme by making the land, which it owns, affordable, as it is leased to Leathermarket CBS for £1 for 125 years. This route to affordable land has been crucial to the scheme, which had a £9.9 million gross development cost (total project cost).
Key to the success of the scheme was the housing need assessment, which from the start identified existing Kipling residents with distinct needs. This involved those with changed circumstance that merited moving for housing more suited to their needs, or for families that were over-crowded or under-occupying.
These tenants, as well as other Kipling residents were then able to input into the design of the buildings, from blueprints to final finishes. This collaboration even influenced the building’s shapes, resulting in an angled profile that secured views of trees for existing homes.
Many of the homes are targeted at downsizers, meaning that larger homes elsewhere on the estate are released back into the community for over-crowded families. Leathermarket CBS estimates that, in all, over 100 families should benefit from the scheme.
John Paul Maytum, resident Chairman of Leathermarket CBS, said: “Involving residents right from a blank sheet of paper at the very start has enabled us to get the very best outcome for this site. Residents are much happier than with the traditional development approach, because they’ve shaped the design – from the size and layout of the building right down to choosing brick colours and the interiors of flats. This allows us to open up sites that the Council couldn’t do on its own and really tackle the pressing need for new council-rent homes in this area.
We’re delighted that Southwark Council has given the vision, commitment and practical support to make this scheme a shining example of what new council house building can achieve when it embraces a spirit of true partnership with residents.”
TMOs can be set up by elected estate residents and, if judged competent, take over housing services with borough funding and other support.
The Leathermarket Joint Management Board (JMB) is a self-financing Tenant Management Organisation established in 1996 managing 1,500 homes on behalf of Southwark Council. At the last continuation ballot, of the 78% of local residents who voted, 91% were in favour of the JMB.