Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards 2019

21 LEGAL AWARDS 2019 | WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM United Kingdom Trowers & Hamlins LLP It is commercial considerations like these which have traditionally constrained the widespread use of modular construction in the UK Social housing scheme wins the most prestigious prize in UK architecture So what does a successful affordable housing scheme look like? Earlier this year the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize was awarded to Norwich City Council’s Goldsmith Street Project designed by the architectural practice Mikhail Riches. The project comprises 105 council homes which are let by the Council to tenants. This was the first time a social housing development had been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in its 23 year history. Mikhail Riches won the design competition for the development with a scheme that proposed a retention of the site’s previous street layout rather than the introduction of the more usual tower blocks. The scheme is a very contemporary take on traditional British terraced brick housing with the properties being laid out in four rows only 14 metres apart. The scheme is modelled on the nearby neighbourhood of highly desirable Victorian terraced houses known as Norwich’s “Golden Triangle”. Although launched in 2009 the scheme was beset by funding problems and work on site did not start until 2017. The first residents moved in at the end of 2018. A significant feature of the project are its highly specified energy efficient credentials which deliver a 70% reduction in fuel bills for tenants with yearly heating costs being referred to as just £150. Norwich Council has commented that the highly specified Goldsmith Street project cost about 10% more than a normal scheme but point to the long term benefits of well constructed, highly desirable properties where they expect to make savings on maintenance in the long term. The project has highlighted issues in the UK’s central government housing policy which gives council tenants the right to buy their council homes. Councils themselves are only allowed to fund 30% of their new build projects with monies that they receive from the sale of existing council homes and if they do not use those monies within three years they have to pay the monies back to central government. There are some commentators who would like to see councils being able to spend 100%of the proceeds of sale of existing council homes on their new builds or as in Wales and Scotland, see the tenant’s right to buy council houses abolished completely. These commentators regard such central government policy as damaging. They point to the fact that Norwich Council has lost around 500 council homes over the last three years through the right of tenants to buy their council homes. They also point out that it took Norwich Council some 8 years to overcome funding difficulties on the Goldsmith Street Project. The project has attracted considerable press attention. The Guardian Newspaper described the project as “a masterpiece” and the Daily Mail Newspaper suggested it represented “the future of council housing”. I may be doing those involved with the project a disservice, and I stand to be corrected, but I cannot find any reference to “Modern Methods of Construction” in any of the press I have read. What does the future hold – Look to the East North Essex Garden Communities Limited is a development corporation set up by four local Councils in Essex, the county which lies immediately to the east of London. Over the next twenty to thirty years their plan is to deliver some 40,000 new homes in an area known as the North Essex Corridor. The development philosophy underpinning this initiative is one of “garden communities”. The intention is to develop sensitively scaled and properly serviced communities supported by their own infrastructure in terms of schools, roads and healthcare facilities, rather than simply further overloading existing infrastructure by just adding more housing. The scale of the development presents huge possibilities for a properly considered urban regeneration scheme supported by its own dedicated off-site manufacturing facilities which could be sustained by a consistent pipeline of production over the longer term. If the lessons of the past can be learned and the best examples of successful contemporary housing schemes borrowed from, then this may present a genuine opportunity for private enterprise to engage collaboratively with the public sector and create the kind of communities that the inhabitants of Essex really deserve. As John Ruskin, the leading art critic, social thinker and philanthropist of the Victorian era put it: “When we build let us think that we build forever” Cathederal Tower Sleeping Pod Cluster. Side Elevation

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