High-rise housing should be replaced by streets of terrace homes says Policy Exchange set up by planning minister
Modernist tower blocks should be demolished and replaced with streets of terrace houses and low-rise flats that people actually want to live in, an influential Conservative thinktank will claim on Thursday.
Policy Exchange, set up by the radical planning minister Nick Boles, quotes wide-ranging research showing literally nobody in one poll wants to live in high rise social housing, and that it is linked to problems including crime and poor health in communities, stress and neurosis among tenants and hyperactivity and juvenile delinquency in their children.
Not for nothing did film director Stanley Kubrick use newly built tower blocks in east London “to symbolise the vicious dystopia of The Clockwork Orange”, says the report, Create Streets.
To address those social problems and create much needed jobs and new homes, the blocks – largely built in the 50s, 60s and 70s – should be torn down and replaced with “real streets”, says the report, which claims because of the huge land area surrounding most high rise blocks there is room to create even more low-rise homes.
“It’s time we ripped down the mistakes of the past and started building proper streets where people want to live,” says the report’s author, Nicholas Boys Smith, of the organisation also called Create Streets, which exists to lobby on the issue.
“Bulldozing the high rise tower blocks and no-go zone estates and replacing them with terrace homes and low rise flats is the best way to build both the number and the quality of homes that we need.”
Although research shows tower blocks are unpopular with most if not all tenants, building them continues: from 2003-2007 there was a seven-fold increase in high-rise building, even though it is more expensive to build and maintain, says the report.
Despite continuing demand for executive high rise flats such as those at One Hyde Park and Battersea Power Station – where this month it was reported £600m of flats sold in just four days – high-rise social housing has become higher and more cramped than ever before, says the report.
Although it is not a government report, the recommendations are likely to be taken more seriously because of Policy Exchange’s close ties to Boles, who has shown he is not afraid of controversy: just this month in a speech to his former thinktank the planning minister urged more building on greenfield sites.
Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Labour’s shadow planning minister, said: “What the report does highlight is the importance of ensuring that social housing is of a good quality. This is why the last Labour government invested £33bn in bringing homes up to a decent standard and we need urgent action and a change of course from the Tory-led government to tackle the housing crisis by building the homes the country desperately needs.”