Infill housing’ on council estates is controversial. If you live in a garden-less flat in a dense, polluted corner of town, you could reasonably argue that it’s wrong to shrink communal green space for the sake of a few homes. On the other hand, with private developers failing to provide enough social housing even on large, previously council-owned sites, ‘infill’ housing is one way local authorities can cut waiting lists.
At Dover Court in Islington, however, local residents backed our plans – because we developed them together. We even were able to increase green space by re-claiming large areas of unloved concrete and building the majority of homes on garage sites. In the end, we delivered 70 new homes – covering a wide range of house types and sizes - along with a community centre at the base of an existing tower, as well as a revitalised public realm - improving the open spaces, pedestrian routes and lighting to fashion a safe and welcoming journey home for all residents. And a brand new ball court too.
We drew upon wide-ranging skills – in co-design, retrofit and re-use, multigenerational planning, and landscape-led placemaking – to repair and improve the 1960s-built estate, and to blend it more effectively into its wider Georgian setting.
Co-designing: We developed the brief with residents and with Alistair Gale, Islington Council’s Head of Programming, Design and Customer Care, to find out what kind of homes were needed, encouraging a diverse community with bespoke low-carbon housing for different tenures, household sizes, ages and abilities. We established trust by ensuring residents would be re-housed on the estate through the borough’s Local Letting Policy.
Mending: With minimal demolition and by grafting bespoke interventions onto the existing 250-home estate, including building on garage sites, we delivered 70 newbuilds across eight infill sites (including a Later Living housing compliant with HAPPI Report guidance, co-authored by PTE in 2009) and a wheelchair-friendly home at the base of retained Threadgold House. Excepting the eight wheelchair accessible dwellings, new homes are car-free.
Townscape variety: Housing types across eight sites - from small-footprint bespoke homes to deck access flats, a mews terrace and four-storey block apartments - respond to existing constraints, producing varied building lines, elevations and plot sizes while preserving neighbouring amenity. Their brick facades and cubic forms speak to the aesthetics of the neighbouring Modernist and Georgian housing.
Landscape-led placemaking: With planners, residents and Farrer Huxley, we created three character areas and a new central green link with seating, play and shelter and playable landscapes spread throughout the estate, massively increasing usage of green space among residents. As well as uniting the eight infill sites, this strategy, removing unsafe and unused areas, incorporated a new ball court within a new public square (as big as the Emirates football pitch) and provides open views and clear fronts and backs for all housing.
PTE provided a complete service from concept to completion.