Today, regeneration is not just about building homes and infrastructure, but a holistic approach to people's overall lifestyle and living. And Havering is ensuring these qualities are built into its schemes. Hannah Gal reports
When a major London borough sets itself the task of embarking on one of the UK’s most ambitious regeneration programs, the need to get everything right is imperative.
And as Havering – the capital’s third largest borough - starts on its milestone £3 billion facelift in collaboration with three joint venture partners, at its heart will be the shared appreciation of innovative, place-making-led design.
“Local authorities have come to recognise the impact design has on other services the council offers” explains Rachel Hearn, Havering’s principal urban design officer. “Today’s design is more people-led, more holistic and much more long-term. We know well-designed places improve residents’ wellbeing and by helping people to move around, you help them enjoy a healthier lifestyle.”
Set to last up to 15 years, the project will see first JV partner Wates Residential, regenerate 12 council estates, while second JV partner Notting Hill Genesis will deliver 700 new homes within the Rainham and Beam Park housing zone. Separately at Beam Park, Countryside is working in a JV with L&Q New Homes on 3,000 new homes.
Third joint-venture partner, First Base, and Savills Investment Management, is assigned with the transformation of FOR LIFE Bridge Close, situated within the ringroad in Romford town centre, building 1,070 new homes, a new school, health centre and bridge linking the site to the Elizabeth line at Romford station.
And with the JV’s working with council, all will have an eye on the importance of design.
“Today’s people-led design is about looking at people’s daily experiences and how you can improve their quality of life,” says Hearn.
“There are, for example, communal spaces to enjoy, as well as green areas that ‘work hard’ to provide a quiet space for the elderly, under-fives and teens.
The emphasis is on getting people to be more active through better connectivity and improving movement around town centres. This approach marks a break from past, car-dominated models that were about, as Hearn puts it: “people driving somewhere and then driving out again.”
For its JV partners, Hearn’s vision sits perfectly for what they want to achieve in the borough. “We want to set the benchmark for design in Havering,” says Wates Residential development director, Kate Ives. She adds: “[We want to] create houses and environments that future generations will want to conserve.”
Havering is one of the capital’s greenest boroughs with over half lying in London’s Green Belt, and fourteen of its parks now recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme.
The council is keen for this ‘greenness’ to be reflected in new schemes. “It is important to think long-term and design good places that sustain character and quality in years to come, places that can be well maintained,” says Hearn.
She adds: “As a council, we understand the spaces between the buildings are more important than the buildings themselves, and [our JV partners] share our appreciation of design as a key factor within place-making.”
This is evident in Notting Hill Genesis’ proposals, where designs are set to capitalise on the rich context of Rainham village, the marshes and Beam Valley Country park.
Consultation on how the future of Romford will look over the next few decades got under way in January.