Berkeley aims to transform urban London through ‘village secret’

Posted 28 July 2016 by Ben Salisbury

New research from Berkeley Developments and the London School of Economics finds six characteristics that make the perfect village

Berkeley Group has commissioned new research undertaken by the London School of Economics (LSE) to address how urban villages could be used to tackle London’s housing shortage.

The aim of the research is to define exactly what makes a village successful and how this can be incorporated into London’s infrastructure.

It wants new London villages to be places that are unique, mixed, locally driven and designed for social interaction.

LSE identified six characteristics that the best villages in the country have in common. It found that they are small and intimate, they have an identity, they are functional, have a mixed community in terms of ages, incomes and housing mix, they have community spaces and residents are involved in decision-making that affects their community.

Kath Scanlon, assistant professorial research fellow at LSE and joint author of the report, says: "London is a city made of villages. That heritage still matters and is incredibly popular. Our response to the housing crisis needs to draw on those qualities that still make them so desirable.

“Every time we look at a site or designate a Housing Zone, we should think about the social qualities that place could possess, not just how it might contribute to housing targets or the economy."

However, LSE argues that villages cannot be created instantly and should emerge over time taking into account local traditions and how the collective memory of the community becomes established but the process can be accelerated by one body acting as a catalyst. This used to be councils but should now be developers. The research concludes that this means developers must focus on outside space and facilities as well as the buildings themselves and take the lead on community development, particularly on long-term regeneration projects during the first five to 10 years after residents have moved in.

It advises that the public sector has to prioritise quality and delivery, as well as price, when they sell public land.

The six characteristics have been put to the test at Berkeley’s development at Kidbrooke Village in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the developer has pledged to produce a community plan for all of its new developments.

Tony Pidgley CBE, chairman of the Berkeley Group, remarks: "Fundamentally, housebuilding is about creating community. We have put our heart and soul into engaging with the residents and building a new London village on the site of the old Ferrier Estate. Today a real community is starting to emerge at Kidbrooke, with something for everyone, from each and every part of society. Clearly, not every major site has to be a village. But they are part of London's history and I think they could help define its future."

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