Research by the London School Of Economics has been used to put forward recommendations to local authorities and developers on why they ought to go about creating new urban villages in the capital. The report, commissioned by Berkely Group, aimed to identify what an urban village ought to be and then saw whether its Kidbrooke Village scheme in the borough of Greenwich measured up to those criteria and what could be learned from its creation.
LSE researchers said urban villages could be defined as sharing six common features namely that they are small and intimate, unique, designed for social interaction, locally driven and responsive, functional and be lived in by mixed community.
They found Kidbrooke had half of these while the rest were works “in progress”.
During the course of its investigation, LSE looked closely at the concept of an urban village, writing that: “We suggest the model is still very useful. The concept clearly has a strong resonance with modern Londoners.
“Using the village as a model also encourages developers to consider social sustainability and placemaking.
“Doing so will not only allow us to address the housing shortage but deliver desirable communities, which will stand the test of time.”
LSE assistant professorial research fellow Kath Scanlon, who co-authored the report, said: “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 we should think about the social qualities that place could possess, not just how it might contribute to housing targets or the economy.”
To that end, the report concluded with three recommendations “calling for people to think carefully about the kind of places they are trying to create”.
It said there was potential for more than a dozen new urban villages across the capital and that where such a solution was appropriate its design and delivery should be guided by satisfying the six criteria identified above.
It said: “Every time we designate a Housing Zone, we should think about the social qualities we want it to possess, not just how it might contribute to jobs and the economy.”
Its second recommendation was for private developers to lead the development of community within villages.
It stated: “We all know that buildings don’t create a community. A genuine community requires social capital, not just high quality architecture.
“Given the right environment, this will usually develop over time, but the process can take decades. The problem for new development is that nobody wants to wait that long. Someone needs to act as a catalyst.
“We believe developers working on long-term regeneration schemes should lead community-building programmes during the five-to-10 years after first occupation.”
The report also suggested local authorities turn housing estates into villages.
It said: “The lesson from Kidbrooke and elsewhere is that if we want to turn estates into villages, the contracting authorities must prioritise quality and delivery as much as price in the criteria they set and the weighting they assign. This is a significant cultural shift for the public sector.”
Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley said: “Fundamentally, house building 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.
“A real community is starting to emerge at Kidbrooke, with something for everyone. Clearly, not every major site has to be a village.
“But they are part of London’s history and they could help define its future.”
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