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Creating a More Sustainable Elephant

The Surprisingly True Cost of Keeping the Heygate..

NBA Stock Condition Survey

In January 1998, Southwark Housing commissioned NBA Consortium Services to provide a comprehensive stock condition survey of its housing stock.

The Consortium delivered its report in May 1999. You can download a summary here.

The report showed the current condition of the council’s housing stock, and provided an estimated cost for maintenance and repairs over a successive period of 30 years.

It found that the average maintenance and repair cost for the entire 40,000 council-owned homes in the borough was estimated at an average of £10,653 per dwelling over 14 years and £23,363 over 30 years.

Top of the list was Gatebeck House in Pytchley rd, East Dulwich, which was estimated to require £147,518 per dwelling in repairs and maintenance over 30 years. This block had subisdence and was demolished in 1999. The site has since remained empty awaiting redevelopment.

Other buildings at the top of the list requiring substantial repairs were those on the Rockingham estate, which came in at around £40,000 - nearly double the average cost!

Interestingly, the Heygate estate buildings came in way down the priority list, below average at just £21,742 per dwelling over 30 years, and the Aylesbury estate slightly above average at £23,502.

1998 Allot and Lomax Survey

In 1998, as part of the 'Southwark Estates Initiative', Southwark council instructed a firm of surveyors - Allot & Lomax Ltd. - to undertake a survey of the buildings on the Heygate estate, in order to get an idea of the condition of the buildings and provide cost estimates for repair/refurbishment versus demolition.

Here is a link to the survey.

Here are the appendices to the survey.

Here are the drawings to the survey.

The survey states that structurally the buildings are in extremely good condition. It confirms that the all the Class A (exposed and hazardous) asbestos was removed from the buildings in the late 1980's. It concludes by making recommendations against full demolition, and in favour of retaining and refurbishing parts of the estate.

The following are a few interesting extracts:

Appendix F of the Social Background Report says '80.3% of residients did not want to move off the estate.'

Point 4.4.4.2 says that the estate's district heating system's ‘boiler houses service are good and appear to be well maintained’.

Point 4.8.3.1 says that 'generally the buildings and walkways are in generally good condition given their age but need a programme of maintenance given the ‘years of neglect’. 


"The crime statistics show a very low crime rate for this estate."(page 25)

"The age profile of the estate shows a higher proportion of elderly residents than the borough norm: 20% compared with a borough-wide figure of 13%."(page 26)

"Many of the residents on the Heygate estate have lived on the estate since its construction 25 years ago, and many have lived in the locality all their lives. We would strongly stress, therefore, that the council retains the Wingrave site so that many of the long-standing residents can remain in the immediate locality." (page 64)

"There is a large number of residents, mainly elderly, who have resided on the estate for a number of years and have extensive links with the local E&C area, and who have a reluctance to consider relocating elsewhere in the borough." (page 26)

"In conclusion we believe that option 6 (partial demolition of tall blocks & retention of maisonettes) provides the best solution. It is not only the most cost-effective solution but will lead to an overall development which will be environmentally, architecturally and socially appropriate to take the Heygate into the new millenium."(page 64) 

Recent Gensler Survey

Despite the fact that Council papers show that repair works have been deferred on the Heygate since as early as 1998, this recently completed study by global consulting firm Gensler shows that the Heygate buildings are still in good condition and could be fully refurbished for just £13,955 per home.

So Why Demolition?

This prompts the question as to why they are being demolished?

Southwark Council has given five different justifications for demolition:

  • The estate had become a by-word for social failure, crime and anti-social behaviour:

With the survey information above and crime statistics showing the Heygate’s crime rate at around 50% below the borough average, there is clearly little evidence to support the claims that the Heygate estate failed. These unfounded claims serve simply to reinforce the council & developer-led agenda which is based entirely on financial gain.

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