Ariel photograph of the site

Estate Demolition To Be Approved For Three Southwark Towers

Tonight councilors at Southwark’s planning committee are likely to approve, the demolition of three high-rise social housing towers on the Old Kent Road.

Plans for the redevelopment of the Ledbury Estate containing 224 homes are set to be replaced by 340 new homes which will deliver 116 net new homes.

224 homes re-provided, including 206 social rent homes and 18 leaseholds, to match the existing mix and net internal area as part of the Landlord Offer
116 additional mixed tenure dwellings including, 51 social rent homes and 65 Market sale homes.

The applicant Southwark Council submitted plans in February following an estate ballot of residents. 86% of those who voted choose to take a vote in favor of demolition and redevelopment for proposals designed by project architects Karakusevic Carson Architects (KCA).

The estate was designed and built by the Greater London Council (GLC) as part of the ‘Morris Walk Series’. The Greater London Council took over from the London County Council, incorporating the LCC Architect’s Department, as London’s city government and provide services, housing, and planning from 1965-to 1986.

The Morris Estate was the first housing estate to deploy the Larsen-Nielsen industrialized building system in the early 1960s with the Ledbury Estate following by 1967.

The pre-fabricated system declined in use in the UK following the Ronan Point disaster in 1968, where a gas explosion causing the partial collapse of the building exposed failings in the construction of the large panel system. This is also the result of the subsequent wide-ranging reforms to building regulations.

After investigations by structural engineers prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, it has emerged that the blocks would require major work for their continued use.

The condition of the Ledbury Estate, image credit KCA

Proposals for the redevelopment have come about following, the turning off of the gas supplies to the North Peckham estate and residents moving out.

Subsequent tests found historic “strengthening” work to make the towers able to withstand a gas explosion may never have actually happened; leaving the towers a potential death trap for decades.

The Old Kent Road estate was of pre-fabrication construction similar to that of is of the former Ronan Point social housing tower in Newham, which partly collapsed in May 1968, only two months after it had opened. A gas explosion blew out some load-bearing walls, causing the collapse of one entire corner of the building; four people died and 17 were injured.

Over time, structural issues have emerged within the Ledbury Estate towers. After investigations by structural engineers prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, it has emerged that the blocks would require major work for their continued use.

In 2018 residents and the council worked together on the future of the blocks, finally reaching an agreement on refurbishment.

But after detailed structural and invasive surveys by contractor Arup, it emerged that the towers needed much more work than previously thought and the projected budget of £8m per tower was expected to spiral.

After these revelations, in November 2019, the council conducted a survey of residents which found that a two-thirds majority had switched to being in favor of demolishing and rebuilding all four towers. Turnout was relatively low with only 56 percent of eligible voters taking part – including those who no longer live in the towers but have the right to return. This rises to 77 percent for those still residing on the estate.

January 2022, 3D Model “Vu.City” ariel view of the site with cumulative projects (yellow – under construction; blue – consented). The Ledbury Estate is located in the centre.

The area surrounding the social housing estate is better to known for those of a particular age, as the location of the 1980’s sitcom Only Fools and Horses is based within a flat loosely similar to the Ledbury Estate.

Plans for the much-discussed extension of the Bakerloo Line from its current southern terminus in Elephant & Castle, to a new proposed terminus and interchange in Lewisham town centre.

However, the hammering to TFLs finances brought on for the most part but not exclusively, due to the slump in passengers due to the pandemic has had the consequence of postponing any start in construction works until the 2030s with a likely opening date in the 2040s.

Despite this well over a dozen tall buildings are in the pipeline along the length of the integral London thoroughfare, the applicant behind this scheme is also planning to lodge its first high-rise residential tower for decades on the site of two out-of-town retail sheds in zone 2. Over 500 new homes are proposed, of which 250 are set to be for social rent.

For the latest news and updates, follow Constructing London on Twitter and Instagram.