Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Slum Clearance Revisited

Earlier this month Brent Council started demolition of two 1960s tower blocks on South Kilburn Estate, part of a £66.5 million redevelopment scheme that will see them replaced by 229 low-rise apartments for sale and rent.

One of the 18 storey towers, Fielding House (above), used to fill the view from the window of a flat I once rented on the opposite side of Kilburn Park Road. Back in 1975 the towers were a recent addition to the NW6 landscape, and the Victorian terrace whose first floor I part-occupied was scheduled for compulsory purchase and demolition by the Greater London Council.

Calling it a flat is being kind. It wasn't self-contained, the toilet was shared with the tenant upstairs, it had no bathroom, and the only running water was a cold tap above a Butler sink on the landing. At the time such conditions were commonplace, particularly in the private rented sector, and the towers were part of a slum clearance programme designed to sweep them away and provide good quality public housing for all who needed it.

Almost forty years on, the Victorian terrace is still standing, and it is the towers that are coming down. In a complete reversal, not only is high-rise making way for low (the 229 new South Kilburn apartments will be in buildings with traditional mansion block facades and six or seven floors), but public sector housing is making way for private: 126 of them will be sold off, and only 103 will be let. 'Private good, public bad' is the mantra now.  More pictures here.

Tenant in an unfit kitchen, Kilburn Park Road, 1982

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