Cressingham Gardens was built between 1971 and 1978. It is a mixture of two, three and four bedroom houses and one bedroom flats. It was designed at the end of the 1960s by the Lambeth Borough Council architect Ted Hollamby. The design was influenced by social reformers who advocated and showed the benefit of providing houses with gardens. It was a reaction to the failure of council estates of multi-storey apartment blocks to provide good family homes.
Ted Hollamby’s innovative design showed how it was possible using low rise dwellings to achieve the same residential density as estate of multi-storey blocks; and how pedestrianizing the estate allowed much better use of the space between the dwellings which could be used for gardens rather than car parks and access roads. The mix of property size was aimed to provide for people at all stages of their lives. He explained,
“We are not just dealing with housing as such. We are building a community. We don’t look at this in terms of so many houses. Rather we think in terms of the functions of a community. We don’t, you see, have club rooms for tenants but centres for a community. We don’t have old people’s homes set aside on their own. We integrate them into other things we are planning” ‘Peter Rawstorne’, RIBA Journal, July 1965
Despite neglect of repairs by the Council the estate has been a proven success and has enabled a good quality of life for its residents and led to the development of a mutually cooperative community. However in 2012 Lambeth Council proposed regenerating the estate and began what they have described as a consultation process in keeping with the councils so called cooperative ethos. This process has proved to be little more than window dressing for decisions already taken. An unelected, unaccountable Resident Engagement Panel was set up which has no decision making powers and is controversially chaired by one of the ward Councillors who openly supports the regeneration.
The majority of residents oppose the plans arguing for repair not demolition, £20 000 was raised to employ architects and surveyors to produce a resident alternative The Peoples Plan which was rejected by the council after little consideration despite the fact it made provision for more homes at social rent than the councils plans. The regeneration will result in the demolition of 306 homes and while alternative accommodation is proposed to council tenants, many have lived in their homes since the opening of the estate in 1978 and are now elderly and frail and do not relish a move in the twilight of their lives.
In addition council tenants will lose their gold standard secure tenancies and will face rent rises of 25% over five years. The regeneration will replace the terraced houses and flats, the design of such with their forward facing kitchens has strengthened the sense of community, with apartment blocks. The council have proposed setting up a body called Homes for Lambeth. It is not clear how this will operate. Most of the new apartments would most likely be for sale to the private sector, driving up market rents and out of reach of many of the current leaseholders and freeholders on the estate, who make up approximately one third of the residents, who fear they will not be able to afford them.
Residents have campaigned with many in Lambeth and beyond who wish to prevent the gentrification of the borough under another name what can be seen as social cleansing, and want to conserve the important architectural heritage of Ted Hollamby’s design. The council argue they are committed to building 1000 new properties and have stated “In December 2014, the Council’s Cabinet took the decision to look to deliver a sizeable proportion of these new homes at council rent on six estates across the Borough.” However in their plans for Cressingham Gardens of the proposed new 158 new builds only 27 are to be provided at council rent.