Alan Cherry Awards 2014

Eric Pickles congratulates award winners at the Alan Cherry Awards for placemaking.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles

When it comes to the good quality and design of London’s neighbourhoods and communities, nobody felt more passionately and committed, than our late friend Alan.

For Alan, design wasn’t about being the tallest, or the glassiest, or the building most able to melt Boris bikes on the street below. They were designs all about people. Designs that were practical, sensible, and complimentary to community life.

For every ‘shared surface’ town centre, every small but perfectly formed housing unit, and every clutter-free high street, there is a bit of Alan in all of that work being recognised here today. It’s the sort of innovative community-first approach that Alan himself worked so hard to achieve.

London’s offsite challenge

The next few years present a real challenge to London’s house builders and placemakers. The Greater London Authority will see £1.1 billion of the Affordable Homes Programme. That’s 40% of the total national pot. Now it’s up to London authorities to show us the bang they can offer for their buck. All varieties of housing stock and tenures need to increase; rentals, flats, family homes.

And we are making progress.

Brickmakers are working overtime to fulfil their orders. We found out just this week that housing starts this quarter are at their highest since 2007 to 2008. And the number of people we’re getting onto the housing ladder is at a 5 year high.

There is one thing missing from all this good work. It is a sophisticated and modern answer to our housing needs, and that is off-site construction. I saw this for myself when I visited Rainham a couple of weeks ago.

Built at a rate of one a day, they’re looking forward to filling 34 new townhouses, and 16 flats. Even better, the houses will meet Passivhaus standards, an energy efficient design technology. It can save the average 3 bedroom household £890 per year on heating and lighting.

So, offsite construction isn’t just fast, but when combined with new, energy saving methods, it can be a real money-saver too.

Rainham’s new homes have topped up our affordable housing supply and is a place that people are proud to say – “This is where I live, this is my home.” They are spaces you would look forward to coming home to, and will give residents a real sense of pride of place.

We have already built over 100,000 properties in the current Affordable Homes Programme, around a third of which will be in London. With a new programme of 165,000 after 2015, London will benefit again.

I believe that offsite will be a key technology in achieving these affordable homes, or at the forefront of Grand Design style self-builds.

In the capital, where plots can be small or oddly shaped, offsite construction is the perfect solution. The rest of the UK has already had a taste of the benefits: Intelligent Offsite Ltd in Yorkshire are being asked to show Canada and America how it’s done, with their pioneering bathroom hubs. Sustainability meets efficiency with award-winning Lime Technology, who are working on Cheshire’s new flagship Marks & Spencer store.

We can slash burdensome guidance, free up brownfield sites, and scrap density targets. However, the industry must respond in the ways that only it can, and we need you to do 3 things. The first is to build. Secondly, build. And thirdly, build. We understand economic priorities, so you can reorganise this list if you want.

This is Britain, we have always been world-leaders, and if it’s good enough for our gold medal winners in the Olympic Village, then it’s good enough for the rest of the city. I want to challenge London to be ahead of the curve and become one of the leads for offsite construction.

Estate regeneration

It is important that we recognise your achievements today, not least because we may well be employing your talents for London’s most challenged estates. The estates that are not just aesthetically challenged, and spatially challenged, also.

At Budget we announced £150 million of recoverable investment for estate regeneration. This will help kick start the revival of some of our most deprived areas. Our intention is 2-fold; to increase the number of homes in inner city estates, and to make them places you’d be proud to call home. No more calamitous concrete eyesores, but homes that are desirable and eye-catching.

Savill’s predict that if we rediscover half of 1939’s former central-London housing capacity, we would fulfil our housing needs for the next 17 years. That has got to be a great inspiration to improve the housing of zones 1 and 2.

Local communities will be fully involved in the re-design and planning process, after all, it is for them that we are doing this for, and communities have to be very heavily involved. London needs more homes, nobody disputes that, and it is our responsibility to make sure that the best city in the world remains that way.

Ebbsfleet and Barking Riverside

Slightly east of London, we will be creating the first garden community in decades. Ebbsfleet - currently a vacant quarry and disused land between Bluewater and Gravesend - offers limitless opportunities to create a sense of place.

The £200 million capital we have released will unlock up to 15,000 homes. That’s not all, with the help of the Greater London Authority, Barking Riverside will deliver 11,000 new properties.

These will be built to ensure that parks, cultural attractions, and a community spirit can really take hold. We want to see more greenery than concrete, and where style and design are as important as roads and railways.

These should be places designed for the future. Homes built, for example, with Building for Life 12 principles in mind. Badly-designed box-homes are a thing of the past - making way for the pioneering designers who will instil pride in tomorrow’s communities.

Ebbsfleet is a once in a generation opportunity to set high standards for how we want our communities to look. With an urban development corporation working with the local authorities and local communities – this collaborative approach to development will transform brownfield land into beautiful buildings and wonderful green spaces.

Closing remarks

Streets are places for community life. Where parks are family-friendly, where neighbours have a spare set of keys, and where we hold street parties with one another. These aren’t just features reserved for households outside of the M25. They are features of a liveable London.

You are all here today because you intrinsically understand this. Today is about celebrating your success so far, and getting you back out onto the streets of London to transform our public squares and public spaces through your magic of placemaking.

Published 19 May 2014