The final winner of the two short-listed redevelopment schemes for the controversial Robin Hood Gardens Estate is to be announced this week.
Tower Hamlets Council is expected to name the development project to replace the social housing estate in its cabinet meeting this Wednesday.
Swan Housing and Countryside Properties are competing against London & Quadrant and Telford Homes in the £500 million project that will see Robin Hood Gardens knocked down to be replaced by a new estate dubbed ‘Blackwall Reach’.
According to both schemes, around 1,700 new flats will replace the current 214 homes.
The Poplar estate has been the cause of tension over the past twelve months. Originally built in 1972 by Alison and Peter Smithson, it is regarded as a fine example of Brutalist architecture, incorporating the pair’s vision of “streets in the sky”.
Its broad walkways were designed to be meeting points and hubs of community interaction, although critics argue that this purpose has not been successfully served.
Despite the efforts of a team of architects and Building Design magazine to have the estate listed, in 2009 English Heritage granted it immunity from listing for five years. As a result, the council was able to put the redevelopment process in motion.
Martin Ginestie, a 28-year-old documentary director who released a film about the estate last year, said that during his own research he realised the residents’ opinions were divided.
“I didn’t speak to all the residents but I understand there are those who want it to be refurbished and those who want to see it demolished and be moved to bigger flats that will improve their life situation,” he said.
In an official statement, Tower Hamlets council said: “Extensive consultation has been taking place with residents over the past three years with regular meetings, a dedicated newsletter and website.”
But there remains some confusion regarding the consultation process with various residents voicing their discontent about its effectiveness.
Nick Ruddock, 65, has been living on the estate for almost 29 years and although he did try to get involved in the process, he said he eventually became disillusioned with it.
“The point is, I don’t want to move. I have watched the Canary Wharf from my window before all these buildings were built. Whatever they’ll offer me, I know it will be worse,” he said. “They should refurbish these properties, not demolish them.”
The largest percentage of the estate’s current residents are of Bangladeshi origin, like Sabina Begum, a 25-year-old woman who has been living with her family in Robin Hood Gardens for 21 years.
“My mother has been to a couple of public meetings but she doesn’t understand good English so it’s difficult for her to get involved,” she said. “I would like to see the flats renovated because until now they haven’t offered us any better alternative.”