Rogers calls on planners to build homes in “empty” Croydon

One of the world’s leading architects has called for the radical re-building of central Croydon to provide homes to help meet the national housing crisis.

“You could put two new towns in the centre of Croydon without any problem because the centre of Croydon is practically empty if you look at a plan of the place,” Richard Rogers said last week, expressing a view unlikely to be popular with Westfield and Hammerson, or landowners the Whitgift Foundation, who have earmarked much of the town centre to build a money-spinning shopping mall.

Richard Rogers: Croydon is empty enough to be right for new housing

Richard Rogers: Croydon is empty enough to be right for new housing

Lord Rogers was advocating the use of brown field sites rather than allowing the building of “garden cities” on the Green Belt, which he dismissed as “a ridiculous concept”.

Government projections suggest the UK needs 6 million new homes in the next 30 years. But Rogers was dismissive of a proposal to “take a confident bite out of the Green Belt” and build homes in 150,000-person new towns across the country, which was awarded an important economic prize.

The Labour peer said he was saddened by the re-emergence of ideas to build several million new homes on green field sites.

Italian-born Rogers has been one of the world’s leading architects for 40 years, designing the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyd’s building in The City, and one of the towers at the new World Trade Center in New York, as well as London’s Millennium Dome. His 1995 BBC Reith Lectures entitled Sustainable City are widely regarded as influential for 21st century urban development, and saw him work as an adviser for both Mayors of London, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

So when Rogers speaks, the world of architecture listens. And last week he said, “You could put two new towns in the centre of Croydon without any problem because the centre of Croydon is practically empty if you look at a plan of the place.

“It already has wonderful transport: trains, trams and it could even have a new runway at Gatwick which is not far away.” So an endorsement of sorts, then.

Rogers did not just single out Croydon: he identified cities in the north and Midlands such as Manchester, Hull and Birmingham, as having plentiful brown field sites capable of being redeveloped.

“We should build new towns in our cities before we build them in the Green Belt,” Rogers said.

Of course, brown field sites, many of which are contaminated from previous former industrial use, are more expensive to clear, clean and prepare for developers, who can more readily make a quick buck – or several million quick bucks – by building on open fields.

Rogers said that the garden city proposals would result in a increase in car use and more roads. It is “pandering” to the needs of house builders, he said. Garden cities, Rogers predicted, would become middle class-only communities with the poor unable to access most of the new housing and the rich uninterested in moving out of prime locations.

“We have 61,000 hectares of brownfield land in England and the government has approved half of it as potentially suitable for development,” Rogers said. “That would allow 1.3 million dwellings to be built, even at a low density. That excludes the 400,000 dwellings with planning permission but not yet built and intensification of housing around existing urban hubs.”

Brandon Lewis, the Conservative housing minister, appears to agree with Rogers. “We are committed to protecting the Green Belt from development as an important protection against urban sprawl,” he said.

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2 Responses to Rogers calls on planners to build homes in “empty” Croydon

  1. davidcallam says:

    How about one new town in central Croydon? Then we can use the remaining space for a new retail centre to replace the ailing one we’ve got at the moment and to provide the thousands of new jobs we need to make the new town work economically.

  2. “Two new towns”? How many thousand people does he count as one “town”? And where would he build them? The housing shortage in Croydon and in the country as a whole would be better solved by building new homes in big empty spaces, predominantly in the south of the borough where there is more space. Where? Golf courses. Golf is a ridiculous pastime and is a complete waste of time and space.

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