The demolition of the “sink estates” would be good for the country and good for demolition.
Before I start, let me just try to pre-empt the industry nay-sayers and professionally offended that seem to comb posts such as the one below before voicing their “outrage” on social media.
I grew up on a “sink estate” in south west London during the 1970s. The blocks of flats that made up the Patmore Estate in Battersea were tiny; the elevators constantly carried an acrid stench of urine; graffiti adorned virtually every wall and available surface; and crime and fear were a constant companion. When I lived there, those blocks were less than a decade old.
They are still there and I can assure you they have not improved one iota. In fact, the crime, fear and depravation has grown inexorably worse.
So when UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for estates such as this to be demolished, I applauded for two reasons.
First and foremost, the sink estates are a failed experiment in social engineering. Forcing people to live cheek by jowl does not create community. Neither does it draw together like-minded individuals. Rather, it herds them like cattle, breeding claustrophobia and contempt. Little wonder that these estates – which stretch from the south west of England to the far North – have become a hotbed of crime and depravation.
Secondly, of course, the demolition of these estates would mean an increased workload for the UK demolition industry. At a time when there seems to be a genuine desire to address the UK housing shortfall, the demolition of 100 or so sink estates would free up vital real estate in some prime inner city locations.
There is a concern – isn’t there always – that the removal of these estates would be the first step towards a sweeping gentrification that would price local people out of their home towns and that the replacement properties would be sold to the highest bidder.
There will need to be checks and balances to ensure that this is not the case; that the housing that replaces the sink estate homes is fit for purpose and available to all. There will also need to be an understanding that the replacement of the tower blocks that make up most of the sink estates will not cure the housing shortfall. In fact, replacing ageing tower blocks with modern-standard, low-rise homes could actually reduce the number of homes available.
But the UK needs to see the bigger picture. The 2011 riots did not originate in Knightsbridge or Mayfair. They started in Tottenham and spread quickly to Hackney, Brixton, Walthamstow, Peckham, Enfield, Battersea, Croydon, Ealing, Barking, Woolwich, Lewisham and East Ham. In the days that followed, other towns and cities in England (including Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, West Bromwich, Bristol, Lincoln, Manchester, and Salford) experienced rioting and widespread public disorder. It will surprise no-one to learn that a map showing the flash-points of the 2011 riots is mirrored in the presence of run-down, dilapidated and crime-ridden sink estates.
So while it pains every fibre in my media-luvvy, liberal and left-leaning body to admit it, David Cameron might just have a point.