Building the slums of the future


The Orchard Village estate in South Hornchurch, built to replace the Mardyke estate which allegedly had acquired a certain degree of notoriety, was supposed to be a flagship example of regeneration. It’s anything but, with residents experiencing numerous problems due to sloppy construction. Here are just two out of many articles focusing on the problems on the estate and how the residents feel betrayed: Leaking sewage and rotten floorboards: life on a ‘flagship’ housing estate and: Ultimatum for Circle Housing to fix host of problems at Orchard Village, Rainham


For a complex variety of reasons, the Mardyke estate which was built in the 1960s to house workers at the nearby Ford car plant, was allowed to slide into a dilapidated condition which was used as justification for its demolition and replacement with Orchard Village. The new development was built by the Circle Housing Group which is now part of the Clarion Housing Group, the largest housing association in the UK: Clarion Group formed as mega-merger completes A few decades back, housing associations were seen as community based alternatives to what were then perceived as faceless and impersonal councils. Encouraged by government deregulation, they have grown and morphed beyond recognition into powerful players in the provision of ‘affordable’ housing.

This growth of housing associations into ‘mega associations’ has led to a situation where they have forgotten the people they are meant to serve. The proof of this is the long list of complaints from residents at Orchard Village ranging from a lack of insulation in walls and ceilings and mould on the walls through to an erratic heating system and issues with sewage. These are the kind of complaints that used to be made about some of the council estates that were thrown up in the 1960s and which experienced problems pretty much from the off as a result of shoddy construction methods. Fifty years on and it would appear that lessons have not been learned and that Orchard Village is destined to be a slum of the (near) future because of slipshod, cheapskate construction. Sure, the exterior appearance of the buildings on Orchard Village may look considerably sleeker than its clunky predecessor, the Mardyke estate but what use is a sleek exterior when the insides are already starting to drastically fail? Failing to the extent that while some residents are lobbying for effective repairs and compensation, others are saying the only solution is to knock the place down and start again.

What’s happened at Orchard Village are basic procedural failures in the construction process that in the 21st century should have been consigned to history. Seriously, how is it possible to leave out insulation in the walls and ceilings? Mould on walls? There has to be a wealth of literature dealing with the issue of mould on walls in public housing with conclusions on how to deal with it and construction standards laid down to avoid the problem happening in new buildings? So why, in a supposedly advanced society in the 21st century are housing associations throwing up building that experience issues with mould pretty much from the outset? When a resident says that the “whole story is a ticking time-bomb”, it’s pretty clear that the only viable solution is to knock the estate down and start again. Take a deep breath – we’re agreeing with one of the local UKIP councillors, Philip Martin who put this proposal to Havering’s housing chiefs: “Residents’ lives have been blighted by the substandard building work that has taken place. The only solution is its demolition and complete reconstruction.”

Seriously, the situation at Orchard Village is a fucking disgrace and heads need to start rolling pretty damn soon. What this shows is that the model for delivering housing, particularly ‘affordable’ housing is broken and beyond any form of redemption if the result is the slums of the (near) future that have been thrown up at Orchard Village. Until residents are fully involved in the development of new housing, we’re going to see this crap happening time and time again. Full resident involvement in their housing provision is only going to happen after some considerable social and political upheaval. Given that housing is a basic necessity, perhaps it’s time we started to bring that upheaval about…


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