I was interested in the article “Spotlight on Southwark” (15 September, page 55). The thought struck me that this is nothing new. Even in the 1970s, some enlightened councillors on Southwark council had seen the light and had gone off in a new direction.
One example was the construction of 311 dwellings on Setchell Road, for which there was a long waiting list from tenants even before completion in 1977. These were exactly what people were looking for and were good family homes.
I must declare an interest as I was the general manager of the organisation carrying out this work. At this time, we were also constructing more than 1000 houses across that part of London. Not all these projects were as good as Setchell, but they were nowhere nearly as bad as the Heygate scheme and were built on a more human scale (even though they could have been enhanced by using modern materials).
All these projects were well in advance of the redevelopment of the Heygate estate, but were subject to much of the same thinking. The “ingenious interlocking configuration” referred to in the article “An oasis by the Elephant” (page 50) is a straight copy from the much maligned North Peckham project, which had a very similar configuration.
I also wonder what will be said in 40 years about these new infill sites. For example, has any attention been paid to the “bright orange” timber facade in respect of ongoing maintenance? Will they still be wonderful or will they degenerate into minor North Peckhams or Heygates?