Developments are being built that cram 2,500 homes into a hectare, and more are on the way. A team of architects has reported on how we can manage the social strains that arise in such ‘superdense’ schemes

More robust mechanisms are needed to manage the new breed of “superdense” residential schemes across London and other big cities, according to a report by four architects.

Recommendations for Living at Superdensity, written by HTA, Levitt Bernstein, Pollard Thomas Edwards and PRP, deals with the social problems associated with superdense development.

Ben Derbyshire, director of HTA, said a development planned next to Euston station in central London with 2,500 homes per hectare was an example of a superdense scheme.

He said: “The lid has been taken off the old unitary development plans and we are now dealing with superdensities. Some sort of guidance would be helpful.”

The report says a category of superdense development ought to be created that is higher than 150 homes per hectare. This is the threshold above which applications used to be referred to the housing minister.

It comes down to the developer. One or two of us take pride

Tony Pidgley, Berkeley Group

While such schemes are becoming common, the authors conclude that planners lack the tools and experience to handle them. “Guidelines are not equipped to deal with the issues that arise from such densities, and there is little evidence of a move to impose higher standards of management on developers as a prerequisite for approval.”

The report says building at such densities leads to more pressure on shared spaces, which can fuel tensions between neighbours.

The report recommends that management costs should be factored in when land prices are calculated.

Andy Kaplinsky, a partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards, said local authorities should impose a management plan as a condition for granting consent.

But councils warned that planning conditions would be difficult to enforce. Mike Lowndes, director of planning consultant Turley Associates, said: “It’s very difficult to control occupancy of new flats through the planning process.”

The schemes look surprisingly like the stuff that we are
pulling down

Peter Bishop, Design for Living

Tony Pidgley, the managing director of Berkeley Group, said the quality of shared public space on many schemes was poor because developers had not spent enough money. He said: “It comes down to the individual developer. One or two of us take pride.”

He added that a possible solution to was some form of community trust involving residents in the management of schemes.

Peter Bishop, director of mayor Ken Livingstone’s Design for London advisory body, said he shared the concerns of the authors. He said that planned high-density schemes “look surprisingly like the stuff that we are pulling down”.

The study also says entrances serving more than 25 dwellings should have their own concièrge.