Hot on the heels of my last post about the need to insulate our period properties to make them as low-carbon as possible, comes the news that the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, together with English Heritage is considering listing the Excalibur Estate in Downham. The Excalibur Estate consists of 185 post-war pre-fabs. The Council wants to transfer them over to a housing association (L&Q) to demolish them and make way for new more energy-efficient (and higher density) housing, arguing that they can't bring the properties up to decent homes standard. They are in the process of balloting residents about this stock transfer. However, a number of the residents are very attached to where they live and feel their community will be destroyed.
I suspect that besides attachment to the homes they live in, a good chunk of residents' concerns is that their detached bungalows with individual gardens will be replaced with something much higher density with less outside space (L&Q's proposals are to increase the number of homes on the estate from 186 to around 460 homes, which they argue is a similar density to that of the surrounding areas.).
I have sympathies with both sides here - it's a lovely estate, part of our heritage, but can the properties be insulated sufficiently to keep residents warm without having to spend a fortune on heating bills? As a rule of thumb, I would say that reducing our carbon emissions has to take priority over aesthetic/heritage concerns, but I would like to see more evidence to show whether the two really are mutually incompatible in this case. My experience from Brockley PFI so far has also been that reducing the thermal efficiency of properties has not been the central plank of the decent homes scheme that it should have been.
The whole heritage/aesthetics versus energy-efficiency debate is one that needs to be had, particularly around here, with lots of draughty Victorian properties in and around the conservation area. I think we probably can insulate our Victorian conservation area properties without needing to demolish them or change their appearance by externally cladding them, but if push came to shove, cutting the carbon would take priority for me.
I bet Steve Bullock is quietly cussing English Heritage for throwing a spanner in yet another of his plans (the recent listing of Louise House having thwarted his plans for rebuilding the Forest Hill Pools). What next? Max, any plans to get any of those modernist buildings in Lewisham you love so much listed? Citibank Tower, Ladywell Leisure Centre perhaps? Please no . . .