One of the objectives of the proposed rebuilding of West Kentish Town estate should be to reintegrate the estate with the surrounding area and make sense of the public space between buildings.
It is a widely accepted that the West Kentish Town estate buildings of 1964 do not relate well to the surrounding streets: Allcroft Road and Bassett Street to the west, Grafton Road to the east, Queen’s Crescent to the north, and Athlone and Rhyl Streets to the south. The blocks of flats do not have clear backs or fronts, and it is difficult for visitors to work out which street a block entrance is located on.
There are two streets that cross the estate. Weedington Road snakes its way from Queen’s Crescent via Warden Road to Grafton Road, providing a circuitous link between the Holmes Road connection to Kentish Town and the centre of Queens Crescent. The remaining part of Warden Road, which originally connected through to Bassett Street, is a truncated spur blocked by garages, with a pedestrian route squeezed along side. Neither street provides a clear structure to the estate.
One would expect to see a wide analysis of the urban context as a preparation of preliminary scheme designs for the proposed redevelopment, including the surrounding street pattern. It is disappointing that this is not apparent in the consultation material produced to date. All the analysis stops short a few metres from the estate boundaries, and existing buildings adjoining the estate are bleached out so as to be barely visible on the drawings. This does not bode well for development of a scheme that addresses the current problems of urban discontinuity and poor connections.
The estate is part of west Kentish Town. The adjoining Kentish Town Framework area (including the Regis Road industrial area) is also part of the context which needs to be considered during the design development. The Kentish Town Framework proposals are of major importance to west Kentish Town, but are not mentioned. Without such analysis it is difficult to evaluate the initial feasibility proposals that have been produced.
Another aspect of the material produced to date is in regard to the existing trees on the site. There are around 125 mature trees which are valuable to the area and serious efforts need to be made keep these where possible (see Hero Trees). The initial design layouts suggest the loss of most of these trees, including those that are noted as being of primary significance. There is no sign of much effort being made to incorporate the trees in any of the designs.
Extract from consultation document regards trees:
Dark Green: high quality trees with an estimated remaining life of at least 40 years
Light blue: trees of moderate quality with an estimated remaining life of at least 20 years
Grey: trees of low quality with an estimated life of at least 10 years
Option 1: refurbishment with some new buildings on the site (results in loss of 3 out of the 5 ‘primary trees’)
Option 2: part refurbishment/ part new-build option (results in loss of 4 out of the 5 ‘primary trees’)
Option 3: new-build (results in loss of 4 out of the 5 ‘primary trees’)
Initial comments on Option 3:
- no explanation regards why a major route connecting Allcroft Road to Grafton Road may be a good idea
- the suggested north-south route between Queens Crescent and Talacre is indirect- it would be better to open up and strengthen the existing route
- recreating the original Carlton Street runs the risk of recreating the long narrow blocks that previously resulted in poor housing conditions and eventual demolition, see Litcham Street and Carlton Street
- the two buildings at the foot of Hawkridge blight this part of Warden Road and need to be rebuilt (ie. UCL need to be involved in this process).