Re: Re: What future for housing estates?

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Frank Taylor

@Graham Hickey wrote:

Is there any example of this kind of development, the conversion/removal of housing estates, elsewhere – in the UK or Europe?
Surely something along these lines has been attempted somewhere to offer us some indication as to how this problem may be dealt with.

I’d be interested in this too. I lived in a densified estate in London for a couple of years. Lots of infill, extensions and (well executed) subdivision. The result was a more lively area, but choked with traffic even on the inner housing estate roads. A lot of immigrant kids were killed in road accidents because they weren’t used to the dangers.

One other possible future for housing estates would result from a rise in oil prices. If you can only afford to heat two rooms and you do a lot of journeys by bike or on foot as my family had to during the 70’s oil crisis, you lose the benefits of having a big house, miles out of town. I have fond memories of the oil crises as a kid: cycling with my parents on the weekend instead of ‘going for a walk in the car’, or the morning my dad couldn’t get to work because a thief had siphoned the fuel out of his car overnight.

The suburbs have already changed from the 70’s. Looking back at early photos, the housing estate was very bare without all the mature trees there now. As single car families were the norm, the kids went to the local schools on foot or by bike rather than being ferried by mammy in the MPV. People went to mass more often and the women in the area (mostly non car-owners) had a fairly broad network through schools and church. My mother once told me she knew over 100 women locally. There were shops in the centre of the housing estate, grocery, newsagent, chemist: all now gone. Now I’d say I know maybe 30 of the 2,000 residents in the estate- not much of a community.

I don’t think anyone would have predicted that houses would one day sell for half a million in the local council estates, that we feared so much. Those fears were imaginary and have now been replaced with fear of paedophiles and traffic accidents, which is maybe why kids don’t play football on the cul-de-sacs anymore.

I don’t buy into the idea that oil will run out soon and kill the suburbs. People who propound this remind me of the Jehova’s witnesses warning of impending doom for those who fail to repent. If oil does run out in our lifetimes, I guess we’ll starve and urban land use will be the last thing on our minds.

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