Saving Northwold Estate: The Design Alternatives to Demolition


The Northwold estate in Hackney has around 580 homes. Built in the 1930s, it was extended in the 1950s, and in 2009 the estate stock-transferred to the Guinness Partnership housing association. In 2016 Guinness announced it was going to regenerate the estate, and subsequently planned to demolish and redevelop half the estate. In September 2016 residents invited Architects for Social Housing into their Love Northwold campaign. Over the next 9 months we worked with residents to try to save their homes, advising them on the tactics that would be employed against them and some of the things they might want to do and not do in setting up their campaign.

As part of this community support we published several articles making the Save Northwold campaign known to a wider audience, with The Future of Northwold Estate being read by over 1,800 people, and The Consultation Game exposing the Guinness Partnership’s pre-consultation plans for the partial demolition of the estate and the financial motivations for doing so. We also held several open meetings with residents, the first in November 2016, when we discussed what estate ‘regeneration’ would mean for residents, and another in April 2017, when we presented the alternatives to demolition, as well as numerous smaller meetings with campaigners. Finally, with the collaboration of architect Douglas Wong and the Architectural Workers, ASH produced a preliminary design alternative to the planned demolition of half the Northwold estate.

Our design alternatives for infill development on disused land and roof extensions on top of existing blocks found space for 245 additional flats, with the refurbishment of 18 disused flats, for a total of 843 homes. This compared with the 846 properties proposed by TM Architects, who had been employed by the Guinness Partnership to push through the demolition of 154 existing homes and the construction of 420 new properties. However, unlike their redevelopment proposals, ASH’s design proposals achieved this 42 per cent increase in the housing capacity of the estate without demolishing a single existing home or evicting a single one of the current residents. This would allow the tenure of the new flats to be for social rent, rather than the market sale and affordable rent properties required to replace the 154 demolished homes.

In February 2018 the Guinness Partnership announced that it had scrapped its plans to demolish the Northwold estate, and were now looking at building 100 new homes using available land without demolishing the existing buildings. ASH received no payment for the hundreds of hours of design, written and community work we put into this campaign: neither from the Guinness Partnership, who appear to have adopted the principles of our design alternatives to demolition, nor from the Love Northwold campaign. But before history passes over it, we thought we’d recall how we helped save the Northwold Estate.

Photographs of ASH’s consultation with resident in April 2017 are by Alessia Gammarota

Architects for Social Housing

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the majority of what we do is unpaid, and we have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work financially, please make a donation through PayPal:


4 thoughts on “Saving Northwold Estate: The Design Alternatives to Demolition

  1. Well done for helping the tenants to their victory in saving their homes.

    The social landlords at Montreal Square announced the decision to demolish after a 1 year long failed consultation, which failed because vital cost and financial viability information was not consulted on. On the 4th february, a few days after the last consultation meeting on 17th Jan, they received information as follows:
    • £6,488k demolition and construction costs
    • £457k write-off of historic costs
    • £143k fees and costs to get planning consent
    • £126k external contract management fees
    • £361kCHS project management costs
    • £311k costs for moving, supporting and compensating residents and managing empty properties
    • £63k costs associated with shared ownership sales
    • Giving a total scheme cost of£7,949k
    We have estimated that this total cost is reduced by:
    • £l,440k grant from Homes England
    • £1,633 from first tranche shared ownership sales
    This gives a net scheme cost of £4,876k
    Making our standard assumptions on management and maintenance costs, rent increases and so on and allowing for current residents to remain on social/secure rents, the scheme narrowly meets our appraisal criteria:
    • Repays its capital costs in year 39 (we require schemes to repay by year 40)
    • Has a Net Present Value (NPV) of £28k (we require schemes to have a positive NPV)

    We could do with Simon Morrow right now.

    Otherwise, if anyone can help us analyse these figures please reply to


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