please empty your brain below

I was on the top floor of that 14 storey tower block adjacent to McDonalds recently taking lots of photographs, and from up there you really get a birds eye view of how much redevelopment is taking place in the local area, also everywhere looks really much closer than you would imagine.

There is of course one problem driving/forcing all this (re) development: there are too many people in this small country.

The birth rate outstrips the death rate and immigration outstrips emigration. And, a lot of people are choosing to live in single-person households.

Plus, there is enormous regionalisation, where some areas that would benefit from regeneration aren't targeted, because enlarging population there is more costly (the infrastructure needs to be created, as well as the housing).

It's the same in Bermondsey I'm afraid - loads of tower blocks all over the place. There is even a new street, narrow and between two 12 storey blocks. Named, presumably with considerable irony, Sun Passage. Perhaps they want some more Herbert Morrisons, who was 'born in a slum where the sun never rose'

It's a long, long time ago, now, but I've still a recollection of some Labour Minister (John Prescott if I'm not too mistaken) making some bold and bright announcement of new building plans that would bring at least 200,000 new homes to the South East.
I think my reaction at the time, was along the lines of 'why always the SE? Isn't it already the most densely populated part of the country, already?'
But never mind that... it seems now that that prophesy is well on its way to being fulfilled.

I see TRAD scaffolding and Auto-Mec are still hanging in there, hopefully making it difficult for TESCO and the building of their flats directly onto the A12.

Woodbridge - what a great little town - the contrast of living up the road in Bentwaters for a year after 4 years of Uni in innercity Birmingham was huge. Makes me want to pay a visit again now!

If I remember rightly on the 22nd of this month, you wrote on this very blog: about how fantastic London is.
Blue Witch as for population density the UK is well down the list, try living in the Netherlands.

@Michael: but the Dutch are adept at living on top of each other without it actually appearing that way !

Have to admit to being intrigued by the proposed sculpture for Dane's Yard:

I'd like to think that some of the engineers working on the project would do some workshops with local secondary school students about the maths and engineering behind the structures. I suggested the same at the consultation for the Orbit (presumably Cecil Balmond is a bit busy but he must have junior colleagues). Don't know if any such thing happened - certainly didn't at the school my children go to.

Good article on Stratford High Street in Building Design. Behind a pay wall, but accessible if you don't first click on anything else.

Following my earlier comment, I think this news item puts things to a time and place. I'm surprised it appears it was as long back as eight years ago... seeing the amount of building going on now, makes it all seem much more recent.

Michael - Sorry I didn't make it clear - I thought my 3rd para covered your point.

Successive governmints in the UK have ignored spend on regional infrastructure. And I don't mean PFI spend either.

Since I moved to Bow in 1993 I've seen the demise of so many of the local pubs, local businesses and the final remains of Devons Road market (on Stroudley Walk). In their place more and more blocks of private flats, many gated, to join the 'daddy of them all', Bow Quarter. None of the new people moving in are likely to work locally, but will cram aboard the existing public transport facilities, most of which have no more extra capacity now than they did in 1993 (DLR excepted). Yes, the DLR has longer trains, and there are few extra bus routes (most of which seem to go Hackney or Dalston instead of into the city), but the Tube is no better. Crossrail will come, but will not stop here, though hopefully should relieve existing lines. Yet as the private housing sector improves, the public realm/street deteriorates (gangs, litter, graffiti, street-drinkers). There are no delis or coffee shops springing up in place of fried chicken take aways [resp.for 90% of rubbish on pavement] or pizza parlours. The local population becomes more and more divided. There are so many more professionals alighting at Bow Road station now (and professionals to be - students) than was the case in 1993, but there are far more men and women in full Islamic dress to be seen too - and nair the twain shall meet....

Spot on with your post. The same is being repeated in towns all over the country. Any plot of land that becomes vacant is replaced with a bland high-rise block of flats (always marketed as "luxury apartments"). It's like the 60s again when concrete blocks of flats seemed to spring up everywhere.

Since starting to see a bit more of the country, especially the midlands and the north, I simply do not buy the argument that it's because this is an overcrowded island. A look at Google satellite view will show that most of the country isn't built upon. The problem isn't that too many people want to live in Britain; it's that too many people want (possibly need) to live in London. It's because people want to live in Barretts boxes; they don't want or value interesting older buildings which are perceived to be unfashionable, ungreen, hard to maintain etc. Whole streets of perfectly decent houses in Liverpool and Newcastle are boarded up because the last government decreed that demolishing them was better for regeneration than restoring them.

I do agree with most of Sarah's points. Although, when you refer to 'people want to live in Barretts boxes' , surely there is no choice ? Many foreign nationals like modern, warm buildings (especially Asian folk in my experience) but most people simply have to take what is offered/available. I often wonder if most people actually want open plan kitchens for example? I doubt it, they have to accept it.

Alas, appealing architecture went the way of the dodo in the '60s. When they demolished the old Euston station with its arch, and built the present brown and grey box in its place, it was the start of a new age of concrete and plate glass.

We now get buildings that are indeed functional, but look like they have come off a production line in a similar manner to cars. Unfortunately, it seems to me that no thought is given to uniqueness in architecture any more.

This is an overcrowded island, if one looks at the parts of the country that have been (allowed to be) built upon. It's not enough to simply look at population density, one must look at comparative population growth over time, on a regional basis, and factor in the new upward trend in one-person households. And there are plenty of other factors too.

Barratt-type characterless identikit houses and blocks of flats aren't just built by chance because people like them (they might at first, or at a certain point in their lives, but, circumstances change and so do people's requirements and ability to have more choice in matters such as where they live)... they are built to satisfy various needs. For example, the need of an area to house a growing population of increasing affluence and aspiration within an increasingly shrinking area of land; the need of a developer to make the maximum profit from building on a small piece of land (without huge spend on infrastructure).

It's impossible to consider building density and type without looking at population distribution and increase (which includes a consideration of where the employment prospects are situated), and regionalisation (which is largely driven by investment by governmint in infrastructure). Plus the effect of advertising to condition people to what is 'desirable' and 'fashionable' (ie new-build housing).

All these are intrinsic facets to the growing problem DG describes.

Population densities:

UK: 250/km2
Netherlands: 400/km2
England: 400/km2

So we should be thinking along the same lines as the Dutch, unless we plan to settle in the Scottish Highlands!

It's astonishing how many of these legoland buildings and tower blocks are still being built - Nowheresville, as you said. Who could have a pleasant interesting walk round these areas?

I went round Bow for a few days in c. 1962 doing a National Opinion Poll survey on electric kettles. Many of the streets were much as they were in c. 1840 (some still had outside shutters, as far as I remember)- though a bit cleaner! It was quite Dickensian. I knocked on one door and a wild-haired old crone answered. I asked if she'd be interested in trying an electric kettle. "Corsets!" she squawked. "I got my mum's corsets!" and insisted on going upstairs to fetch them to show me: a very long chevron-shaped object of dusty pink. I gave up on the kettles.

Most of the inhabitants wanted to move (they thought at first I was from the council), as the houses had no bathrooms and, to their minds, were dismally old-fashioned. But the people in these streets all seemed to know each other and I wonder if tower blocks gave them a better life - modern amenities, but very cut off from the street and sociability.

It was a fascinating area to wander round - few cars, long lines of old London streets, a huge Victorian bridge. I think those East End areas of terraced houses used to be completely working class, except for the occasional vicar or doctor. In the 1970s middle-class squatters started to move in to some houses.

Vivien, forgive me if you already he know his work, but i bet you'd love the books of Geoffrey Fletcher.

Thanks, Teninchwheels - yes, I love the books of Geoffrey Fletcher - I have "The London Nobody Knows".

A fascinating book is "George Scharf's London, Sketches and watercolours of a changing city, 1820-50", by Peter Jackson, publ. John Murray, 1987. There are drawings of everyday London (and people) at that time when so much was being knocked down. Drawings of the site of Trafalgar Square before it and the the National Gallery were built, showing higgledy-piggledy houses and part of the King's Mews (stables).

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