Placemaking field trip: South Kilburn

The South Kilburn estate is home to LB Brent’s highest concentration of social housing – around 3/4 of homes are in public ownership – and one of the highest in London. Regeneration plans have targeted the estate since it received New Deal for Communities funding in 1999. Currently underway, redevelopment will provide 2,400 new homes by 2023 along with new amenities such as a health centre, a school and parks. On 9 November, we visited South Kilburn to learn about placemaking in this large estate regeneration scheme. This was the final field trip in this year’s placemaking programme.

The South Kilburn supplementary planning document (SPD) consists of several new ‘Quarters’ which play to existing design strengths or intend to build a sense of place for the area. For example, the Gateway Quarter will welcome people into the site from Queen’s Park station; the Heritage Quarter protects and enhances the area’s large concentration of listed buildings; and the Civic Quarter will redevelop a small plaza into a community hub with a new health centre and other amenities.

South Kilburn SPD
The SPD identifies several ‘Quarters’ to help establish sense of place throughout South Kilburn and to connect to neighbouring areas.

Jill Rennie, Senior Project Manager at LB Brent, explained that consultation and working beyond boundaries have been important in the design of these Quarters. For example, LB Brent consulted local people on the Civic Quarter for six months with several workshops and an exhibition. City of Westminster – which borders the south of the neighbourhood – has been closely involved in schemes near the borough boundary. The SPD also integrates South Kilburn into the wider area, designating a Stitch Quarter to link to City of Westminster and an open sight line from the Civic Quarter to St Augustine church, a local heritage asset just outside the site boundary. Recent transport upgrades, such as new cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings along Carlton Vale have also improved local connectivity.

South Kilburn civic quarter
Left: South Kilburn’s original plaza forms part of the new Civic Quarter, which will have a medical centre, pharmacy, café and retail space. | Right: The SPD aims to enhance the view and walking route to St Augustine church from the new Civic Quarter. This will involve connecting Granville Road (pictured above) with a new urban park.

In addition to creating the SPD, LB Brent is heavily involved in the design of South Kilburn’s new physical spaces, working up to RIBA Stage 3 (‘Developed Design’). Once designs receive planning permission, LB Brent seeks a delivery partner. This allows the council to control design quality and ensure delivery partners share their vision for the area.

Given that half of the new homes will be reallocated to social tenants, LB Brent has a phasing strategy intended to help residents transition. To minimise disruption, the council aims to move most households just once and provides a removals service. Additionally, a dedicated rehousing team approaches households 12 to 18 months before their move to understand their housing needs and explain the rehousing process. Tenure-blind design will help social renters mix with new owner-occupiers and private renters. The council is also looking into options to allow leaseholders to stay within South Kilburn.

Rennie stressed that housing is only one part of South Kilburn, citing the Civic Quarter and other community amenities as crucial to delivering a successful place. For LB Brent, this success will be measured by indicators such as the balance of social and private households, apprenticeships and social value in contracts, reduced crime and improvements to residents’ skills, employment and education.

South Kilburn estate
Original estate homes (left) and recent additions (right).

Since 2011, independent charity South Kilburn Trust (SKT) has contributed to these goals by enabling local people to test business ideas. SKT operate South Kilburn Studios, a start-up business hub, with 30 entrepreneurs across a range of industries, from jewellery-making to photography to radio. Chief Executive Mark Allan noted that around 60% of tenants come from the estate and the rest from surrounding neighbourhoods. SKT provides each tenant with business support and access to grants of £1,000. Tenants receive free space in exchange for giving back locally; for example, the jeweller, photographer and radio host run free workshops for local people. Tenants appreciate space at the Studios for reducing isolation and building local networks.

The Studios operates on a meanwhile basis. The current premises are imminently scheduled for redevelopment; by the end of 2017, the Studios will start moving into the nearby Granville Centre, which currently houses a nursery school, Barnardo’s children’s centre and other community organisations such as Granville Community Kitchen and the Otherwise Club. The Granville Centre itself is being extended and refurbished from April 2018 with a new entrance from Carlton Vale and much larger space to accommodate the Studios. Initially, SKT will have a five-year lease, but plans to secure the space permanently to continue supporting local business. The expansion will also provide space for community events, strengthening the Granville Centre’s position as a central activity hub for South Kilburn.

South Kilburn Studios
South Kilburn Trust operates South Kilburn Studios, a meanwhile use which offers workspace for local entrepreneurs. The Trust hopes to secure permanent workspace in the Granville Centre.