24 Jan 2013

End ‘misery’ of high rise living, think tank argues

High-rise flats should be bulldozed and replaced with terraced homes to help tackle social problems, a think-tank report argues.

Lakanal House in Camberwell was due to be demolished (Getty)

Some 140,000 households with children live on the second floor or above in England the report by Policy Exchange revealed, despite evidence that multi-storey flats attract higher crime rates and social breakdown.

The centre-right think tank argued that terraced streets and low-rise flats could achieve the same density of housing as high-rises and that some 260,000 new homes could be built in London in seven years by demolishing tower blocks in the capital.


The paper’s author, Nicholas Boys Smith, warned that residents of such estates – mostly social tenants – suffered more stress, mental health problems and marriage breakdowns.

We must not repeat mistakes by building housing which makes people’s lives a misery Nicholas Boys Smith

High-rises could also pose fire dangers and were more expensive to build and maintain, he said.

The think tank noted last week’s inquest into the 2009 Camberwell Tower block fire in London, which killed six people. The tower, Lakanal House, was due to be demolished but Southwark Council had decided to refurbish it instead.

Mr Boys Smith said: “It’s time we ripped down the mistakes of the past and started building proper streets where people want to live.

“We must not repeat mistakes by building housing which makes people’s lives a misery.

Housing targets

“Bulldozing the high-rise tower blocks and no-go zone estates and replacing them with terraced homes and low-rise flats is the best way to build both the number and the quality of homes that we need.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Ministers have scrapped the last government’s Whitehall targets which forced local authorities to build high-density flats rather than family homes and attractive terraces.

“Good design is vital to avoid the mistakes of the last century that lead to ugly and crime-ridden tower blocks.

“Communities can now use their own neighbourhood plans to decide themselves what type and design of homes are built in their area and their councils should actively support them in this process.”