New housing estate residents say location matters to identity

Nine out of ten residents in a new development in Acton, West London have said that where they live is important to their identity, according to new research by the University of Reading and social enterprise Social Life.

Acton Housing Estate

In a survey of the South Acton Estate in Ealing, London, researchers found that the sense of location being part of their identity was similar across older and new parts of the estate. 90% of people living on the newly developed Acton Gardens who were surveyed said that their identity is tied to their location, figures similar to South Acton Estate residents (94%), and people from the wider area (92%).

Professor Tim Dixon, School of the Built Environment at the University of Reading said:

"We have seen that in the first phases of the new development in Acton Gardens there has been a strong sense of local identity among new residents which often takes a long time to develop.

"Across the South Acton Estate as a whole, the research paints a picture of a strong, tolerant and supportive community. In some cases of estate regeneration, there is a feeling that developers have not engaged properly with local residents, and displacement and polarisation of communities often occurs, but initial signs are very encouraging in this case.

"As the regeneration evolves, we should also understand that a coherent approach is needed to tackle the underlying social and economic issues in the area, and to help promote and develop the less visible social life infrastructure in South Acton.

The South Acton Estate is the largest council estate in Ealing with more than 1,800 homes. The new masterplan for the estate includes the redevelopment of these with 2,517 new homes to be built between 2011 and 2024. Half of these are planned as affordable, with 50 per cent social rent and the balance in private housing.

Other key findings highlighted that more people were in favour of the regeneration plans than against, with positive responses to the design of the new housing at Acton Gardens. Others were worried about disruption and how changes would impact on the more vulnerable members of the community, with people living in sheltered housing and those living in the older part of the estate having the most negative feelings about regeneration. Housing affordability, new housing for existing residents and improvements to homes were the most important aspects of the regeneration for residents.

The UK government's national estate regeneration strategy suggests that estate regeneration can transform neighbourhoods by delivering well designed housing and public space, a better quality of life and new opportunities for residents. Despite this, critics have pointed out that such regeneration can often upset the balance of communities, and lead to polarisation and gentrification.

The full report can be found at:
http://www.social-life.co/media/files/SOCIAL_IMPACT_OF_REGENERATION_IN_SOUTH_ACTON_small_hP2bQmZ.pdf 

About the research:
The report by Social Life and the University of Reading was commissioned by the joint venture partners delivering the regeneration - Countryside Properties and L&Q - two of the capital's leading experts in regeneration, working with Ealing Council. The research findings are based on a survey of 544 households on the estate and surrounding area, and examined how the £600m programme is affecting the 5,000 people living there. 1,800 outdated properties are being replaced to tackle overcrowding, poor quality housing and to design out crime on the South Acton Estate.

Credit: Rosalie Callway, University of Reading. 

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