It was once a farm naturally (hence the name) but by the 19th century the district was documented as one of London's worst slums. The area was notorious for drinking and prostitution, as well as the extreme poverty of the people and the squalor and deprivation of their surrounds. After the second world war numerous local authority buildings were thrown up to cater for the area's burgeoning population. But, as with so much council-funded, post-war architecture, many of the new estates were cheaply constructed and drab, destined to suffer from urban blight within a few decades. Today, Lisson Grove remains resolutely ungentrified, despite being in the heart of central London. And, as a result of poorly considered urban planning, there is little in the way of community fabric.
Now one of my trusted correspondents (thank you Anna) has kindly alerted me to a new project to help revitalise the community of Lisson Grove. Architects Mae will deliver a split-site "Lifetime Neighbourhood", consisting of two new flagship buildings. Lead architect Alex Ely says: "The development will deliver a diverse and vibrant mix of uses for the fragmented local community. The mix of housing, healthcare facilities, offices, enterprise spaces, cafes and gardens will help harness social capital and create a place to sustain the local community."
The area around Church Street NW8 was designated as a priority neighbourhood in the Westminster Housing Renewal Strategy in 2010. The Mae scheme will comprehensively address a number of the main regeneration issues that the area faces. The mixed-use scheme is part of Westminster council's broader initiative to create over 1,000 new affordable homes across the most run down areas of Westminster Borough.
This is to be hugely applauded. The supply of affordable housing in Westminster, particularly for the elderly, is perilously low. For many older citizens who have lived their whole lives in Lisson Grove, but who cannot afford alternative properties in London's second most expensive borough, it is to be hoped that this new development will help re-energise the local community (the fictional home of Eliza Doolittle, no less). And it will offer a convivial, affordable future for folk who deserve it. In this era of social disconnection, I am always greatly encouraged to hear of schemes where the long-term residents are able to live out the twilight of their years among friends and family. Love and laughter is the key. And it is in short supply.