Europe’s largest estate – the notorious Aylesbury

The Aylesbury in south London is infamous and famous in equal measure.

Designed by architect Derek Winch, construction on the 28.5 hectare housing estate started in 1963 and was intended to house some of London’s poorest families in a mixture of high- and low-rise apartment towers connected by walkways. Building the Aylesbury took more than a decade, and the final block wasn’t finished until 1977.

In typical 1960s style it shows little in the way of socially friendly design.

Since then the Aylesbury has become so symbolic of urban England that Tony Blair chose to make his first speech as prime minister outside parliament. It was here he outlined his vision for regenerating inner cities and ridding Britain of ‘no hope areas’ – a brave move, some might say, in hindsight.

Named after the town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, its various sections are named after other local towns from the shire – Chiltern, Winslow, Wendover, Taplow, Ravenstone, Latimer, Padbury and Missenden.

As well as more than 2,700 homes the estate has a medical centre, nursery and health centre.

More recently the estate has been in the news after a gang of young men terrorised residents of the Aylesbury in 2009, three of whom were tried at the Old Bailey in August 2010.

Led by Deniz Ozdil and Callum Hall,  the case showed echoes of the film Harry Brown – filmed at the nearby Heygate, where Michael Caine plays a pensioner turned vigilante that takes on a group of youths wreaking havoc in a council estate where he lives.

At the hearing the court heard how Hall and Anthony Babalola, accompanied by two other young men, broke into a flat, threatening a young woman and her two children with a gun, demanding to know the whereabouts of her brother.

In another incident the gang approached a teenager on the estate and threatened him with a gun and hunting knife, demanding money.

The gang leaders were eventually arrested in late 2009 and are currently awaiting sentencing after their trail.

Meanwhile, the London Borough of Southwark continues to fight hard to regenerate its sink estates, namely the Heygate and Aylesbury.

The Aylesbury Regeneration website  says that phase 1a, in the south-west corner of the estate, will be available later this year – providing new homes for some residents (administered by the London and Quadrant Housing Trust).

The ultimate goal is to remodel the estate over 15 years, replacing the existing dwellings with 4,200 new homes, with 1,700 properties to be demolished in the first ten years (including five of the high rise blocks).

This means these blocks will soon become shadows of themselves, before they too are destroyed forever.

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