I used to live in Basingstoke in one of the big blocks of flats in the town centre - Crown Heights. You may have heard of it as it has been in the news lately about cladding.
Crown Heights is a classic attempt to build high to accommodate a lot of people in one place, away from the green belt. Supposedly good for commuters too. Inside, the flats weren’t bad. However, outside they were an eyesore, painted in a ridiculous colour, dominating the skyline. It was also designed in ‘horseshoe’ shape, so noise used to travel upwards and create some terrible echoes. The public space at the bottom often attracted anti-social behaviour, with some really nasty incidents and some places that were not well lit. Then you had parking issues and neighbour spats over noise, pidgeons on balconies and all the rest…I was often kept awake at night by the noise and my wife felt threatened by the violence. Unfortunately, I think a lot of ‘inventive’ town planning like this ends up becoming a nightmare and very bad for people’s mental wellbeing.
There are some lovely apartments of course, but many of them end up getting ‘gated’ and are extremely expensive for what you get - loads of these in London near the Thames. I’m not sure these would be within reach of the majority of the population…
So that leaves the greenbelt or a few brownfield areas that can accommodate these new houses, some of which we have in central Eastleigh. Personally, I think a family needs a bit of headspace, a garden of some sort.
Whilst I am all for creative thinking, I truly believe that councillors of whatever political persuasion are in a massive bind here. Some ‘creativity’ (like the horrendous brutalist architecture that went up in the 60s and can be seen in many British cities) can lead to huge social problems that were perhaps not envisaged at the time. The less creative, but perhaps more socially cohesive, approach is to build on the greenbelt.
Personally, I love the UK’s countryside so really do not like this continued development. However, if central government isn’t going to address population growth (political dynamite) then councillors will be stuck with trying to choose the least damaging option.
Reform UK candidate for Eastleigh North (Hampshire County Council) and Eastleigh Central (Eastleigh Borough Council)