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Architects lose heritage status battle for Robin Hood concrete gardens’

PUBLISHED: 20:11 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:24 05 October 2010

TOP architects have lost their battle to have the controversial 1960s Robin Hood Gardens listed. It means bulldozers are one step closer to moving in to reduce the concrete housing estate next to the A12 Blackwall Tunnel entrance in London’s East End to rubble. Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has decided it does not merit listing, giving the Town Hall a green light to redevelop the Blackwall Reach area on the doorstep of Canary Wharf

Julia Gregory

TOP architects have lost their battle to have the controversial 1960s Robin Hood Gardens listed.

It means bulldozers are one step closer to moving in to reduce the concrete housing estate next to the A12 Blackwall Tunnel entrance in London's East End to rubble.

Tower Hamlets council wants to knock down the two blocks at the end of Poplar High Street and move the families to a new development.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has decided it does not merit listing, giving the Town Hall a green light to redevelop the Blackwall Reach area of Poplar, on the doorstep of Canary Wharf.

Leading architects had mounted a spirited defence with 500 of the profession's great and good drumming up a petition to English Heritage calling for Robin Hood to be listed.

The campaign was spearheaded by Lord Rogers, the man behind the Lloyds building in the City.

"Robin Hood Gardens is among the best buildings in Britain," he told the Culture Minister.

"It should be considered alongside the great 19th century churches."

The blocks were designed by husband-and-wife team Peter and Alison Smithson who also created The Economist building in Piccadilly.

They embraced the 'streets in the sky' theories of the 1960s, sweeping away old slums and replacing them with modern homes with high walkways linking the blocks.

But lack of maintenance left the estate dirty and unloved with squatters even moving in to the lock-up garages.

Most of the families had voted for the blocks to be knocked down, according to Tenants' association chairman Abdul Halim.

They had more concerns about the lack of maintenance than the design.

He said: "If it had been maintained as it should have been, most tenants would have wanted to keep it."

He pointed out some glitches, with kitchens upstairs and living rooms downstairs.

But the spaciousness of the buildings and balconies were appreciated.

One resident who has lived in Robin Hood Gardens for 13 years said: "It's very run down, although there's a community spirit and people are happy with the location and the way of life.

"We have buses, the DLR and a 24-hour shop to charge our electricity key.

"The balconies are extremely wide and children play there safely.

"The way Robin Hood Gardens was designed you don't have any noise, as the walls are solid concrete."

But it wasn't enough to be listed. Tower Hamlets has ambitious plans to redevelop the overcrowded quarter between the East India Dock Road and the Thames waterfront.

Robin Hood got in the way of those plans, until the Culture Minister's refusal this week to list it.

The Whitehall decision brought a smile to the Town Hall.

Tower Hamlets council cabinet member Ohid Ahmed said: "The Minister's decision means we can go ahead with the regeneration of Blackwall Reach that people want."

More especially, the regeneration is set to attract investment into this run-down, deprived corner of the East End.

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