Heygate Estate

Coordinates: 51°29′35″N 0°05′46″W / 51.49306°N 0.09611°W / 51.49306; -0.09611
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Heygate Estate
Aerial view of the Heygate Estate
General information
LocationElephant & Castle, Walworth, Southwark, London, England
Coordinates51°29′35″N 0°05′46″W / 51.49306°N 0.09611°W / 51.49306; -0.09611
Other information
Southwark Council

The Heygate Estate was a large housing estate in Walworth, Southwark, South London, comprising 1,214 homes. The estate was demolished between 2011 and 2014 as part of the urban regeneration of the Elephant & Castle area.[1] Home to more than 3,000 people,[2] it was situated adjacent to Walworth Road and New Kent Road, and immediately east of the Elephant & Castle road intersection. The estate was used extensively as a filming location, due in part to its brutalist architecture.

The clearance of the site and its sale to Lendlease for redevelopment was highly controversial.


The Corbusian concept behind the construction of the estate was of a modern living environment. The neo-brutalist architectural aesthetic was one of tall, concrete blocks dwarfing smaller blocks, surrounding central communal gardens. The architect's concept was to link all areas of the estate via concrete bridges, so there was no need for residents to walk on pavements or along roads. In fact, it was even planned to build bridges[citation needed] to the neighbouring Aylesbury Estate, further south in Walworth.

Designed by Tim Tinker,[3] the estate was completed in 1974.[4]

The estate was once a popular place to live, the flats being thought light and spacious,[5] but the estate later developed a reputation for crime, poverty and dilapidation.[6] One resident complained about constant noise, crime and threats of violence as a result of the estate being used for temporary housing ahead of its redevelopment. He claimed that the sheer scale of many of the blocks also meant there was little sense of community.[7] However, other residents disagreed that the estate should have been considered a slum and an eyesore, or that the buildings failed to foster a sense of community[according to whom?]. Around 30 separate testimonies from former residents have been collated by a local microblogging site.[8] Architect Tim Tinker described the estate's 'notorious' reputation as a "farrago of half-truths and lies put together by people who should have known better."[9]


In 1999 Southwark council's Director of Regeneration Fred Manson sparked controversy when in an interview about the Elephant & Castle regeneration he claimed that "social housing generates people on low incomes coming in and that generates poor school performances, middle-class people stay away."[10]

The Elephant & Castle regeneration is a £1.5 billion scheme to redevelop the area around the Elephant & Castle road junction. The regeneration plan led to the demolition of the Heygate Estate, with the land planned to provide 2,704 new homes, of which 82 will be social rented.[11] The demolition cost approximately £15 million, with an additional £44m spent on emptying the estate and a further £21.5 million spent on progressing its redevelopment.[8][12]

Heygate residents were originally promised new homes as part of the regeneration, but these had not been built by the time they were 'decanted' from the estate in 2007.[13]

In March 2010 only 20 of the 1200 flats were still occupied.[14]

A council blunder in February 2013 revealed that Southwark had sold the 9-hectare estate to developers Lendlease at a huge loss, for just £50m, having spent £44m emptying the site and £21.5m on planning its redevelopment.[15]

Demolition of the Heygate Estate and construction of Elephant Central – May 2014

Earlier regeneration plans had included a proposal for redevelopment of the estate under the auspices of a community land trust; however, the council had rejected this proposal on the grounds that it would reduce the land value available to itself.[16]

In February 2013 the last remaining residents on the estate appeared at a public inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Order issued on their homes.[17] The residents were part of a local group named Better Elephant which proposed alternatives to demolition in its Neighbourhood Plan[18][19] and were supported by Catherine Croft from the Twentieth Century Society who confirmed that the estate could "easily be refurbished".[20]

The Compulsory Purchase Order was confirmed in July 2013 amid reports[21] that the remaining residents were being forced to relocate to the outskirts of London.

In September 2013 a London Assembly report[22] claimed that Southwark Council had looked at different options for the estate in 1998. It said the surveyors found that the buildings were structurally sound and suggested that the best option was refurbishment. It said that the survey also found that four in five residents did not want to move off the estate, and that the crime rate was half the average for the borough of Southwark.

In November 2013 the last resident was removed and all access points to the estate were closed.[23] Ian Steadman wrote in the New Statesman that "What has happened here is that Southwark Council has lost money on evicting the Heygate Estate for the benefit of Lendlease, with no prospect of getting anything in return for it. In the process, an established community has been scattered throughout the borough and beyond."[24]

In December 2013 the Design Council published an article, "in defence of the Heygate estate", in which it praised the architectural design, questioned the demolition and asserted that the estate "could have enjoyed a second life".[25]

Timeline of developments[edit]

February 2004 —[26] the masterplan for regenerating the Elephant and Castle, including the demolition of the Heygate Estate, was adopted by Southwark Council.[27]

July 2007 – a consortium of Lendlease, First Base and Oakmayne were chosen as developers for the Elephant and Castle regeneration scheme.[28]

July 2010 – Southwark Council signed a development agreement with Lendlease for the regeneration of Elephant and Castle.[29]

April 2011 – demolition of the Heygate Estate began.[1]

August 2012 – the remaining leaseholders on the estate were served with a Compulsory Purchase Order by Southwark Council. The group of leaseholders said they intended to object to the Order on the grounds that the redevelopment plan proposes no affordable housing and does not have a provision for renewable energy.[30]

October 2012 – local MP Simon Hughes called for the first detailed Heygate planning application to be withdrawn because it proposed just eight social rented homes.[31] Outline planning permission for the Heygate site proposes 2,535 new homes in total of which just 79 will be social rented.[32]

November 2013 – the last remaining residents were evicted from the estate by bailiffs.[23]

July 2014 – the Council leader was criticised for having accepted gifts from developer Lend Lease; these included a trip to MIPIM, a real estate jamboree in Cannes, and two £1,600 tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics.[33]

July 2014 – demolition of the Heygate Estate was completed earlier than expected. The land is presently being redeveloped as housing and retail space, and the area is being marketed as 'Elephant Park'.[34]

In popular culture[edit]

Due to its urban decay and location, the estate has been extensively used as a filming location. Films and TV productions have included Attack the Block, Shank,[35] Harry Brown,[36] The Veteran,[37] World War Z,[38] Luther (series 1 ep. 2), The Bill[5] and gang drama Top Boy.[39] High-profile music videos, including "Hung Up" by Madonna and "Love Don't Let Me Go (Walking Away)" by David Guetta vs The Egg, were also filmed on the estate. A total of 76 films were made on the estate over the three years to 2010, earning Southwark Council £91,000 in fees.[40]

The Skygarden Estate in Ben Aaronovitch's book Broken Homes is based on the Heygate Estate.[41] The Salisbury Estate in Mike Carey's Thicker Than Water blends the features of the Heygate Estate and the Aylesbury Estate.



The estate was served by London Buses routes 42, 12, 35, 40, 45, 53, 63, 68, 136, 148, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 343, 363, 453, 468 and P5.

London underground[edit]

The nearest station was Elephant & Castle on the Bakerloo and Northern lines.

National rail[edit]

The nearest station was Elephant & Castle for Southeastern services towards Ashford International, Bedford, Dover Priory, London Blackfriars, Luton, Sevenoaks, St Albans City, St Pancras, Sutton, West Hampstead and Wimbledon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Moore, Keith (15 April 2011). "'Muggers' paradise' the Heygate Estate is demolished". London: BBC News. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Design for Social Sustainability : A Framework for Creating Thriving New Communities" (PDF). Plannig.ri.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  3. ^ Moss, Stephen (4 March 2011). "The death of a housing ideal". The Guardian. London.
  4. ^ Collins, Michael (23 December 2001). "The Elephant's grave yard". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b Walker, Peter (3 September 2010). "South London's Heygate estate mourned by locals – and Hollywood". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Heygate estate". BBC London. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  7. ^ Anderson, Ros (21 October 2006). "My Home is Going to Be Demolished". The Guardian. London.
  8. ^ a b Steadman, Ian. "Look to the Heygate Estate for what's wrong with London's housing". New Statesman. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  9. ^ Online, BBC (19 July 2013). "Heygate Compulsory Purchase Order Upheld". BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  10. ^ Orr, Deborah (29 June 1999). "A blueprint for the rich". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  11. ^ Campaign, 35 Percent. "35% Campaign". Campaign site – link to planning docs. LB Southwark. Retrieved 24 December 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Southwark Council Retrieved 4 July 2014
  13. ^ Moss, Stephen (4 March 2011). "Death of a Housing Ideal". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  14. ^ "Living in Ghostland: the last Heygate residents". The Independent. London. 29 March 2010.
  15. ^ Bar-Hillel, Mira (6 February 2013). "Elephant & Castle Estate Revamp Ripped Off Taxpayers". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  16. ^ Stringer, Jacob. "Housing Co-operatives: Building Resistance to the Market". New Left Project. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  17. ^ Jon, Land. "Feelings Run High as Heygate estate Public Inquiry Closes". Dash24. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  18. ^ Emma, Ailes. "Heygate's a Green Haven". Southwark News. Southwark Newspaper Ltd. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  19. ^ Better Elephant Retrieved 4 July 2014
  20. ^ Elizabeth, Hopkirk. "Building Design Magazine". bdonline.co.uk. UBM Plc. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  21. ^ Mira Bar-Hillel (2 August 2013). "Residents of the Heygate estate forced to move out of London". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  22. ^ "London Assembly report" (PDF). Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  23. ^ a b Peter Walker (4 November 2013). "Bailiffs will sound death knell for vast Heygate estate in London". The Guardian.
  24. ^ Steadman, Ian (6 November 2013). "Look to the Heygate Estate for what's wrong with London's housing". newstatesman.com. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  25. ^ Bender, Thomas (3 December 2013). "In Defence of the Heygate estate". Design Council. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  26. ^ Dangerfield, Andy (29 August 2012). "Heygate Estate residents fight compulsory purchase order". BBC News. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  27. ^ Moore, Keith (20 February 2004). "Massive revamp for the Elephant". London: BBC. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  28. ^ Moore, Keith (24 July 2007). "Partner picked for £1.5billion Elephant revival". London: responsesource. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  29. ^ Moore, Keith (7 July 2010). "Elephant and Castle regeneration plan given go-ahead". London: BBC. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  30. ^ Dangerfield, Andy (29 August 2012). "Heygate estate residents fight Compulsory Purchase Order". BBC. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  31. ^ "MP calls for more affordable flats on estate". London News. BBC. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  32. ^ Minton, Anna (27 March 2013). "The reconfiguration of London is akin to social cleansing". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  33. ^ "Private Eye News". No. 1371. Private Eve. 25 July 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  34. ^ "Elephant Park". Archived from the original on 26 March 2015.
  35. ^ "Controversial new film 'Shank' causes a stir on the Heygate Estate". South London Press. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011.
  36. ^ "Movies filmed in | Enjoy the best film locations in with filmaps". Filmaps.com. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  37. ^ "Actors on The Veteran film spark police gun inquiry". BBC News. 16 July 2010.
  38. ^ "World War Z filming location in London to prioritise more optimistic projects". The Location Guide. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  39. ^ "South London housing estate residents say no to film-makers". BBC News. 3 February 2012.
  40. ^ "Filming on Heygate Nets Council £91,000". Southwark News. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  41. ^ Architectural and Historical Notes – Appendix to Ben Aaronovitch: "Broken Homes", London 2014, ISBN 978 1 473 20313 6

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