By the end of the 1990s, the Ferrier Estate community, in North Greenwich, was beset by crime, unemployment and entrenched social problems. Royal Mail refused to deliver here and with a Ferrier postcode on your CV it was harder to find work. The estate was dark, enclosed and in severe disrepair.
Today, it is a thriving community, with more than 1,600 new homes built so far, a village centre, a skills training centre and 86 acres of stunning parks and wetlands. People of all ages and backgrounds enjoy fête, festivals, clubs, markets, volunteering days and old fashioned get-togethers.
But to achieve all this, the first crucial task was to earn the community's trust. Many Ferrier residents did not believe the estate could become an open landscape with amenities and shops. They didn't know our team and they didn't believe we would build good quality homes for their families and neighbours.
The old Ferrier Estate
So we met them face to face, and listened to their concerns. They told us they wanted pitched roofs on their new homes, so we changed the design. They felt a proposed ball court was too close to their homes, so we moved it.
While building the first phase, we invited them in to inspect our work and we went beyond the specification, improving finishes, adding outdoor taps and designing bespoke storage spaces for bins, pushchairs and bikes. Local people could see the care and attention going into their homes and we earned their respect.
When the credit crunch hit there was a fresh crisis of confidence and residents feared the work would stop. It caused real anxiety and distress. So, with the support of the community and council, we accelerated the affordable home building programme, rehoused Ferrier residents ahead of schedule and demolished what was left of the old estate.
We brought forward investment in vital social infrastructure, building a temporary village centre with a Sainsbury's, doctors' surgery, dentist, café and local store. And we put our heart and soul into the landscape, creating a beautiful natural setting for everyone to enjoy. The contrast with the old Ferrier Estate could not have been clearer and the local community embraced the change.
All this has had a huge impact on many residents' lives. One local mum told us that her boys started crying with excitement when they saw their own garden, and that they started to sleep through the night for the first time. The eldest boy went on to train with us and has his own home in the village. His mum is a member of the Residents' Association.
Our core team, who are based in the village, are well known to the community and many have been there from the start. They are involved in everyday life; solving problems and looking for ways to make things better. They recently installed a swan crossing on Tudway Road after residents reported a near miss.
Some exceptional public spaces, homes and amenities have been created at Kidbrooke Village, but that doesn't explain why this community has thrived. The real lesson is that we need to focus on people, not plans, and approach every small decision with their wellbeing in mind.
"I lived here as a teenager, when the Ferrier was almost wall-to-wall concrete. Today's Kidbrooke kids have been gifted a delightful local patch in which to play and discover nature" Steve Jones, former Ferrier Estate resident.
Kidbrooke Village Fete