Partnership and collaboration: lessons from Woodberry Down

Ten years ago a new chapter in the story of Woodberry Down began, forged through partnership between Woodberry Down Community Organisation, Hackney Council, Genesis Housing, the Manor House Development Trust and Berkeley Homes.

Back then Woodberry Down had a proud community spirit and strong leaders who cared deeply about its future. But the buildings were failing and the estate was no longer somewhere people wanted to visit, let alone live. So from the outset, local people have been at the heart of the estate's revival.

Our team started by getting to know the community through meetings, open days and exhibitions. We exchanged phone numbers, visited people's homes and took every opportunity to talk about life on the estate.

Woodberry Down | Features | Berkeley GroupWoodberry Down

To begin with, there were real concerns about new homes being smaller than those they replaced. Our assurances and drawings did not dispel those fears, so we set out floorplans that people could walk around to see for themselves. This simple step gave local people the certainty they needed and helped establish trust.

As a partnership, we quickly learnt how much the neighbouring reservoir meant to the community, so we restored its banks so people could come and enjoy the water's edge for the first time in decades.

Later, the masterplan was reoriented so the reservoirs became the centrepiece of the new Woodberry Down. The banks of the reservoir were then brought to life with a playground, parkland, seats, an outdoor gym and amphitheatre. This led to our partnership with the London Wildlife Trust and the creation of the Woodberry Wetlands, a beautiful 27 acre nature reserve, which is open to everyone all year round.

Overlooking the reservoir | Features | Berkeley GroupOverlooking the reservoir

A Residents' Design Committee was established to advise on everything from masterplan principles to the exact location of plug sockets. We provide members with architectural training and fund an independent design adviser who helps them make fully informed decisions.

The committee's feedback has shaped many features of the estate and led to some affordable homes being built with separate kitchens and others open plan, to cater for different tastes. Bin stores have also been reconfigured and every change is carefully logged and taken from one phase to the next. 

The new community centre was moved to the heart of Woodberry Down and together with our partners we went beyond the specification to ensure it provided a light, welcoming space with quality kitchens and finishes local people could be proud of. The Redmond Centre is now run by the Manor House Development Trust and is alive with activity all year round. Our team provides a free maintenance and decoration service to ensure it stays looking its best.

Redmond Community Centre | Features | Berkeley GroupRedmond Community Centre

As a partnership we have often stopped, listened and learned. The community has been given the tools to engage in the regeneration, with real influence, and that has brought about positive, lasting change.

Ten years on, Woodberry Down is still a thriving community, but now it has spaces to match local people's ambition. We have built 1,600 new homes so far, alongside fantastic new amenities where everyone can mix, meet and enjoy community life.

In 2018 Woodberry Down was named UK Project of the Year at the RICS Awards. Judges said:

"The Woodberry Down Project team have taken on the regeneration of this area with integrity and a genuine desire to improve not just the physical environment, but also residents' economic aspirations and social wellbeing."

Woodberry Down | Features | Berkeley GroupWoodberry Down