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HEYGATE Photography and words ZLATA RODIONOVA


ONCE A WELCOMING HOME TO 3,000 PEOPLE, HEYGATE ESTATE IS NOW SET FOR DEMOLITION AS PART OF SOUTHWARK COUNCIL’S £1.5 BILLION PROJECT TO REGENERATE THE AREA.WHILE THE LAST RESIDENTS ARE FIGHTING TO KEEP IT OPEN, THE STRUCTURE HAS BEEN LEFT IN A STATE OF DECAY.


The outside view of the Heygate estate is not pleasing. An austere rectangular block of phosphorescent lights and concrete, confronting the busy roads of Elephant and Castle, South London. Linked by never-ending elevated walkaways, the structure is gargantuan, blank and imposing. So why are the residents defending it against a regeneration scheme?


Completed in 1974, Heygate consists of 23 blocks of various sizes, which, altogether, encase 1,260 flats. Once home to a thriving community of more than 3,000 people, it is now almost completely deserted - with only three residents remaining on the site. The signs of abandonment are everywhere. Piles of rubbish gather in corners and many families left their furniture behind when vacating their


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flats, hoping for new beginnings. The “decanting” of the inhabitants – as Southwark Council called it – started in 2004, as part of the £1.5 billion regeneration scheme for the area. However at a time of acute shortage of affordable housing, were these buildings essentially and irretrievably a failure?


It is often forgotten that this state-sanctioned modernism was once viewed with some pride by the first generation to benefit from the Welfare State. Heygate was a late example of buildings born from the hope that large-scale civic intervention might improve living conditions for significant numbers of people. Some of the first to move in had never had running water in their homes.


Jerry Flynn was a Heygate resident between 1974 and


A SPECTRAL CITY


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