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Orchard Village five years on - we look back at Rainham’s Mardyke Estate as regeneration hits halfway mark

17:00 19 June 2013

Celebrating the halfway mark: Estate residents Mick Fury and Violet Rutherford with Havering's Rainham Compass boss Cllr Mike Armstrong, MD of Old Ford Housing June Morton and resident Doris Taylor

Celebrating the halfway mark: Estate residents Mick Fury and Violet Rutherford with Havering's Rainham Compass boss Cllr Mike Armstrong, MD of Old Ford Housing June Morton and resident Doris Taylor

Archant

As the regeneration of Rainham’s Orchard Village estate hits the five-year mark, Ramzy Alwakeel looks back at the history of the site – and finds out how the new buildings are already making a difference.

A new build block, with redesigned parking to avoid the 'hidden' areas that used to encourage vehicle crimeA new build block, with redesigned parking to avoid the 'hidden' areas that used to encourage vehicle crime

Built in the 1960s to house Ford workers, the Mardyke Estate became notorious for crime and dilapidation as the decades progressed and jobs were axed.

By 2007, its living conditions were so infamous that the council couldn’t give the flats away, despite a 4,000-name waiting list for housing.

Fast-forward to 2013. A one-bedroom council flat recently built on the same site attracted 225 applications.

So what’s changed?

Delapidated: One of the remaining old buildingsDelapidated: One of the remaining old buildings

For starters, it’s not the Mardyke Estate any more – it’s Orchard Village. The council balloted residents back in 2007 to find out whether they’d agree to a stock transfer – meaning Havering would hand them over to a private developer.

When more than 60 per cent said yes, the site was taken on by Old Ford Housing, who set about turning it around through a scheme that this week reached its halfway point.

One of the first steps was to change the estate’s name to shake off some of its history.

But the idea of transforming the Mardyke had been in the works years before.

Flashback: A tower block is demolished as the project kicks off, back in 2009. Now only two of the original six blocks remain, with those set to be gone by 2016Flashback: A tower block is demolished as the project kicks off, back in 2009. Now only two of the original six blocks remain, with those set to be gone by 2016

“On my first day of becoming lead member for housing, I sat down with the officers and said: ‘I want to knock down the Mardyke Estate and regenerate it’,” remembered Cllr Michael Armstrong.

“The estate was appallingly designed – it wasn’t energy-efficient, it had high levels of crime, there were poor-quality living conditions and lots of issues with dumping and graffiti.

“It wasn’t particularly loved. Nobody wanted to move there. We had a large number of flats we couldn’t let.

“It was really quite a sad, hostile environment.

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“The estate today just shows you what can be achieved when local authorities work with local residents.”

According to Cllr Armstrong, getting residents on side is one of the main reasons the redevelopment has been such a success.

People who lived on the Mardyke were invited to join a “neighbourhood board” at the start of the project, and were involved in designing the new buildings and naming the roads.

“Giving people an environment they can be proud of raises their aspirations,” said Cllr Armstrong. “They think they can have something better.”

Old meets new: A Mardyke Estate high-rise overlooks an Orchard Village blockOld meets new: A Mardyke Estate high-rise overlooks an Orchard Village block

So far, 121 new one-bed flats and 178 new two-bed flats have been built.

Not everyone who lived on the Mardyke chose to stay, but everyone who was there when Old Ford took over was given the option of a new home in the finished estate. About 250 of the current Orchard Village residents are former Mardyke householders.

The celebration on Monday marked the completion of “phase two” of the project – the two-bed homes – and the start of phase three, which will see 88 new houses built.

When Orchard Village is finished, it will contain 555 new homes, and all six of the original Mardyke tower blocks will have been pulled down.

Originally the project was planned to take six years, meaning it would have been completed in 2014 – but Cllr Armstrong said the private housing had been shunted further down the waiting list to minimise the impact of the delay on residents.

He added it was important to get the design of the site right rather than pressing ahead before everyone was happy.

New householder Emmanuel Twum, 48, said: “I’m delighted with my new home.

“It’s a really good quality, well-designed property that even has two balconies, giving fantastic views of the area.”

Mr Twum, who didn’t live on the Mardyke Estate, added: “Orchard Village is going to be a great place to live and there’s a real sense of community here.”

June Morton, Managing Director, Old Ford Housing Association, added:

“Orchard Village is already a major success story thanks to the collaboration between residents, local community and stakeholders.

“We are now past the halfway stage but there is still plenty of hard work to do…

“With the help of the local residents, we can create a lasting legacy in Rainham for generations to come.”

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