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Charity plans to demolish early social housing in Chelsea

The Victorian Society is objecting to Affinity Sutton Homes’ application to demolish Sutton Dwellings - a 1913 social housing scheme in Chelsea. The public can comment on the planning application before consultation closes on 11 December.

The Victorian Society is objecting to Affinity Sutton Homes’ application to demolish Sutton Dwellings - a 1913 social housing scheme in Chelsea. The attractive mansion blocks were the largest social housing estate in London when built. Affinity’s replacement social and private scheme would provide less social housing than currently. The society argues that the existing flats should be refurbished not demolished. The Victorian Society is encouraging the public to comment on the planning application before consultation closes on 11 December.

The Sutton Estate is a handsome well detailed series of mansion blocks in a Queen Anne style by ECP Monson, the architect of the listed Islington Town Hall. Unusually for 1913, each flat was self-contained with their own W.C.’s, sculleries, cooking facilities and heating provision. When the flats were updated the baths were removed from the sculleries and the balconies were converted into shower rooms.  Affinity Sutton have applied to demolish 13 of the 15 blocks arguing that the buildings cannot be upgraded to ‘decent home standards’ without losing more social homes than would be lost under its plans to rebuild. However, it has not, so far as we’re aware, provided any evidence for the assertion that the flats cannot be upgraded to decent homes standards.

The proposed replacement buildings are bland and lack the character of the 1913 buildings. It has been suggested that housing created by philanthropic trusts in Chelsea are — in both architectural and human terms — far more successful that most later council housing. Affinity Sutton should celebrate the success of these buildings by investing in their future. Affinity should perhaps explore the option of redeveloping some flats for private sale to raise funds for work needed elsewhere on the Sutton Estate.

James Hughes, Senior Victorian Society Conservation Adviser, said: ‘Sutton Dwellings is an early example of social housing which makes a positive contribution to the local area and sits well with the 1915 Samuel Lewis Trust Dwellings opposite. With its handsome proportions it is unsurprising that many residents are unhappy at leaving. While the estate has suffered from the installation of UPVC glazing this does not detract from its overall quality. Affinity should spend its money on sensitive restoration rather than demolishing this early attempt to address inequality in London.’

Monday 7 December, 2015

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