Design for living transforms Crack City: Jason Bennetto describes how a crime-ridden estate is being revived by breaking down blocks of flats into more private 'family homes'

ANONYMOUS blocks of flats stare out from one side of the street. Plastic bags and weeds are all that thrive in the 'communal spaces', while graffiti covers the dark stairwells.

On the other side of the road, gnomes and hanging baskets of flowers adorn the front gardens of recently transformed homes.

These are the two sides of what used to be one of the most notorious housing estates in the country, nick-named 'Crack City'. Today there is a mood of optimism on the Mozart Estate in Kilburn, north-west London, thanks largely to the vision of an urban geographer and a crackdown on drug dealers.

Street robbery and vandalism are still fairly common but residents have started to act as a community and the fear of violence and intimidation has diminished.

The methods used to help transform parts of Mozart have been used on eight other crime-riddled estates throughout the country and are now seen by many urban reformers as a blueprint for inner city rejuvenation. During the next eight years the remainder of the estate will be rebuilt at a cost of pounds 26m. The police have praised the scheme, which they believe has helped significantly to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

Mozart estate was considered a model when it was erected 20 years ago. In contrast to the towers of the Fifties and Sixties it offered low-rise development, full of communal space with bursts of green among the red brick. Walkways, courtyards and secluded corners were supposed to provide privacy and a feeling of community for the 2,000 residents. Instead they made hide- outs for drug dealers and vandals.

Westminster City Council and the police felt radical action was needed as the crime rate soared and cost of repairs was running at double those of nearby estates. Professor Alice Coleman and her team at the DICE Project and Land Use Research Unit at King's College, University of London, believed they had the answer. Using theories based on research published in her book Utopia on Trial Professor Coleman argued that there is a direct link between crime and the design of estates. She believes people become dehumanised if placed in a large anonymous estate with open communal spaces and dingy corridors.

Instead she has broken the blocks of flats into smaller units, giving residents their own gardens and entrances, while restricting access routes and the number of people living together. This approach provides both privacy and access to the community.

The first phase of the scheme was started in 1986 when the high-rise walkways were demolished. Lessons learnt from the work have been used in similar projects in Preston, Manchester, Tower Hamlets and Bow in east London, Nottingham, Birmingham and Dudley. The plans for the third, and by far the largest phase of the Mozart improvement programme, which is funded by the Department of the Environment, Westminster council, and the private sector, are being finalised.

Changes include providing gardens for as many homes as possible rather than large open communal spaces that attract vandals. The individual gardens encourage a sense of community and pride while providing better security.

Blocks of flats have been split up and maisonettes built to reduce the number of homes on top of each other. Some taller buildings are expected to be demolished in the next few years and replaced with four-bedroom houses.

Rubbish chutes have been replaced with dustbins and new homes have been built on communal areas, including car parks. Professor Coleman said: 'The main problem is the forced sharing of buildings and grounds by too many people - we are trying to get back to single family houses.'

The serious drugs problem on the estate was largely wiped out after a police operation a year ago netted eight dealers. Anne McFadden, 58, who moved on the estate when it was first built but now lives in one of the transformed flats, believes the changes have had a dramatic effect on her life. She said: 'It was awful before, there was drug dealing and stabbings all the time. We feel a lot safer now, you don't get the noise at night or feel so threatened.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there