The Shard is the height of fashion, so could we live in a tower block?

High-rises suffer from a bad reputation, but they can be more comfortable for occupants than ground-floor living

Share

So, as I lay in bed at my Victorian terrace yesterday morning and heard an expert on the Today programme gushing about the delights of this classically British method of mass housing, I should have felt very smug.

There’s nothing like being told that you are living in the ideal home. Except the whole debate is wrong-footed.

Policy Exchange, which has been set up by planning minister Nick Boles, has unsurprisingly come up with research toeing the Government line, showing that terraces are great and towers are ghastly. High-rise social housing is linked to crime, vagrancy, juvenile delinquency, the whole hoodie package, says the report. The way forward is for us all to return to Coronation Street.

At which point, a bit of perspective please. Are we envisaging the London tower blocks used by Stanley Kubrick to depict “the vicious dystopia of A Clockwork Orange” because, if so, then of course. Fill your block with problematic, poverty-stricken people, sprinkle with a high level of unemployment, decorate with carelessness and concrete, and you will have a potent mix of want, crime and, if you are lucky, full-scale gang warfare.

Or are we discussing the glass Utopia to be seen in Renzo Piano’s Shard, where people are coughing up £25 just for the privilege of riding in its super-fast lift? To have an apartment here will be a thing to boast of, not an object of vandalism. How about the £600m worth of high-rise apartments planned for Battersea Power Station? They sold out in four days. Give people well-considered housing and they will consider well of it.

So is it about being in the private sector? Not necessarily. The late Denys Lasdun’s peerless 16-storey Keeling House was built in 1967 for council tenants. In 1999, it was privatised, tarted up and sold to what were then called yuppies, for a small fortune.

The four towers of the building were designed, Lasdun once told me, so that housewives could put out their washing on the balcony without being overlooked by anyone, yet the flats were close enough for a chat.

Whereas in a terrace, you will have to be jolly well accustomed to washing – not only yours, but that of your neighbours, too, as you will be exposed to every last thread of it, whether seeing it hanging on the line, or hearing it whizzing through a spin dry in the kitchen adjoining yours.

The look of the terraced house – at the front, at least – was designed on an Italian palazzo. The reality is rather more like a student commune. Only the other day, a neighbour popped round, not for a cup of sugar, but because my four children are so noisy she had apparently fallen into despair.

Women – so easy to annoy!

This week brought Expert Women’s Day, sponsored by TV trade mag Broadcast, in which “an abundance of female high achievers” lined up to be tomorrow’s TV, radio and online stars. What a pity it was also the week when a national newspaper revealed that women – exclusively – are vulnerable to a whole host of “everyday annoyances”, including catching your sleeve on a door handle, never-ending menus, stepping on Lego, getting an itchy nose while washing up and – the killer – misjudging kettle water levels.

Forget those Masters degrees, that Nobel prize-winning research, women! In the view of some media, we are just Lego-tormented snivellers, forever catching our sleeves on handles and getting in a fix about water levels, not in the Arctic but in our kettles.

Twitter: @Rosiemillard

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone