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Byker Wall named among UK's top 10 council estates

Iconic North East social housing development, the Byker Wall Estate, has been named as the UK’s best council estate by the Observer newspaper.

This is the latest accolade for the Grade 2*-listed development, which is currently the subject of a £24.5 million refurbishment programme.

Rowan Moore, the Observer’s architecture critic praised the architectural design of the estate, which was designed by Ralph Erskine with influences from Scandinavian home designs.

Erskine set up his office on the estate and encouraged locals to visit, while designing every detail down to the letterboxes and garden gates. The original style is now be restored and reinstated with up-to-date materials and designs approved by English Heritage.

Jill Haley, chief executive of the Byker Community Trust, which took on the estate in 2012, said: “This is a major accolade for the Byker Estate, showing that the unique design of the Byker Wall and the homes around it has stood the test of time.

“We’re now on a mission to restore the buildings to their original condition, while also enhancing the sense of community spirit that has always run through the estate.”

The appointment of Erskine over Newcastle City Council’s internal architecture team was controversial at the time and the brief for the Byker Estate was always intended to combine distinctive design with a strong social ethos.

His plans included 65 hobby rooms, placed throughout the estate, which were intended to be used by the local community. These spaces are now being refurbished as part of our investment programme, while the BCT is seeking new tenants for those that are under-utilised.

Mr Moore went on to praise the pioneering nature of the Byker Estate design and mentioned that the estate is now being regenerated following a period of decline in the 1980s and 1990s.

A reader commenting on the article on the Guardian website also noted that Byker has been particularly successful in retaining residents, many of who have lived there since the estate was built.

Jill added: “Technically Byker is no longer a council estate, in fact it’s now owned and managed by the Byker Community Trust, and it’s quite fitting that such a pioneering estate should also become the testing ground for a new model of community empowerment. We’re working in partnership with residents and the wider community to build an ever better Byker and it’s great that our efforts are being recognised in the national media.”

To find out more about the Byker Wall Estate and the Byker Community Trust visit www.bykercommunitytrust.org.

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