The scheme is part of Southwark’s Regeneration in Partnership Programme which aims to deliver 11,000 new council homes by 2043; with the first 1,500 homes delivered by 2018. East works on this programme in a partnership with Adam Kahn Architects and Levitt Bernstein Architects.

The Flaxyard scheme includes 168 units, of which East designed 81 together with the overall landscape, and with Levitt Bernstein designing the remaining 87 homes, including the conversion of the former Sumner House school.

The site is at the back of Peckham High Street, a very busy town centre, and at the northern edge of the Rye Lane Conservation Area. The site itself, originally occupied by Victorian terraces, had been earmarked for a school and had been cleared and grassed over for the last twenty years in anticipation, so part of our task was to communicate in public consultation the benefits of a residential scheme for the wider community.

The councils’ brief for us was to maximise residential density to enable the delivery of sustainable, durable, robust and easy to maintain council homes. We worked to Southwark’s internal design brief which exceeds London’s Housing Guidance in many aspects.

The key challenge of the brief was to marry the numbers of units required by the client with the proximity to the existing two storey terraces to the north of the site, and the habitable rooms above the shops just to the south. Additionally, residential units above the shops on Peckham High Street are accessed from the back, with complex rights of way across the site.

We have taken details from the successful mansion blocks at local estates such as Peabody and Guinness such as elaborate gateposts, careful brickwork, cast concrete house numbers, glazed bricks at entrance levels and high quality flooring and used these at strategic locations, especially at the ground levels of the buildings to provide a lively base. The upper levels become calmer, a continuous block with generous openings and loggias. On the upper levels, the two roof storeys are in a special white glazed brick, textured to give a more shimmering and rich reflection of the sky than contemporary smooth glazed tiles can provide.

The upper storeys are also set back creating confident singular shapes as well as reducing overlooking and overshadowing. This tripartite elevation was praised by the design review panel as a careful and contemporary response to the conservation area context.

Within the inside of the block we have developed an innovative access strategy, with most flats enjoying a front and back door – this is achieved by the main entrance of the units being from a core, with a secondary entrance of a communal balcony. This also enables us to share three lifts between four cores.

The balconies on the inner face of the block are proud, to play and active part in the lively green courtyard. Amenity spaces on the outer façades are designed as loggias, offering shelter and privacy.

Public spaces: The existing public routes along Sumner Road and Sumner Avenue are to be retained with pedestrian and emergency vehicles access only. Vehicular access to the Peckham Pulse Leisure Centre is retained along Melon Road, as is the bicycle and pedestrian only access though to Jocelyn Street. Proposals for Melon Road have taken into account the need to accommodate the proposed new Cycle Quietway route along Melon Road. The public realm proposal includes new paving, planting and street furniture, such as new bollards, column street lighting and cycle stands. The ground surface materials tie into the surrounding residential areas where small modular pavers have been used to define the streetscape. The high quality materials are designed to be long-lasting and to maintain the character of the area. Communal and Private Gardens: Communal gardens are provided for each of the residential blocks (A,B and C). The character of each of the communal gardens differs from one another depending on their soil, light and spatial conditions. The three spaces consist of a light woodland garden, wildlife garden and dry meadow garden. These spaces provide the amenity and play space requirements of the various blocks, with the exception of Flaxyard West (Block B) where the main play provision is proposed in the public route along Sumner Road. However, informal play is additionally included in the communal courtyard garden. Private defensible front and back garden spaces provide a buffer between the private residential spaces and the communal or public spaces. The brick walls of the residential blocks extend to form an enclosure to the courtyard gardens. The entrance gates will be powder coated steel railings to provide glimpses of views into the courtyards.

Planning History

15/EQ/0373 Application type: Pre-Application Enquiry (ENQ). Renovation of Sumner House, addition of 2 new floors and new townhouses, all to be residential. 3 new build blocks to the Flaxyard Sites (Sumner Avenue, Jocelyn Street and Melon Road) the majority is all residential of between 3 and 7 stores. The smallest block faces Peckham High Street and includes retail at ground floor. Total number of units is 178. Decision date 22/01/2016, Decision: Pre-application enquiry closed (EQC. Sumner House:95/CO/1183 Planning permission GRANTED to convert part of the school building into offices. 26/02/1996.

Project Team

  • East architecture, landscape, urban design
  • Levitt Bernstein
  • Developer:
  • Clarion
  • London Borough of Southwark
  • Planning Authority: London Borough of Southwark

    Development Data

    Site size (ha): 1.184
    Estimated date of completion: 01/2020
    Schedule of accommodation: 67 x 1 bed, 67 x 2 bed, 34 x 3 bed
    Tenure mix: 57% Social, 14% Intermediate, 29% Private
    Size of typical home: 70 (2B4P)
    Parking spaces: 11

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