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Ocean estate, Tower hamlets

The original Ocean Estate was built after WWII, with additions in 1964. The estate is one of the largest in London and in 2013 there were 7,459 people living in 2,574 households on the estate. The first phase of regeneration started in 1995 with funding from the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB), followed by the New Deal for Communities (NDC) programme in 2000. Both of these programmes saw decanting and demolition of original homes, with the replacement new homes owned and managed by social (not council) landlords. The most recent phases of demolition and rebuild were completed in May 2019, completing all the regeneration and development plans so far.

Key themes discussed in the interviews:

  • The estate has seen a lot of demolition and new construction, with many households decanted from the original buildings and displaced from the area.
  • Rent and bills in the new-build homes were more expensive, and not like for like but smaller than in the previous council homes.
  • The move from a council property to a housing association property meant that some residents had a change in their tenure, losing their ‘secure’ tenancy and becoming an ‘assured’ tenant instead. Some residents fought hard to retain their secure tenancies after moving into the new-builds.
  • There were concerns from all tenures in general about the affordability of the new-build housing on the estate and across East London.
  • Leaseholders that were ‘bought out’ in order to allow for the demolition of their homes found that the money offered to them didn’t allow them to repurchase a home on the redeveloped site nor nearby, in fact leaseholders often moved out of the area and out of London all together into the fringes of Essex and beyond.
  • The decanting process was very difficult on households, both financially and emotionally, causing stress and upheaval.
  • Asian and Bangladeshi interviewees describe a sense that they were being intentionally targeted to be moved, often describing this as social and ethnic cleansing.

It is useful to remember that the Ocean Estate is much further along in its timeline of council estate renewal when compared with some of the other estates in the ESRC project. What was observed on the Ocean is happening similarly on other estates in the project and across London as a whole; from the displacement of family, friends and neighbours, the changing social character of the area, more expensive rents and cost of living, and the loss of local services and shops. Indeed, the Ocean Estate serves as a useful case study and reminder of the difficult experiences residents have had within the regeneration process, even long after building work finishes. Click here to read an extensive report about the story of the Ocean estate.

Here is what some people said...


Ocean estate former resident
Council tenant

"It’s just moving the unnecessary people away but we're giving you stuff, but we’re not giving you a lot of stuff. We're giving you regeneration, we're going to make the estate look much better but we're just going to have to move 80% away. That's my point of view of regeneration. If it was regeneration for the whole area, making the whole area look much better, but you still can come back. That's a different thing."


Ocean estate resident

"It was slow, one by one. They was not, as I said, you know, the Council was not sorting everybody at once. They [the Council] was doing it individually, so one by one, one by one. And most of the people who thought they was getting the best deal, so they left quietly, they didn’t tell the other neighbours. I think it was quite deliberate and political the way they done it because if - they [the Council] knew if we gathered up then we would talk amongst each other; ‘Is it worth moving out’? They didn’t want that so they gave a on the spot decision."


Ocean estate former resident

"It’s okay, it is new properties [in the housing associations] but financially a lot of people actually they’re not happy with that, they’re saying it’s way too much rent than what the Council properties were so they’re really squeezing tighter [financially]. Some of the people they complained and to be honest this is in a way putting them people into a benefit-trap."


Ocean estate former resident
Housing association tenant

"… the rising cost of rent is forcing certain families to move out. And I mean certain families as in certain Asian families are moving out because they can’t keep up [with] the demand."

MOVING_ME project by Platform 7

A collection of photographs and stories contributed by residents of the Ocean estate that best represents how they feel about the structural and social change taking place around them.

Open the file