The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

C20 Society supports campaign to save Airey style prefabs

The Twentieth Century Society has supported a resident-led campaign to save a rare estate of Airey style prefab homes which were built in the 1950s to house a local low-income coal mining community on the outskirts of the village of Oulton near Leeds.

Opposition to the plans to demolish 70 homes has been gaining national attention with full page articles in the Observer, the Financial Times and a feature on the BBC’s Newsnight.

Pemberstone, the estate owner, says the houses would be replaced with the same number of houses, but the company is proposing that only 15 per cent would be available at affordable prices. The houses remain in good condition, although residents have made it clear that this is in spite of long-term neglect by the landlord.

In a letter of objection to the council, C20 Senior Conservation Adviser Tess Pinto says: “Some Airey houses have suffered from structural issues but these are not the result of an innate flaw in the design or construction process, and there are several well-established and approved repair schemes available. There is nothing to indicate that the houses in question here are structurally unsound or require anything more than general maintenance to meet modern living standards.

“Whilst they were built in great number, it is unknown how many survive today. We consider that big and largely unaltered areas of Airey housing such as this remaining part of the Oulton Estate are now relatively rare.

“Historic prefabricated housing is widely valued and generates a great deal of contemporary interest in the context of our current housing crisis. The perceived value of historic prefabricated housing is demonstrable – Historic England have designated a number of examples of post-war temporary prefabs, and the Beamish Living Museum has recently acquired a small group of Airey houses for their new 1950s village. Beyond their historic and architectural interest, prefabricated housing is recognised as facilitating the creation of strong, successful and close-knit communities.”