How to make homes out of housing
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THIS week, The Prince of Wales is to pay his annual visit to the Duchy of Cornwall, during which he will inspect progress at Nansledan, younger sister of Poundbury. Nansledan, which means ‘broad valley’ in Cornish, is the Duchy’s extension to Newquay, quite different from the prosperous county town of Dorchester that’s Poundbury’s home.
Newquay may be a surfer’s dream, but it shows itself in underlying colours of deprivation during winter. It also has a different demographic: Poundbury, now past its 30th birthday, is thronged with retirees, whereas Nansledan attracts a younger crowd, often families with young children, and two-thirds of buyers come from the area.
Nansledan shows how The Prince’s ideas have developed since the first battles to obtain planning permission for Poundbury were fought in the 1980s. Then, the emphases were on ‘walkability’ (pedestrians taking priority over cars), mixed use (the idea that work spaces could be built near people’s homes) and style (traditional and, particularly, Classical forms were viscerally loathed by the architectural establishment). It was the last element that received most attention.
Poundbury is so fizzing with ideas it can seem over-busy, but Nansledan is more comfortable in its skin. Master planner Hugh Petter and architect Ben Pentreath take a more relaxed approach.
Nansledan is not about style so much as place. Deep thought has gone into making this a community. Affordable homes are scattered among more expensive properties —visually, there is nothing to tell them apart. There are community allotments, places where people can meet that are part of a local food strategy linking it with the productive surrounding countryside.
Regional builders use local materials, such as Cornish granite, the demand for which has given a nearby quarry a new lease of life. Heritage is respected through Cornish placenames and study of the local vernacular which, amusingly, includes Art Deco.
Not every new development can be a Nansledan, but more estate owners are following The Prince’s example through the Landowner Legacy initiative. At a time when Grenfell Tower is exposing the failures of 50 years of housing policy, everybody engaged in planning and architecture, including the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, should visit because we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. There is another way. (‘Architecture today’, see page 48).
‘Poundbury can seem over-busy, but Nansledan is more comfortable in its skin