Putting health at the heart of the community
end ( only about 850 have been built so far), and 30,000 new jobs, over the next 15 years.
Among the many new housing developments that will emerge in Ebbsfleet, which is best known for its station’s high speed links to London and Paris, is Castle Hill in Ebbsfleet Valley, a scheme by Barratt and David Wilson Homes. More than 6,500 homes will be set in a chalk quarry three times the size of the one that houses nearby Bluewater shopping centre. There will be everything from Kentish cottages around village greens, to large detached houses overlooking new parks. Prices start at £275,000 for twobedroom apartments.
Elsewhere in the garden city, Countryside’s Springhead Park will have homes set around a 22 acre park, which cost from £220,000. Further transformation awaits in an area of old industrial wasteland optimistically rechristened the Swanscombe Peninsula, which is the site for the proposed £3.5billion London Paramount theme park set to open in 2023.
The local topography poses all sorts of problems, including the division that comes from having existing communities based at the top of the area’s local chalk quarries and the new ones at the bottom, explains Kevin McGeough, director of the healthy new town at Ebbsfleet. “We have to make sure that old and new communities work together. Much of the space is currently inaccessible, pathways are overgrown and isolated, and access to the river is non-existent. We want to break down the social and physical barriers and encourage community activation,” he says.
Sometimes the simplest innovations can have a big effect, such as giving movement-measuring Fitbits to 120 residents. This is in order to get people moving, and also use the data to learn more about how residents use and move around their environment. “It has helped hugely with cohesion,” says McGeough. “People meet up to go on walks or runs together and it’s a collaborative way of informing us how to design this new town. We can see where the physical barriers are and open up new pathways, parks and lakes that have been closed for decades.”
With health at the centre of the design of these new towns, there will naturally be all sorts of new facilities, including a “health innovation centre”. But prevention rather than cure is key, too, which means getting people out of their cars and on to their feet or bikes and encouraging healthy eating.
Inspired by the Incredible Edible Todmorden project in West Yorkshire, in which volunteers grow fruit and veg, run foodie events and cookery demonstrations for the whole community, Edible Ebbsfleet will plant fruit and veg on every street. “It’s free and available to anyone. We’re encouraging developers to continue the idea. Redrow is planting 20 fruit trees in the coming weeks,” says McGeough, referring to Redrow’s new Ebbsfleet Green scheme, where 30 per cent of the development is public open space. Homes start at £379,995 for two bedrooms.
The Government’s 10 pilot “healthy new towns” vary in their location and
Eddington, the University of Cambridge’s development, above; Berkeley’s Woodberry Down in London, main