New towns to follow royal lead?
Britain needs to build tens of thousands of new homes every year but what form should they take? the answer may be found in King Charles’s favourite urban project — Poundbury. the community of 2,300 homes and 240 businesses on the outskirts of Dorchester, Dorset, is best known for being a showcase for the King’s retro taste in architecture. Yet it is more than that.
‘around 1989 Prince Charles, as he then was, discovered the work of urban planner Leon Krier and he was the mastermind behind Poundbury,’ says Ben Murphy, Duchy of Cornwall estates director. ‘the idea was to build high- quality Georgian and Victorian-style homes at high density for mixed-income residents, with shops and amenities within walking distance.’
Poundbury feels like a period filmset. Walk down one crescent and you could be in Bath then, suddenly, you find a gated garden square, where you half expect to see Mary Poppins feeding the birds.
tall townhouses like those in Belgravia overlook a cricket field. there are terraced cottages, corner shops and the occasional colonial-style villa.
a focus for it all is Queen Mother Square, headed by the royal Pavilion with its 20 luxury apartments and Strathmore House, a classical building designed by Quinlan terry.
Homes are heated by renewable gas from the UK’s first biomethane-to-grid plant and the whole place is pristine, with no gaudy advertising, graffiti, even road markings. there are no car parks: you just park in any space, as in the 1950s.
all of this was ridiculed by modernist architects when Poundbury was first built, most notably by Stephen Bayley who described it as ‘fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute’.
the locals disagree. Judy tate, an artist, moved with her husband Peter, a retired doctor, from a 17th-century house in nearby Corfe Castle six years ago.
‘Poundbury has developed into a really strong community, says Mrs tate, 67. ‘ Covid drew everyone together. those who could helped get prescriptions and did shopping for more vulnerable residents.’
Sahil Dalvi, who runs the post office and general store, provides the sort of personal service you associate with days gone by. He delivers papers and milk in the morning
and if pensioners phone to say they have run out of something during the day, he gets it to them personally.
‘i really appreciate how friendly people are here,’ says Mr Dalvi, 35, who has two children. ‘i haven’t encountered any racial prejudice in Poundbury and it’s a great place to bring up young families.’ What about Bayley’s accusation about petty rules? ‘We call these the Poundbury myths,’ says Mr Murphy. ‘they say people aren’t allowed washing lines — nonsense, we just ask they don’t hang laundry from balconies. You can’t paint your doors as you wish — untrue, the Duchy just likes to see what you have in mind.
‘it’s something residents buy into. Most appreciate not having noisy firms or airbnbs nearby.’
POUNDBURY exclusive and is 35 pricey per but cent not of properties are affordable homes. according to rightmove, terraced houses sold for £466,000 on average last year. Detached homes, £667,000. Savills say Poundbury carries a 25 per cent premium. the town has its faults. Sprinkling the shops around reduces the need for cars but shop owners say they lose passing trade without a high street. the Duchy forbids replacement uPVC windows as wooden sash styles are more eco-friendly. But they also mean higher heating bills. the demographic is also weighted towards the 50-plus age group. Would Poundbury work as a model for new communities nationwide?
‘I don’t see why not,’ says Mrs tate. ‘Provided there is a strong guiding hand to ensure it has enough doctors, schools and amenities.’ a Poundbury-style development of 4,000 homes is being built at nansledan in newquay, Cornwall. in Faversham, Kent, a similar development, on Duchy of Cornwall land, is at the ‘ planning stage’. Could it be the King’s critics are wrong? Perhaps much-maligned Poundbury will be a blueprint for future new towns.
ANIGHT at one of London’s most recently opened fivestar hotels costs from £1,400. this may be beyond most people’s budgets. But it is possible to recreate one element of this cosseted experience for a lot less — a tenth of the sum, in fact.
thick and fluffy towels are the vital accessory of a prestige hotel bathroom, and acquiring a set for your home will add ease and comfort to your daily routine. the Soho house group even sells the towels used in its hotels. A bundle of four (two bath and two hand towels) costs £ 110 ( sohohome.com).
Christy, the British towelling company, says that the desire to make a bathroom even more relaxing while glamorous began during the pandemic.
Lucy Ackroyd, the firm’s head of design, says customers continue to want towels with ‘ hotel- like fluffiness and quality’ to enhance the feeling of escape. if you have never focused much on the piece of cloth you use to dry yourself, you may think that a towel is just a towel. But this item, invented in the 17th century in the city of Bursa in northern turkey, is now at the centre of complex manufacturing processes. Bathrooms began to be installed in homes from the mid- 19th century following advances in plumbing that allowed hot water to be pumped into houses. When Queen Victoria discovered and endorsed the towel in 1851, they became a status symbol among the upper classes. Subsequently, a hierarchy has evolved in towels, which are graded by their weight — in the same way that sheets are compared by their thread count. gSM — grammes per square metre — is the key towel metric, showing weight by square metres.
thinner towels have a gSM below 400. higher quality towels, more likely to stand the test of time while feeling more plush and cushiony (two of the towel sector’s favourite words) have a gSM of 450-plus. irritatingly, this crucial information rarely appears on labelling.
But businesses that supply the hospitality trade recognise the importance to their customers and specify the details on their websites, as do a few of the companies that cater for domestic customers.
Scooms, the online retailer, sells a bath cloth with 1,000 gSM. this comes as part of a £102.60 bundle also containing two bath and two hand towels with 702 gSM ( scooms.com). Levels of absorbency and drying times are another obsession. turkish cotton is said to be faster drying, while Egyptian is claimed to be more absorbent as its threads are longer.
Marks & Spencer is sufficiently confident about its 690 gSM offer to call it the Autograph hotel Ultimate Retreat towel. this line costs from £6 to £23.50 for a bath sheet ( marksandspencer.com).
Like similar ranges, these towels come not only in white, but also in charcoal grey, duck egg blue, navy, soft pink and taupe.
in a hotel, only white may be acceptable since it can be bleached and also conveys cleanliness and purity. But in homes, people want to match the overall colour scheme of their interiors.
they are also often looking to envelop themselves in the kind of bathrobes provided by five-star hotels.
A few will splash out on the £350 Unito bathrobe from the italian deluxe households linens group Frette. But the £45 robe from Soak&Sleep is a more modestly priced addition to the bathroom with a five-star vibe.