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Government backs first batch of ‘Built for Life’ homes

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Planning minister Nick Boles has named the first five schemes to achieve ‘Built for Life’ status - the successor to Building for Life

The label is given to schemes which satisfy a 12 point criteria for design quality, safety and community developed by the Home Builders Federation, Cabe at the Design Council and Design for Homes.

Named Building for Life 12, the programme was re-launched in September after its predecessor Building for Life – which featured annual awards and a network of accredited assessors – was abandoned.

Explaining the refreshed programme, David Birkbeck of Design for Homes said: ‘It is a charter of principles to help local communities talk to developers and consultants about what is expected in their scheme.’

The planning minister officially recognised the five schemes at a parliamentary event on Wednesday (6 February).

He said: ‘We need to build beautiful houses that people are happy to live next door to if we are to persuade local communities to accept enough house building to meet today’s urgent need and that of future generations.

‘Building for Life standards show the importance of good design both of buildings and of the public realm, and the benefits it can bring for both the building industry and communities. They are an incredibly useful guide for all involved in development.’

Comprising more than 1,700 homes, the five schemes designed by Stride Treglown, Ben Pentreath, JR Paley, Nash Partnership and Formation Architects all have detailed planning permission and three are already on site.


The first five Built for Life projects

Ben Pentreath Architects: Zero C for Chichester District Council

Ben Pentreath Architects: Zero C for Chichester District Council

Ben Pentreath Architects
Zero C for Chichester District Council

Roussillon Park is 252 homes on part of a barracks site brought to the market by the Homes and Communities Agency. The layout borrows from the intimate scale of streets in Chichester’s city core, including the original Roman device of straight streets ending in special buildings or views, which from the site will be glimpses of the cathedral.  

The northern fringe of the scheme overlooks its own park while another looks towards Graylingwell Park, a larger development begun a few years ago with good leisure facilities that the residents will share through joining a neighbourhood-wide Community Development Trust. The trust will help them have a greater say in how their neighbourhood is managed and new residents are further empowered through a a website designed to help them settle in offering wide-ranging support.

There is also a broad range of property with pared back updates by Ben Pentreath Architects of traditional local forms, such as cottages faced in soft red Sussex Downs brick, or more formal Georgian townhouses in a grey brick. Their broad appeal has been confirmed by the rapid sale of the first phase of 50 homes.

The landscape architecture will form an important part of the scheme’s appeal, drawing on existing mature trees and supporting it with hard landscaping to soften highways and high quality boundary treatments.

Formation Architects with Skanska: Seven Acres, Clay Farm/Great Kneighton, Cambridge

Formation Architects with Skanska: Seven Acres, Clay Farm/Great Kneighton, Cambridge

Formation Architects with Skanska
Seven Acres, Clay Farm/Great Kneighton, Cambridge

Clay Farm/Glebe Farm is the key development within Cambridge CC’s redrawing of its green belt where it too k 328 hectares of farmland alongside Addenbrookes hospital to accommodate up to 3000 new homes and schools. The masterplan was approved in 2008 and this detailed application is one of 4 to have been passed since 2011, going through both a local design review managed by the city council (one of whose members is also the author of Building for Life). The scheme is the first by Skanska, the giant Swedish construction group which has recently set out an ambition to become a leading residential developer in England.

The scheme is 128 homes on 2.79 hectare of greenfield (part of a much larger masterplan), with the smallest apartments at 52m²and a good number of the larger family house at 276m²(which is well over twice the average new-build size). The scheme uses a pale Cambridge cream brick to dress a modern interpretation of Georgian England and the first houses built are comfortably contemporary with very high floor to ceiling heights, excellent storage and very generous fenestration giving them day lighting far in excess of the British Standard. They also have sizeable terraces and balconies for private outdoor space. The scheme is built to very high environmental standards, as the Swedes know how to.


Stride Treglown Architects with Kier Partnership Homes: Manor Kingsway, Derby

Stride Treglown Architects with Kier Partnership Homes: Manor Kingsway, Derby

Stride Treglown Architects with Kier Partnership Homes
Manor Kingsway, Derby

The 35 hecare site was previously the Manor and Kingsway Hospital. Phased redevelopment of up to 700 dwellings including 50 extra care, retail and commercial units. There are 100 dwellings in phase 1. Part of the masterplan is an arboretum, making use of established Victorian planting. The original hospital buildings used an indigenous Derby brick also to be used in new scheme, while the old hospital building contained ‘Dutch Gables’ which are reinterpreted on some buildings within the layout. Derby City Council led a collaborative team composed of project managers at the HCA, OPUN (the local design review enabler) and architects, initiating with a brief to be ‘Robust, Contemporary and Confident’ OPUN led revisions to the original masterplan so that it became more legible with defined character areas, notably the public open space, wide tree-lined boulevards and landscaped play areas and used the new Building for Life as the heart of design process.

Home zones and shared surfaces extensively used to give pedestrian priority. The heart of the masterplan is where the retail, apartments and extra care is located around a central public square. Buildings are unfussy, simple, well-proportioned and detailed with a simple pallet of good quality materials


Nash Partnership with Gloucestershire County Council: Starvehall Farm, Cheltenham

Nash Partnership with Gloucestershire County Council: Starvehall Farm, Cheltenham

Nash Partnership with Gloucestershire County Council
Starvehall Farm, Cheltenham

The 12.2 hectare site is mostly bound by the popular commuter village of Prestbury to the north east of Cheltenham, about 1.5 miles from the city centre. The city’s famous racecourse stands just to its north The greenfield land was regularly considered for adoption in the local plan but was passed over for brownfield sites in the city centre. A gradual exhaustion of these site, plus the need for the county council to find viable sites to develop after the 2008 crash meant it chose to bring the land forward itself.

One of the issues is that affordable housing in the area is very low at 8 per cent, despite the opportunities for employment at the race course. The site has been designed to rectify this and increase supply of homes for the city’s poorly served aging population.

 The scheme underwent extensive community engagement led by the County council between early 2010 and mid 2011 ending in a planning application submitted and approved over the winter of 2011/2012. To protect quality the scheme comes with detailed design code and was regularly design reviewed by the urban design led team at Cheltenham BC. It picks up on the city’s Regency heritage but applies the homes less densely, recognising its semi-rural location.


J R Paley Associates with Taylor Wimpey: Church Fields, Boston Spa, Leeds

J R Paley Associates with Taylor Wimpey: Church Fields, Boston Spa, Leeds

J R Paley Associates with Taylor Wimpey
Church Fields, Boston Spa, Leeds 

An 8 hectare site allocated by Leeds City Council in its UDP in 2006. The greenfield site is bound on north side by the River Wharfe, south side by Boston Spa high street and east flank by the spa town’s substantial church and although greenfield it is close to the town centre. The detailed planning permission is very public spirited with the land, building 170 2/3 storey 2-5 bedroom houses on 5 hectare at just under 35 dwellings per hectare and earmarking 3 hectare as a public recreation space alongside the river bank (it was previously fenced off so this is new amenity). Although it is within the conservation area there was no site brief for how to deal with this. Local consultants, JR Paley of Wakefield, had to invent a strategy, devising a respectful late Georgian/early Victorian set of details for what are standard house plans from Taylor Wimpey’s range. The first 10 of these are already built and are convincing with real stone cladding and heritage windows and a series of landscaping details reflecting local tradition. Excellently located with every possible amenity on the scheme’s doorstep, such as schools and the high street. The use of locally elevated standard plans demonstrates how Built for Life qualities are deliverable by the volume builder business model.






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