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IDPartnership wins approval for ‘Innovation Village on steroids’

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County Durham councillors have approved plans drawn up by Newcastle-based architect IDPartnership for South Seaham, a high-tech, socially inclusive 1,500-home garden village

The council’s planning services committee granted outline planning consent to the proposals to develop agricultural land close to the village of Hawthorn.

IDPartnership senior partner Mark Massey said there was a commitment to make the development an ’Innovation Village on steroids’.

Charity and housing provider Home Group will build on work it is undertaking in nearby Gateshead to build a village from scratch using a mix of traditional and modular homes along with energy-efficient and smart technology.

A business innovation hub will be created at the heart of the garden village, with digital innovations to be tested including a robotic walker for elderly people, developed in Italy. 

Newcastle University’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing and the University of Northumbria’s School of Nursing will advise on wellbeing issues such as the design of inclusive home environments and the use of digital technology to reduce social isolation.

Home Group will build 750 affordable homes within South Seaham, along with 250 for market sale. Land for a further 500 houses will be sold to housebuilders with the profit subsidising construction of community facilities in the village.

The village centre will feature a primary school; a health and wellbeing community hub including a gym; a park and village square; shops; and a café.

More than half of the garden village will be managed green space, including parkland, sports facilities and play areas. The scheme will include 5km of landscaped paths and cycleways.

Work is expected to start on site next summer, with the first new homes available in early 2020 and full completion by 2031. Tolent Construction is a partner in the development.

Home Group development director Will Gardner said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to have received planning consent for what is going to be such a groundbreaking development.

Tolent chairman John Wood added: ‘The vision is to create a truly sustainable community with a mix of distinctive, high-quality housing that improves the quality of life for all residents in relation to health and technology.’

Architect’s view

With 300 homes for the over-50s forming the village hub, and land value capture delivering 50 per cent of the homes in affordable tenures, South Seaham will be delivering high quality for the many, not the few.

Developer Tolent and partner Home Group will be creating a barrier-less environment in which an intergenerational community can be created and sustained.

The village centre has already attracted interest from as far afield as the University of Trento, Italy, which would like to test its robotic walker within the market square. Other digital innovators are offering their software and hardware for inclusion and appraisal.

With 1,500 homes being constructed within a 10-year programme using modern methods of construction, the CITB is creating a National Construction Skills Academy at the site to serve the circa-300 workforce that will deliver the scheme.

Homes will be built using the data being gleaned from Home Group’s research into modern methods of construction in the nearby Innovation Village Gateshead and there is a commitment to make South Seaham an Innovation Village on Steroids.

Mark Massey, senior partner, IDPartnership  

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