A team led by developer Urban Splash and architects Proctor & Matthews is poised to land what’s likely to become the UK’s largest modular housing scheme this century
While the appointment has yet to be officially signed off, the duo are in line to win a Homes England competition to design and build around 440 homes at Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, the largest new town since Milton Keynes.
The Urban Splash-led partnership beat rival bids lead by Countryside Properties, Hill Partnerships and L&Q in an OJEU mini competition for the 8ha housing-led regeneration scheme, which is part of the 10,000-home development’s second phase.
The AJ understands that another architect ShedKM, which has worked extensively with Urban Splash on modular homes in the past, is also likely to collaborate on the winning project.
In terms of the rival bids, it is believed that Hill was partnered with architect HTA Design and Countryside with Tate Hindle. It is unknown who the architects were on the L&Q bid.
While not all of the housing units in the scheme – known as phase 2a – are expected to be factory built, the contest’s scoring criteria also included MMC (modern methods of construction) capabilities as well as design quality.
Urban Splash and Shed KM have developed expertise in MMC with their ‘House’ brand in Manchester’s New Islington and at North Shields in Tyneside, as well as through Urban Splash’s acquisition of SIG’s modular building arm last year.
Meanwhile Proctor & Matthews, which is understood to have a masterplannning role, is already working on an under-construction modular regional office for project backer Homes England (see image bottom).
Northstowe is a sustainable new town being built on a former Army and RAF base 8km from Cambridge city centre. It was originally proposed under New Labour’s ‘eco-towns’ programme in 2007. Its first homes were occupied in 2017.
Providing the competition result is ratified, the Urban Splash team will build out at least 400 homes to the south of the first phase of development with a tenure split of 40 per cent private, 40 per cent shared equity and 20 per cent affordable rent with 60 of the affordable rent homes designated for older people. The team will also be responsible for estate management of the development for 10 years.
The Urban Splash team will also face a serious delivery challenge. The competition terms specify that it is required to develop the scheme at a minimum pace of eight completed homes a month, excluding affordable units.
An unnamed source close to the scheme told the AJ this represented a bold new approach for the government agency as it attempts to ramp up housing supply.
‘Homes England is now pursuing a new process whereby bidders are tied into delivering a particular number of units in a particular timescale,’ they said.
‘Potentially here you’d have one of the best developers and some of the best architects in the country delivering homes three times as fast as normal production rates, almost without defects.
‘If this works, it’s a game-changer.’
Phase 2a of Northstowe is covered by a design code which designates it as having a ‘dense, edge-of-town centre character’ and is earmarked to begin on site late this year or early next year.
The scheme is the second major modular development that Urban splash has landed in as many months.
At the beginning of the year, the developer and Peel exchanged on a £55 million development to deliver a new waterside residential quarter on the Northbank of the massive Wirral Waters scheme, Merseyside, featuring 347 modular homes.
The first phase of Northstowe, which includes up to 1,500 dwellings as well as a community centre and a primary school, is being built by five volume housebuilders: Bloor, Bovis, Linden Homes, Barratt and Taylor Wimpey.
Homes England declined to comment.
Proctor & Matthews’ proposed modular regional office for project backer Homes England at Northstowe