Shape East Tour and Seminar

On Thursday, I went on a Shape East tour and seminar on the Impact of Growth on our Rural Heritage. It was a very interesting day, including site visits to various housing developments in South Cambridgeshire district, illustrating some of the issues associated with creating new housing, eg the sustainability of a development, and its setting in relation to: the landscape, existing communities, local architectural styles, etc.

The main developments considered were the proposed development at Trumpington Meadows, and the new settlement at Cambourne, which currently has over 3,000 dwellings (where building continues today, and developers want to increase the total number of dwellings). In addition, a small in-fill development at Great Shelford demonstrated that relatively sensitive in-fill development can be achieved (eg through use of a small, well-chosen palette of materials, an open layout with few boundaries, informal surfacing, use of existing trees, etc).

Great Shelford - relatively sensitive in-fill development

Great Shelford – relatively sensitive in-fill development

In contrast, an in-fill development at Comberton showed the negative impacts of lack of sensitivity (poor integration in its surroundings, low sustainability, lack of character and identity, etc).

Comberton - \'anonymous\' in-fill development

Comberton – ‘anonymous’ in-fill development

The seminar was a talk on the development at Cambourne, illustrating the lessons learned about sustainable infrastructure and creating a community, and a talk by the Ecos Trust about a contemporary in-fill development (in a conservation area and incorporating a listed building), at Langport, Somerset.

The conclusions seem to be that achieving sustainable development can be difficult, and may have many pitfalls. It is clear that imagination, sensitivity and creativity are key to ensuring modern, attractive new homes which have their own identity whilst respecting their surroundings. The work of the Ecos Trust seems particularly relevant to my own aim to set-up a housing association to restore derelict dwellings in rural Ireland as sustainable social housing.

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