We started TOWN in late 2014 with one simple aim: to make places people love.
Of course, most developers and housebuilders make similar claims – but, in reality, how often do they fulfil them? How many recent development projects can you think of which people even grudgingly admire, let alone genuinely love?
You might be able to think of one or two – they’re so few and far between that they tend to win awards – but the sad fact is that in the UK the development industry has a bad name. Houses are often small, cheaply built and overpriced; and look the same everywhere (but not in the good way that, say, Edwardian terraces do). Parks, streets and outdoor spaces tend to be something of an afterthought. Schools, GPs and transport improvements arrive late, if they arrive at all.
And the industry’s defence? Well, to quote one unnamed housebuilding plc: “I know we build a lot of crap but people keep buying it, so we’ll keep building it” (which is, of course, true; but people can only choose between the alternatives they are offered).
It seems little wonder that the standard response of communities faced with development proposals tends to be one of “Not In My Back Yard!”. And, although some may be opposed to any development at all, there are plenty of people who would be more inclined to put up with new development it if it were… well, better.
But there are growing numbers of organisations in the development industry today who are trying to do things – indeed are doing things – differently. HAB, the housing developer started by Kevin McCloud, places emphasis on beautiful architecture, while creating homes that are tailored to the needs of individual customers. And ZeroC, who have helped demonstrate at Poundbury and elsewhere the value premium that can be achieved through a commitment to decent building standards and fine-grain urbanism.
For our part, we have, for much of the last ten years, worked on a number of pioneering development plans while working for Beyond Green Developments. Our plans for Beeston Park, a new community planned as an urban extension to Norwich, demonstrate how new developments can be planned from first principles as places – where people can live and work, walk and cycle and, above all, live happily, and with a small environmental footprint.
We have set up TOWN to be part of the change we see happening in the development sector today. How do we hope to do this? Well, by learning from the past: looking at the qualities of some of the best, long-established neighbourhoods – places that are genuinely cherished by those who live in them. It’s amazing how much a lot of these places have in common: proper streets, good local shops and services, nice but rarely huge green spaces, lots of repetition in building types, the tendency to be thought of as neighbourhoods are than, say, housing estates. And by applying the technology offered by the 21st century – technology that enables us, for example, to deliver warm, light and beautiful homes that can be operated on a shoestring.
We hope you’ll be part of our story. We invite you to read more about our approach and our evolving developments. And, if you’d like to know more, have a project that you think we can help with, or would like to collaborate, then please get in touch.