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Ep 20 How do you build a Happy Community

12th July 2022

In our latest New Homes Podcast, Dom Walker goes to Houlton to find out how to build a happy community. Helping him are Urban & Civic regional director Johanne Thomas, and Redrow Group master planner Kevin Parker.

WHAT IS PLACEMAKING?

Placemaking partners good design to create developments that provide a positive and lasting effect on residents’ health, wellbeing, and happiness. Kevin says: “At Redrow we don’t just build high-quality, beautiful homes, we also strive to deliver a better way of living for our customers, and that means thinking about the whole development; the community. Four years ago we developed the ‘Redrow 8’ which are eight key placemaking principles and that was informed by what our customers want in terms of green space, destinations and the ability to walk and cycle where you want to. So, me and my team are involved from an early stage in all our design concepts and layouts.” 

Johanne agrees they have a shared vision to develop ‘quality places that people choose to live in’. Places that respond and adapt to the local area, are sustainable and have longevity. She adds: “Working with Redrow what we know is the homes are going to be beautiful, they are going to be responsive… what we have got to do is make sure that what’s beyond the front door is equally of high quality.”

DOES THE 'REDROW 8' APPLY TO ALL DEVELOPMENTS?

Yes, from our smallest developments with around 100 homes to the largest - like Plasdwr Garden City in South Wales – with around 7,000, says Kevin: “That has a series of four ‘walkable neighbourhoods’ with a school in the heart of each one, and shops in the heart of each one so people can walk to day-to-day facilities. It’s permeated by amazing green spaces and woodlands, so all of that’s on people’s doorsteps.” But those principles apply to various different scales.

At smaller developments, local centres like a café, bakery and shop have been created and, even at the smallest places, people have areas where they can sit, walk and run. For example; an ecology pond, woodland areas, an orchard or an allotment.

IS IT IMPORTANT AMENTIES ARE CREATED AS THE HOMES ARE BUILT?

Yes, from our smallest developments with around 100 homes to the largest - like Plasdwr Garden City in South Wales – with around 7,000, says Kevin: “That has a series of four ‘walkable neighbourhoods’ with a school in the heart of each one, and shops in the heart of each one so people can walk to day-to-day facilities. It’s permeated by amazing green spaces and woodlands, so all of that’s on people’s doorsteps.” But those principles apply to various different scales.

At smaller developments, local centres like a café, bakery and shop have been created and, even at the smallest places, people have areas where they can sit, walk and run. For example; an ecology pond, woodland areas, an orchard or an allotment.

HOW DO YOU CONSIDER EXISTING COMMUNITIES?

“We do extensive work in that area,” says Johanne. “Large scale developments in any area require a lot of consultation. Communities are naturally anxious about these big places that are going to be built near to them, so a lot of work goes into working with local communities, hearing about their thoughts, their visions, their anxieties. That feeds part of our early design and how we think about early infrastructure.”

Concerns often centre around school places, roads and traffic, so road links are often put in early, schools can be created before residents move in, and more, to alleviate pressures on local communities, along with fears. Kevin stresses: “Number one of our ‘Redrow 8’ is Listen to Learn. And that’s about listening to what customers want, what they want from their home, and to create a successful, happy place.”

WHAT DO PEOPLE WANT AND WHERE DOES THAT INFORMATION COME FROM?

Listening to customers, surveys, market research, and NHBC feedback, all create a big picture when it comes to what is wanted, says Kevin. Nowadays, that’s more space in the home, more garden space and more privacy, and homes are ideally detached or semi-detached with faster broadband - ‘partly because people are working from home more’ - with somewhere safe and convenient to park the car and charge electric cars.

Much of that fits it with what the government is asking of housebuilders but unfortunately, says Kevin: “Some of the emphasis on higher density places is at odds with what we are getting in terms of feedback, space, privacy.”

WHAT MAKES THE DEVELOPMENT AT HOULTON SHINE?

Around 1,000 of the eventual 6,200 homes are built and the first, most established area already has its own café and eatery, a children’s nursery, a Co-op, a community centre and a co-working space, says Johanne. “We have a primary school, a secondary school and oodles of green space around us. There’s so much already that people are really happy in this community, and we are very pleased about that.”

Kevin adds: “We are working within Urban & Civic’s vision for creating a fantastic place, delivering about 250 Redrow homes eventually. There’s a lot of crossover and alignment between our principles and what we are looking for; for our customers and what Urban & Civic deliver. Here we have our Redrow homes, we have these amazing 10-metre trees that have been put in, and together we are creating a place and that’s what it’s all about.”

 
Meet the guests
Johanne Thomas - Urban & Civic Regional Director
Johanne Thomas
Urban & Civic Regional Director
Kevin Parker - Group Master Planning Director
Kevin Parker
Group Master Planning Director

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