Lightly confused: an essay in little boxes part 13

Drivers delivering to the Wichelstowe development works may be somewhat confused when approaching from junction 16 of the M4. The last stage of their journey is along a road clearly marked as ‘Unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles’. Perhaps the houses with which Swindon’s Front Garden is to be filled will just be rather lightly constructed….
No left turn

The four lakes of West Wichel: an essay in little boxes part 10

It seems I may have been a little harsh in my criticisms of the Swindon Front Garden Action Group’s claims about the wetness of the Swindon Front Garden. Today, after a week of fairly continuous, and at times very heavy, rain, the area eventually to become West Wichel (but for the moment still called South Leaze) contained four large expanses of water. ’Tis rather unfortunate, given that the plans only include one. The access-road embankment will make a fine viewing point for the water below. Rather than seeking a developer who is

Someone who doesn’t just deal in the bricks and mortar of sustainability but someone who knows how to create sustainable communities.

I suggest Mr Bluh would be wiser to seek out a good boat builder.
The Four Lakes of West WichelThe West Wichel Lakes

Building in the past: an essay in little boxes part 9

The plans for some of the affordable housing blocks of East Wichel recently submitted look positively Victorian. Whilst some of the earlier Swindon Front Garden planning applications had that semifake-victoriana look that is becoming so familiar in the infilling of every vacant space of Old Town, these look, from the ‘street scenes’ (developers’ fantasies to you) that the developers are obliged to include with their plans, much closer to the real thing. Previous plots show a lack of scale, with steep rooves and three or four storey houses, to pack as many houses into as small a space as possible. ‘Parcel 18’ is the lucky winner of rows of victorianesque two-storey terraces.
East Wichel Victoriana
komadori suspects it is only the proximity of this plot to the M4 motorway that has prevented the developers being more greedy: taller buildings would not have been effectively protected by the ‘sound barrier’ (big mound of earth to you) that is being constructed between these houses and the motorway.

House of sticks: an essay in little boxes part 8

I’m in favour of houses being designed to be as energy efficient as possible, but I do have some concerns about the designs that feature in Kevin McCloud’s initial thoughts for his Hab Housing company’s front garden development. Both in the gallery on his company’s website and in the photographs shown at his recent event in Swindon, wood-clad buildings feature heavily.

Mr McCloud has made a comparison between Swindon and Harlow. As I’ve noted before, I have lived in a couple places where architects have experimented, of which Harlow was one. Both those places featured many, many wood-clad buildings. Those in the St Ann’s area of Nottingham were built in the early 1970s… and demolished at the turn of the millennium. The many wood-clad buildings in Harlow have lasted somewhat longer, having been build in the 1950s and 1960s, but the majority have had the wood replaced with uPVC. The few that remain in wood look decidedly tatty.

Wood may look nice when newly painted or varnished, as in the photographs that Mr McCloud uses, but it’s a high maintenance building material and that look doesn’t last. Swindon has enough problems with flawed housing designs, such as the sytem-built pre-cast reinforced concrete houses of Parks, Pinehurst and Penhill. Lets hope that an obsession with making things ‘natural’ doesn’t add to that.

(And just in case anyone is tempted to get overly sentimental about a TV personality leading a housing development, McCloud’s Hab Housing is partnered by Footstep Homes, a joint venture company backed by some fairly unabashed capitalists.)

Water fight: an essay in little boxes part 6

thenHow nice it is to see a good old fashioned claim-and-counter-claim argument between the developers of Swindon’s front garden on the one hand and the protesters on the other. From the developers there’s a new report from their consultants that’s being presented with an everything’s fine, don’t worry mate tone (though as the report’s not yet available to the public there’s no way of knowing if this is an accurate interpretation).

Research suggests the worst flooding for 1,000 years could see flood levels reach 39.5cm, but Taylor Wimpey said an extra 20cm safety margin had been included to make sure water does not enter houses, even taking unpredictable climate change into account. Wichelstowe project director David Evans said: “We were always confident that Wichelstowe had been designed to provide a robust protection against flooding and hope the result of this latest study will allay any concerns local people may have had about new homes being flooded in the future.”

nowFrom the protesters there’s a repeat of their it were all underwater, gov claim.

Frag chairman Terry King said his trip to the Front Garden site during the July floods proved otherwise. “I went down there and saw lakes where houses are to be built and roads already have been under half a metre of water, so I just don’t believe them…. To start with the developers said there was no risk of flooding. Then they decided to raise the ground, so they have already gone back on their word. I would be interested to see whether, when the houses have been built, owners will be able to insure them.”

As I’ve previously noted, I don’t believe either grouping. Like Mr King, I also went for a walk around after the heavy rain in July and the evidence I saw lies somewhere between the claims of the two sides: the houses may well be dry, but I very much doubt that the access roads will be.

Tunnel vision

It’s so comforting to read of the reasons that a group of campaigners from Wootton Bassett are opposing the plan for the western end of the southern relief road around the developments on the Swindon front garden to be near Wootton Bassett and their homes.

Lady Inchcape and campaigners against the junction fear the changes would create more traffic on local routes and congest Old Town.

So magnanimous. Concerned for the people of Swindon rather than themselves…. Except that it is a bit like suggesting that moving the western end of the M4 from Pont Abraham to Aust would lead to greater congestion in central London. It just wouldn’t be right to allow some logic to get in the way of an old fashioned nimby campaign.