Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stinsford and Poundbury.

Just returned home from a friend's wedding, held at Thomas Hardy's church at Stinsford, on the outskirts of Dorchester in Dorset. Mrs D and I sat under the Thomas Hardy window during the service. The great novelist is 'part buried' alongside the path to the front door of the church. Fascinating story. When Hardy died, his family and friends wanted to conform to his wish that he should be buried at Stinsford, but his executor decided otherwise. Sydney Carlyle Cockerell insisted the body should be buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. So as a compromise, the heart was removed from Hardy's body and buried separately, in the same grave as his wife at Stinsford. Its fortunate that there weren't other legs to the family.

Spent this morning looking around Poundbury, an extension of Dorchester. Amusingly, the bus taking us from the wedding to the reception yesterday had passed a large, rather odd-looking new building, which could be viewed from the Dorchester bypass. After some discussion we decided that it was probably a new Tesco's - they often incorporate a false clock tower. Discovered today that this specially commissioned architectural masterpiece was a central feature of the Poundbury development. I hope HRH doesn't read my blog.
Poundbury really is an interesting concept. A 400 acre Duchy farm developed over a period of 25 years into a town extension, accommodating 2,200 houses together with work and leisure opportunities. The whole thing has been designed to transform HRH, The Prince of Wales' ideas as written in his 'A Vision of Britain' into reality. Its nothing less than an attempt to use design and architecture to create a new way of living. Perhaps the most interesting aspect to me was the complete absence of any signs, including traffic signs. Vehicle speeds are controlled by restricting vision be house placement, and creation of corners, plus clever narrowing of the highway at strategically important places. Wearing my CPRW hat, I thought it was terrific. Big blow to the police though, because there is no income from fines!

And now to catch up on the weekend's papers. Wonder what new disaster has befallen our doomed and dour Prime Minister Brown.


Dylan Jones-Evans said...

This is the type of concept we should be promoting in Wales, albeit on a smaller scale.

We should be focusing on developing smaller blocks of affordable sustainable housing to revitalise our villages in rural areas rather than allowing massive developments to take place in urban centres. It could save the village post-office, pub and primary school as long as the housing goes to local families.

Glyn Davies said...

D J-E - its an interesting concept, but I'm not sure how it can be exported to Wales. I don't think the Duchy use tendering as a way of selecting builders, but work up the design with local builders. Also there is a determination to mix small units of social housing amongst the 'posh' houses. Poundbury is a a living, working village/town. Key to the concept is traffic managemnt, private living space and a refusal to accept uniformity. I'm sure most planners I've talked to would be antagonistic to some aspects of the concept. I would like to go down there again and discuss the whole project with the Duchy. We should try to arrange it with Darren Millar who speaks for this sort of issue for the Assembly Conservatives sometime.