A positive addition to the Green Belt

Nick Myall
Wednesday 09 Aug 2017

Mature trees, retained hospital buildings, a Chapel and a Water tower, are all incorporated into the design of this striking London Housing development

Designed by HTA, Cane Hill Phase 1 in Coulsdon, south London, celebrates the natural and historic character of a Green Belt site and improves access to surrounding countryside for the existing community to create an exemplar sustainable development for the 21st century. The project has been delivered by a volume housebuilder in close collaboration with the GLA, Croydon council and the local community. This phase of 187 homes provides a statement of intent for the quality that the whole 83ha 677-home development seeks to deliver integrating this currently derelict site with the surrounding area and strengthen links to Coulsdon town centre.

Cane Hill sits to the south of Coulsdon Town Centre and is characterised by its dramatic topography and a rich establish landscape of mature woods, stand alone trees, hedgerows, fields and footpaths. The masterplan works with these features so that the site is always the star, delivering new houses that respect and enhance their setting, while having strong connections to Coulsdon town centre to bring economic activity to the high street and historic town. Retained hospital buildings, the Chapel and Water tower, are incorporated into the design to provide heritage focal points which aid navigation and provide a memory of the site’s previous use.

A new networks of streets is laid out based on existing routes where possible. Tree groups provide a focus to terminate views, and avenues are created using banks of mature trees. Green pedestrian links provide off-road walking routes through mature woodland that connect the village green at the centre of the new neighbourhood with Coulsdon Town Centre and the railway station.

The development is organised into distinct character areas which use a different design approach tailored to the specific qualities of each part of the site.  The central ridge of mature trees forms a linear park bordered by the formal terrace of gable fronted houses, forming the Ridgeway character area, while to the east of the site on the open hillside which looks over the valley to Farthing Downs. Detached houses are arranged in gentle sweeps to follow the contours of the hillside and reduce the impact on views.  At all points the character of the existing topography, long views onto the site, and the existing trees have driven the design, and result in housing that is strongly related to its natural context.

Phase 1 is made up of houses from 2 to 3 storeys in height providing accommodation ranging from two to five bedrooms, for a diverse range of housing need.  The architecture and materials are designed to respect the character of the local area. Against the rural backdrop the homes have a contemporary feel with clean simple lines, generous windows, and brick corbelling to provide a detail at a human scale to entrances. Garages and car parks will be generally placed on plots behind the building line to minimise the impact of cars on public spaces. All homes are carefully positioned to ensure clear views out of windows and a positive relationship with the topography and with the retained mature trees on the site.

This development presents an exemplar of how high quality public sector land can be brought to the market, creating a model for similar green belt sites in or near town centre locations. It provides much-needed affordable family housing in response to local need and is designed to very high standards.

The housing is laid out to make the most of the outstanding natural quality of the site.  The aim has been to protect and enhance the mature trees and hedgerows, as well as the incredible views from the site.  Running through the centre of the site is the Ridgeway park which provides a green link from Coulsdon Town Centre to the Village Green at the centre of the development and is part of a green network that combines recreational amenity and play with enhanced wildlife corridors. Each home within the first phase benefits from a generous private garden averaging over 100 sq m.

Brief planning history

Cane Hill Phase 1 is the first part of the Cane Hill redevelopment to be delivered, and culminates a planning process which started nearly 20 years ago when the site was formally identified for redevelopment as part of Croydon’s UDP. The site is owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA). The Green Belt land went through extensive consultation leading to the hybrid application in 2014 developed by Barratt with HTA.  This gained approval for an outline application proposing 677 homes for the whole site, and a detailed application for the first 187 homes which is the subject of this submission.

Details of community consultation

Barratt were chosen to develop the site in close consultation with the local community. Due to the scale of the site a number of different residents associations were involved in the selection. The Barratt team worked closely with all resident groups to keep them informed as the design developed. There was a formal consultation event in March 2013. In addition extensive consultation was undertaken with the London Borough of Croydon to find solutions to developing this significant site.

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