Today’s excursion took me across to the USA, to New England. I was looking for the new Mayflower Park Wetlands; what I found, much to my surprise, was a piece of New England vernacular in the suburbs of London, near Sutton.
Surrounded by suburban residential streets, ‘The Hamptons’ and the adjacent park are a joint venture between Thames Water and St James (now part of the Berkeley Group) on the uninspiring remnants of the old Worcester Park sewage works, creating 645 new homes all with good access to the new park and wetlands, though the shadow of electrical pylons and gasworks lurks in the background.
The New England vernacular architecture with the extensive landscaping and white picket fences designed by John Thompson and Partners will not be to everyone’s taste, but the design, detail and landscaping is of the highest quality, The main green credential is obviously the new park with its wetlands, the mounds and contours of which were created using spoil from the construction work on the site; others include sustainable urban drainage, a car club, improvements to bus, cycle and pedestrian routes, and solar and photovoltaic panels on the final phase of development – a new addition to New England vernacular architecture!
The extensively-landscaped wetland around the new lakes has become established and is now home to a wide variety of wildlife, including fish in the lakes which support a community angling club.
The new blocks of housing support a variety of ownership types including affordable housing. One of the tensions has been the service charge costs and management of what is in effect a public asset, the park and wetlands which is well described, along with lessons learnt in a report from the Berkeley Group, which provides useful lessons for anyone thinking of such a development in the future, and hopefully they will, for the result is a much more imaginative solution to creating residential communities, with a sense of place and identity, than remorseless ranks of two storey houses around cul de sacs at one end and clusters of tall tower blocks with as little public space as possible around them at the other. One thing that the recent health situation and lockdown has taught us is that planners, designers and developers need to engage in different models of development, which create a sense of place and make good use of natural landscaping to enhance wellbeing, while also contributing to zero carbon.