Putting people first, to build communities not just houses
We face a stark reality: there is a climate change and biodiversity crisis, with record events happening every year. At the same time, the unaffordability of homes makes headlines every week, with house prices hitting record levels alongside global temperatures. Doing nothing is not an option under these circumstances.
Our efforts to create new communities with minimal impact on the environment and positive benefits for existing and new communities are driven with an awareness that to deliver environmentally sustainable homes we need to create socially and economically sustainable places.
To create socially and economically sustainable places we need to listen to those that have a vested interest in the community, which is why we take a proactive approach to engage with and listen to everyone. Our ambitions are to create sustainable communities, not just sustainable homes.
Towns often feature new housing far removed from shops, commercial buildings and leisure facilities, which sit on urban fringes only accessible by car. Our proposed communities are different because they evolve from engagement and discussion with local people, so through design they can meet the needs of those living in or nearby.
We've listened to people telling us their fears of unsustainable and unattractive overdevelopment. New housing estates tacked onto existing communities are often commuter dormitories, draining existing services and increasing pressure on infrastructure. We recognise that people worry a ‘new community’ is really code for a housing estate in the countryside.
We have developed a vision to create genuinely sustainable new communities with homes of different types and tenures, new high streets for local entrepreneurs, primary schools and new public parklands serving existing and new communities. With active community engagement all of this can be delivered to the highest environmental standards, designed for post-covid working from home lifestyles, and making places that we would all want to live in.
When we set out to create a vision for a new community, we want to understand the history, the community, the landscape, travel patterns and ecology, all of which are often complex and layered. Sustainable development should enhance and provide better access to the natural environment, not destroy it. The UK is a rich landscape to be working with, giving us the opportunity to create attractive and sustainable places.
Example Community Planning Weekend: Harrington
In late October and early November 2022 the local community was invited by JTP, on behalf of Summix, to help shape the Vision for Harrington, a proposed sustainable 21st century community. There were chances to visit roadshows, give views online and participate in workshops at the Vision for Harrington Community Planning Weekend.
Public Workshops that were held:
- Dialogue Workshop - South Oxfordshire Today - what are the needs South Oxfordshire today and what are the issues and opportunities of designing and delivering a new 21st Century sustainable community?
- Young People's Workshop - A chance for young people to talk about the site and to draw ideas for the future
- Hands-on Planning Groups - Working in small, facilitated groups to consider key constraints and opportunities for the site and its relationship with the wider area
- Dialogue Workshop - Harrington Tomorrow - What does an exemplar 21st century sustainable community look and feel like, who should it serve, what are the key principles needed to shape it and how should it be managed?
Vision Report Back
Following the roadshows and workshops, the JTP-led team analysed and summarised the outcomes and drew up a Vision for Harrington. The Vision was reported back to the local community on Tuesday 15 November at Oxford Belfry Hotel, and this broadsheet summarising the Vision was handed out to the audience.
Following the Community Planning Weekend, the Vision for Harrington has informed submissions made by the Summix team to the Joint Local Plan process for South Oxfordshire District Council and the Vale of White Horse District Council. This Joint Local Plan focusses on the new homes, infrastructure, jobs and other important considerations raised by the local community needed in the future development of the area.