Quality in Housing – the Rowntree legacy at Derwenthorpe

A not especially bright and sunny March day at Derwenthorpe

29th March 2018
Derwenthorpe is a new area of housing between Tang Hall and Osbaldwick which has been developed by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust. It describes itself as ‘attractive, affordable, eco-friendly family homes in a digitally inclusive, mixed-tenure community’. In other words, in terms of new developments in York and when considering the Rowntree legacy in terms of housing standards generally – Derwenthorpe is an example worth paying attention to in the context of homes on York Central.

Through contacting the Residents Association, we met eight residents, who showed us around, reflected on living there and were even kind enough to invite us in to their homes to see the development from the inside out.

‘A value based on other than the commercial’: motivations for moving to Derwenthorpe
The sense of community was felt to be a major reason to live there, although it has grown slowly (partly to do with the phasing and slow completion of the scheme). It was said that “People care about the place more that they would about a normal street” “People generally care – although not always about the same things”. There is a community room (in the central building which also houses the district heating boilers) but this was felt inadequate. There is a proposal for a community café but this would require the building to be extended.

The fact it was JRHT was significant for many of the people we spoke to: ‘someone we trust’, JHRT are known for ‘good thinking in terms of social issues’ and because they have ‘A value based other than the commercial’.

Many of the houses have external painted brickwork which will need upkeep to maintain appearance – this is written into covenant but is yet to be really tested.

Density is fairly high and there is overlooking, particularly from the three-storey dwellings but no-one mentioned this as problematic – “I wave to the neighbours across there if I see them”. One or two houses ended up with poor outlook (onto parking areas) but this will possibly be improved as planting matures. Views onto green space are much loved, especially where from winter gardens / balconies.

Mixed Tenure
Resident we spoke to liked the social mix and there was no resentment about home ownership being surrounded by rented/social housing. People knew and got on with neighbours from different social backgrounds and a number named this as one of the best features of the development. House size is no indicator of tenure – a number of the large 4/5 bedroom houses are rented.

Heating and Insulation

There are problems with the district heating scheme and with Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) installations (this was reduced to extract-only Mechanical Extract on later phases – “I’ve got a loft but I can’t use it as it’s so full of ductwork”). There is a retired engineer living in the scheme and he seems to be sorting it all out single-handedly. But the MVHR is good where it works – occupant with respiratory problems finds it a big improvement.

Insulation standards and general quality of construction has reduced towards later phases. One resident said “On York Central make sure you maintain quality”. There was horror at the general arrangements on site; the impression was that there were new subcontractors constantly coming in and no learning of lessons from previous completions.
Houses were generally felt to be comfortable.

Main plus points:-
1. Generous space standards with good size rooms and plenty of storage space.
2. Lifetime homes design to allow for installation of stairlift or lift, conversion of WC to wet room, enough space in bathroom to move around etc.
3. High ceilings give very light, airy feel. One residents described the houses as having ‘ a Scandinavian feel’
4. Winter garden feature in some houses gives good daylight and connection with outside while maintaining privacy
5. Houses have small extra room for study
6. They are easy to keep warm and are draught-free. Energy bills suggested as around £500-£600/yr

The bus service has not been as promised – “we were promised a half-hourly electric bus, we’ve got an hourly diesel bus” and serves Tang Hall too. Majority of households have a car and many have more than one, which results in higher density of parking than was originally designed for. There is a car club car available (Enterprise CC) but no-one seemed to know if it was ever used (I just checked – it’s got no bookings for the next week). People said residents were “encouraged” to cycle – they received a £150 grant towards a bike when they move in and houses had a “secure” cycle shed (although many people had removed/replaced these as they were very bulky and not particularly secure).

Public Spaces
One resident commented that “errands take ages because you always meet people you know”, although the streets were quiet when we visited (it was cold, though). The small public squares were little-used, although the larger open spaces were very popular. The green space and play area was completed at the start of the development, rather than being left until last.

The two ponds are used for Sustainable Urbans Drainage System (SUDS) and the most open of them has shallow planted margins to make it safe even with children around. The second is fenced off due to greater variation in water level. The system is so effective that water was pumped into it from Osbaldwick village during flooding recently. The green space has managed to retain some existing tree planting and hedging.

All residents pay a service charge based on size of house. JRHT are quite transparent in terms of how the service charge is being used – it pays for a Site Manager and will ultimate cover maintenance of the public space (while the building is still ongoing these public areas ae maintained by David Wilson Homes, the builders). Although the spaces are managed in a public way there is some community “ownership” – one resident has guerrilla-planted daffodils. There have been some issues with community self-organisation – for example, BBQs are not allowed.

Links with Tang Hall/Osbladwick
There was some tension with surrounded area – a sense that the development was not wanted – but this has been getting less and less. As one noted, ‘it had been known from the 60s this piece of land would be built on’. One idea we explored – based on ideas from last week’s public space discussions – was building facilities on the outside (rather than the inside) as a way of helping with links to Osbaldwick/Tang Hall.

Living and Working Creatively on York Central – A workshop to develop ideas and networks

Wednesday 4th April
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Book your free place
Current emerging masterplan proposals envisage a clear distinction between living and working on York Central, and much of the background discussion in the city on commercial development revolves around big name employers and A-grade office floorspace. Should we also be looking at how York Central could provide a home for new businesses, retaining talented graduates and working in partnership with our two universities to create a path way from school to entrepreneurial success? As a UNESCO City of Media Arts, should we be providing more infrastructure – built and otherwise – to develop this sector? Can York Central’s heritage as a place of innovation be brought up to date in the 21st century? This will be a workshop event for anyone with an interest in arts, business, culture and creativity, and the way in which they could bring life and economic success to York Central and its surrounding communities.

This event is jointly promoted by York@Large and My Future York.

Beyond Flying Cars – sustainable transport on York Central

Tuesday 10th April, 4pm – 6pm
National Railway Museum Gallery
Book your free ticket here

The current emerging masterplan proposals aim to “encourage sustainable transport” and show networks for the various current modes of transport – walking, cycling, busses and cars. But how will future changes – especially those in public transport – change the way we move around cities and how do cities need to respond in order to benefit from them? Can we look to successful projects elsewhere and can we overcome the cry that “York is different”. How far into the future is it wise to plan when future technologies are so uncertain?

This will be a workshop event led by York Bus Forum Chair Graham Collett and York Environment Forum Chair Phil Bixby, and will feature participation by members of York Environment Forum, bringing with them expertise in many aspects of transport and sustainability. We will aim to produce guidance on sustainable transport which will contribute to the masterplanning process.

Quality in Housing – the Rowntree legacy at Derwenthorpe

Thursday 29th March 5:45pm – 8:00pm
Derwenthorpe – meet in visitor’s car park (access from Osbaldwick Village)
Book your free place

Housing quality is a major issue in the UK today with press coverage of poorly-built developments. How do we ensure new homes built on York Central are of high quality, and indeed what does “high quality” look like? From New Earswick through to Derwenthorpe, the Rowntree name has been associated with innovation in housing and attempts to ensure good homes and to drive forward standards. This will be a guided tour of the Derwenthorpe housing development followed by a discussion of the lessons which can be learned (in a local pub), and will be a chance to talk with residents about their experience of living there. Many thanks to Derwenthorpe Residents’ Association for their help with this.

Understanding housing density with Dr Roger Pierce

2:00pm – 4:30pm Saturday 31st March
Meet at Navigation Rd / Walmgate junction, walk to The Royal Oak Goodramgate (by the scenic route)
Book your free place

Many of the #MYCQuestions to date have been about issues of housing height and density. Current proposals include between 1700 and 2500 new homes on York Central, but what will that actually look and feel like? Given the proportion of land which will be available when commercial development, infrastructure, open space and all other uses are accommodated, what sort of density will be required and what will it be like to be there? Where can we look in York for examples which might give a comparison? Where will we look to in order to say “Oh, it’ll be like….”

We’ll be led by Dr Roger Pierce, former architect, town planner, academic and city councillor, who advises York Civic Trust’s Planning Committee. We will take a walk through a variety of housing areas on our way to one of York’s historic pubs, where we will discuss what we have seen, look at how different densities could be accommodated on the York Central site, and work together to identify issues which we feel should be explored and addressed as the masterplanning process moves forward.

My York Central: Family-friendly drop in workshops at the National Railway Museum

Ideas for the future of York Central from St Barnabas Primary School students

What is your York?
26th March, 11am-1pm and 2-4pm
Drop in, York Central Exhibition
National Railway Museum
What are the most important connections for you between places? Join curator and facilitator Jade French for this family and teenager-friendly drop in workshop where we will be making an ever growing 3D map recreating the sights and networks of York.

Feels like Home
2nd April, 11am-1pm and 2-4pm Homes
Drop in, York Central Exhibition
National Railway Museum
What does ‘home’ feel like to you? What makes York feel like your home? Join curator and facilitator Jade French for this family and teenager-friendly drop in workshop where you can make your own 3D house a part of an installation that thinks about what it feels like, and should feel like, to live in York.

Getting Out More
Drop in, York Central Exhibition
National Railway Museum
10th April 11am-1pm and 2-4pm Movement
How do you travel and move around York? What makes it easy and what makes it hard? Join curator and facilitator Jade French for this family and teenager-friendly friendly drop in workshop where we will make collages about our experiences of travelling around York to go inside a type of book called a zine.

Growing a Garden City – Uxcester and York

Thursday 5th April 7:00pm – 9:00pm
National Railway Museum Mallard Suite
Book your free place

David Rudlin was the author of URBED’s blueprint for sustainable urban growth which won the prestigious Wolfson Economics Prize in 2014. Part economic manifesto and part spatial strategy the proposal showed a radical way in which the fictional city of Uxcester could grow and provide an improved environment for its citizens. He said at the time “We believe that the expansion of existing places like Uxcester to create garden cities has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting our housing needs as well as creating places that are attractive and popular, and that fulfil their economic potential.” At a time when York is considering its future – and the adoption after many decades of a Local Plan – this should be essential reading, but better still the fictitious Uxcester is in fact York, and we have David here to lead us through it and the clear thinking behind it. An illustrated talk and Q&A. There will be refreshments.

David Rudlin manages URBED (Urbanism Environment and Design) and is Chair of the Academy of Urbanism. He is a planner by training and is now a Honorary Professor at Manchester University. He was for six years the Chair of Beam in Wakefield and is also chair of the Sheffield and Nottingham Design Panels.

This event is jointly promoted by York Civic Trust and My Future York.

Climax City – Understanding Masterplanning and Urban Growth

Thursday 5th April 2:00pm – 4:30pm
Gather outside Hiscox, Stonebow, and we’ll return to National Railway Museum Mallard Suite
Book your free place

David Rudlin of URBED will participate in a guided walk to explore the development of York, followed by a talk and Q&A looking at the way cities grow. This is based on his forthcoming book Climax city: Masterplanning and the Complexity of Urban Growth which explores the ‘natural’ growth of cities and the way in which this is influenced by masterplanning. The notion is that every place has a ‘climax urbanism’, just as it has a ‘climax vegetation’ and that throughout history humans have been trying to influence this climax state in the way that they plan cities. It is something that we need to understand if we are to plan effectively today.

David Rudlin manages URBED (Urbanism Environment and Design) and is Chair of the Academy of Urbanism. He is a planner by training and is now a Honorary Professor at Manchester University. He was for six years the Chair of Beam in Wakefieldand is also chair of the Sheffield and Nottingham Design Panels.

This event is jointly promoted by York Civic Trust and My Future York.

York Central Transport and Access – Professor Tony May

7:00pm – 9:00pm, Wednesday 11th April

National Railway Museum
Book your free place

York resident Dr Tony May specialises in urban transport and has provided advice in the UK, Europe and internationally. He is the transport specialist on York Civic Trust’s Planning Committee

This event will feature an illustrated talk bringing in examples from the Vauban project in Freiburg to examine how sustainable transport can genuinely form the heart of new development, shaping it and making it a pleasant and more affordable place to live and work. We’ll discuss the current emerging masterplan, how closely this reflects the priorities set out in York’s Local Transport Plan, and how it might be further developed to make both the new development and surrounding existing communities more sustainable.

What makes a good cycle route? A Look At Your City Ride with York Cycle Campaign

Saturday 14th April 2:00pm – 4:30pm approx.
Cycle Heaven, Hospital Fields Road
Book your free ticket

The proposals for York Central – like almost every new development today – talk about “encouraging walking and cycling” and refer to “high quality cycle infrastructure”. But what does this actually mean – what makes a good cycle route and hence a good cycle ride? What can we learn from York’s existing infrastructure in order to make York Central a place where people want to cycle? To find out, we’ll be doing a guided ride led by York Cycle Campaign, exploring the roads and cycle paths of York, and ending (as all good cycle rides do) with cake and chat. We’ll look at cycling infrastructure proposals for York Central and – with the experience of our ride fresh in our minds – discuss whether it will encourage us to cycle there.

The ride is open to anyone but children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Some of the route is likely to represent less-than-ideal routes, so some confidence cycling in the vicinity of traffic is required. For those who are happier off-road we will be returning via New Walk riverside path so feel free to join us at 3:15 by the Blue Bridge for a leisurely return ride along New Walk. We’ll end the ride at Cycle Heaven on Hospital Fields Road and will gather in the cafe there to compare thoughts and ideas.

For more information on York Cycle Campaign:-

Twitter @yorkcycle
Facebook @yorkcyclecampaign