News from Lawley Village
Visionary behind Telford's sustainable new community
15th May 2013
If you were building a brand new community with more than 3,000 homes, where would you begin? The location, alignment of the streets or maybe the form of the houses?
Or would you have the creativity and imagination to take a more holistic view of the project, and ask how to make a successful new settlement with distinctive character, and what legacy should your venture leave behind?
Chris Wilson, a director of urban design at Origin 3 Planning and Urban Design in Bristol, does just that every day, and is the visionary behind the continuing development of Lawley Village in Telford, one of the UK's largest sustainable new communities.
"Understanding the context of a place is central to our urbanist approach. Each site we look at will have specific qualities that are unique to a location. We aim to appreciate which specific contextual assets may be used within a project, be it a unique landform, existing landscape, ecological features or urban form.
"Creating a local character can be informed via analysing the regional characteristics of towns and villages - understanding what makes a specific landscape, town or neighbourhood unique is often the starting point of a concept. Blending the site's environmental assets with a contemporary take on contextual form is the output," said Chris when explaining the starting point of Origin 3's approach.
And for Lawley Village that meant looking - in depth - at the striking neighbouring towns of Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Ludlow and Newport within their historic landscape; each with its own identity, but each with an overall character that lends itself to the whole of the county.
"When you start to analyse a context it is like sampling the DNA of an area. By studying the layers of settlement history, the surrounding architecture, the best parts of medieval, Victorian and Georgian properties, you can then put together the component parts that form your urban environment. If you like, looking back to inform the future."
The role of an urban designer like Chris is to take a project such as Lawley Village through from concept to delivery, a process that straddles many, many years. During that time, the architect must hang on to the original principles on which the vision was based.
And although Chris has very successfully hung on to his, he was also quick to heap praise on the various partners behind Lawley Village, namely Telford & Wrekin Council along with Lawley Developer Group, a consortium of the UK's largest house builders working in close collaboration with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
"Telford & Wrekin Council have been a huge influence," said Chris. "On a scheme of this magnitude you do need a local authority that is committed to seeing a quality legacy for the borough. But also, no one could create this development without good project management, and that is what you have here with The Lawley Developer Group, the consortium of development companies established to deliver the whole scheme and manage the day-to-day running of the Lawley Village Development works."
One of the primary innovations behind the development is the introduction of a long-term stewardship initiative which is set to become a blueprint for future developments of this scale. It involves high quality estate management, ensuring that the development is well maintained as a clean and pleasant place to live. Long Term Stewardship also involves home-owners becoming actively involved in the management of their neighbourhood and environment; this encourages residents to not only take pride in their village, but also have involvement in its future.
Although it is still early days in establishing the full management regime, as Chris said, if good management is done properly it will create a sense of ownership, and only then do you start building a social value to the project.
The Lawley Sustainable Urban Extension, as it was known then, was initially unveiled back in 2005, a £600 million brand new community which would feature a wide range of new homes, offices, restaurants, bars, shops and a school. Building work began in 2007, and as the project has evolved, the original three housing developers of Persimmon Homes, Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey have been joined in the development consortium by David Wilson Homes and Charles Church.
Chris has relished his role as lead designer on the project.
He said: "Our role has involved balancing the aspirations of the project in the reality of an economic down turn, while still provide a pioneering new settlement. We can still maintain the spirit of the vision through good design."
He enthused: "If design has any worth it has to work on more than one level. The public realm of a project like this must be rooted in a strong narrative. The history of the locality creates a unique story to tell. The landscape and the architecture come together to tell the story of the area, and that becomes the narrative of the public realm. Finding what is unique is all part of creating a distinctive scheme, something that is different from other house building schemes."
The development of Lawley Village is well on track with the focal point - Lawley Square - taking shape. Morrisons supermarket opened just before Christmas, and the brand new Marstons pub, The Grazing Cow, opened last month. Phase 1 of the housing is complete and occupied, as is a large proportion of Phase 4. Works are progressing on Phases 3 and 6 with the first occupants due in the summer.
And as each new phase appears on the horizon, so Chris and his company are brought in to evolve the project, delivering both viable housing and ensuring that the vision is not compromised.
Chris concluded: "Lawley Village is a pioneering new settlement, the result of hard work and commitment from everyone involved. We are creating much more than just bricks and mortar... we are creating a destination in which to be proud."
Lawley Village is Telford's premier new homes development. Located just two miles west of Telford town centre, it is one the largest sustainable urban residential developments of its kind in the UK, providing 3,500 homes, alongside new health, education, retail and leisure facilities.
The Lawley Village Developer Group is made up of top national housebuilders -Barratt Homes, Charles Church, David Wilson Homes, Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey. Residents are encouraged to be actively involved in decisions about the future of the village through a long-term stewardship programme delivered by Ironstone Management Services (IMS), a joint venture between Bournville Village Trust and Sanctuary Housing Association.
Walk the Lawley Way
The Lawley Way is a circular walk, of nearly a mile long, that takes in Birchfield Way, the Wrekin Way, Pepper Mill and Clips Moor, and includes crossing the new pedestrian bridge.
The walk has been created as part of the Lawley Village Developer Group's commitment to helping build a strong community in Lawley so residents can get out, enjoy the new area, get fit and meet new people.
Telford Steam Railway
Located on the western side of Telford, close to the Ironbridge Gorge, the Telford Steam Railway is a preserved railway operated by volunteers on Sundays and Bank Holidays, situated at Horsehay.
Telford Steam Railway
The Old Loco Shed, Bridge Road, Horsehay, Telford TF4 2NF
Tel: 07816 762790