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Poundbury takes a pounding

The Guardian recently went on a fault finding mission  to Poundbury. In a community with thousands of people you can always find gripes if you go looking for them. Somebody mentioned that the use of gravel for footpaths looked good but was inconvenient for pushchairs. Someone else mentioned nails were rusty because they hadn't been galvanised. There were particular incidents of crime and vandalism -although overall levels are very low. Residents surveys and comments from the Poundbury Residents Association indicate overwhelmingly high satisfaction levels.

The article even had the audacity to complain of a "them and us" attitude in Poundbury - between those in social housing and those in private housing. Such an attitude may well exist; but probably less so than anywhere else in Britain. When West Dorset District Council selected the area to the west of Dorchester for development in 1987 one of the principles was to mix market and social housing. Walking around you can't tell which is which. “The important point is that social tenants are not in a ghetto," says the Prince of Wales, "but integrated with private homes, offices and factories. This helps make it a living, breathing community in which all the residents can share a sense of pride and where people are happy to live.”

The Guinness Housing Trust are responsible for the 20% of property in Poundbury that is social housing (both social rented and shared ownership.) They say it is the most successful and trouble free site they have been involved with. Their tenants are far happier there than elsewhere.

Nor is it the case that for new housing to be low cost means it needs to be ugly and modernist. Looking at various case studies a report from the Prince of Wales Foundation for the Built Environment, entitled Valuing Sustainable Urbanism, considered the matter. It concluded that "build costs need not necessarily be higher" and that "where they are they can in many cases be met out of higher revenues."


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