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17 & 18 MARCH 2020


Tech Meets Sustainability: The Innovation Village

Newcastle-based architecture firm IDPartnership has proposed a new, high-tech, socially inclusive, 1,500-home village in South Seaham, which could become an innovative blueprint for sustainable, inclusive garden city design in the UK

Set to be built over the next 12 years, the project emphasises community inclusiveness, according to Mark Massey, senior partner at IDPartnership.

While most volume house builders, for example, are interested in buying two, three and four bedroom houses that exclude those trying to get onto the ladder, “this project will be looking at people at the starter end of the housing market equally,” Massey says.

At the other end of the market, the elderly are also rarely catered for – a major contributing factor behind the 1.4 million chronically lonely older people that exist in England, according to the charity Age UK. Tackling this problem is another major feature of the South Seaham project.

Together with the Newcastle University-based National Innovation Centre for Ageing, the South Seaham garden village project will create supported accommodation schemes that trial a range of assistive and digital technologies to keep the elderly healthy, safe, active and happy.

“We think the location where that is most likely to happen is in the authentic centre of the village rather than out on the periphery as is so often the case,” says Massey. “A place that is brimming with life, where positive stuff is happening and which gives opportunities for all people in the village, young and old, to come together.”

Unlike garden villages in the private sector that tend to develop as much land as possible, Massey says the South Seaham project – which uses land value capture – will offer an abundance of green space.

“We are developing only half of the 200 acre site,” he says. “That means we will have 100 acres of green space with pathways, jogging tracks, play trails, outdoor school spaces, and general sitting and viewing spots. We have also got allotment spaces for outdoor activities, and a winter garden for singing, poetry, theatre and celebrating community achievements.”

The scheme has been developed using the criteria laid out by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and was influenced by the garden city movement, first initiated in the UK in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard.

Although work on South Seaham began before the UK government announced plans for a string of new garden towns and villages, Massey says it has since been submitted for consideration. “Whether or not it is accepted, I believe it will be one of the most advanced garden villages that is going to be delivered in close relation to the TCPA guidelines,” Massey says.

The scheme was given outline planning approval in late November, with building work expected to commence around the end of this year.

“I was told by my grandfather that a community is defined by how it looks after those people least able to look after themselves,” Massey says. “Our garden village is about rediscovering that sense of community responsibility, looking after people, and getting people to come together.”

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Design & Build Review