Looking out over the historic grounds of Blenheim Palace while planning and designing new communities is undoubtedly inspiring. But beautiful though it is, it’s not Vanburgh’s architecture or Capability Brown’s landscapes that motivate us in creating new communities fit for the twenty first century – it is the fact that the work of eighteenth century planners and architects is so enthusiastically appreciated today.
It is legacy that motivates Blenheim Strategic Partners: not looking backwards, so much as looking forwards; not nostalgia, or a desire to create a historic pastiche, but the need to deliver lasting quality. Sustainability, community and quality design are what constitute a lasting legacy.
“This is a view that is shared by the Prince’s Foundation in its excellent work at Poundbury, Nansledan and elsewhere. I’ve worked with the Prince's Foundation for over 10 years in defining, evolving and delivering on the concept of legacy. It now permeates every element of Blenheim Strategic Partners’ work – from those of us who make up the partnership to the principles and processes that we adopt.” Said Roger File, Property Director at Blenheim Strategic Partners.
Blenheim is undoubtedly an enlightening influence, as an estate which has invested in its land and neighbouring communities for centuries and continues to do so. In an approach to land promotion and development which is increasing rapidly in popularity, Blenheim Estate is directly involved in the new communities that it creates: not solely in land promotion and site allocation of development sites, nor in the planning, design and construction process, but beyond - though a retained interest in community development and stewardship.
Roger continued, “Creating communities fit for the future means addressing climate change: understanding the significant impact that construction and development can have on the natural environment and designing accordingly. Consequently, our communities feature high levels of biodiversity, utilise nature to benefit health and wellbeing, prioritise good quality local materials and labour, and ensure a real sense of community by providing an appropriate range of homes, including a significant proportion of affordable housing. At Hill Rise we will deliver every home to Passivhaus standards. There’s no pastiche architecture to be found here, but 180 modern homes designed by the award-winning architects Pollard Thomas Edwards.”
The Oxford English Dictionary provides two definitions of legacy:
· Money or property that is given to you by somebody when they die
· A situation that exists now because of events, actions, etc that took place in the past
“While iit is undoubtedly the second definition that corresponds best to our understanding of legacy, the monetary aspect is also worthy of consideration. Legacy cannot be dissociated from financial considerations but in our view this comes in the form of value, not cost. Our purchasers choose communities surrounded by nature and homes which are energy efficient because of the value that these features bring to their quality of life and that of wider society. It’s an added benefit in the case of a Passivhaus, that a significant cost saving is made over the long term through reduced fuel bills.” Said Roger.
Blenheim Strategic Partners has been encouraged to see the principles of legacy create an additional layer of value in the new communities that we have created. Our progress in developing the concept has benefited from the interest shown by organisations including the Prince's Foundation, by landowners, developers, architects and planners, and by bodies such as the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission which, referring to Park View in its report Living with Beauty, said, “This project represents housebuilding that feels far removed from the typical and shows us what can be achieved when there is complete alignment between landowner and housebuilder.”
“There is clearly a growing popular appreciation of the principles of legacy in terms of health and wellbeing, community and green living. Increasingly this is facilitated through a shift towards the landowner-led model of masterplanning that we espouse. But the planning system must evolve too. To instil longevity in a new development, attitudes must shift from landowners parting with sites for a quick fee, and from planning consultants walking way having achieved planning consent. As our work has shown, the result of all parties taking a longer view is a significantly better scheme on many levels – including the means by which they derive a greater financial return.” Roger said.
No less than 70% of the UK’s landmass is, like the Blenheim Estate, owned by the families who have farmed it for hundreds of years. To meet the urgent demand for new homes, approximately 30% of future development will take place on this land. Those landowners who wish to remain proud of their land and retain a connection to it are encouraged to visit the Blenheim Estate and see first hand how a legacy which retains ancient values while looking to the future is being created.