With a distinctly people-oriented flavour, this week's round-up of planning approvals emphasise community, leisure and landscape schemes around the country
The Commonwealth Games may have finished, but TODD Architects is celebrating a win in Birmingham with a new hotel and entertainments space in a huge at-risk renovation project. Meanwhile, HOK Architects, Buckley Gray Yeoman, and Hawkins\Brown all gain consent for different approaches to community focused housing, GT3 Architects embeds the landscape with physical activity, and in York Feilden Fowles gets permissions for a destination for rail enthusiasts.
Devonshire Grove, Cambridge
Move over Marmalade Lane and Accordia, Cambridge is set to welcome another ground-breaking housing scheme following Buckley Gray Yeoman’s win for a new neighbourhood focused on wellbeing. Devonshire Gardens will, as the name suggests, have landscape central to its design, with landscape architect LDA working on a scheme of over 120 new trees alongside a community food garden which takes up 50% of the site.
The remaining 50% comprises over 11,000m² of workspace aimed at SMEs and startups, 70 build-to-rent homes (20% at affordable rates), and a community space with a pavilion, creche, and open-plan studio space. Tipping its hat to Accordia, Devonshire Gardens is planned around active travel, providing 539 bicycle spaces and no car parking except for four electric car club and two disability spaces. The project connects to the Chisholm Trail, which when complete will provide a 26km walking and cycling route from Trumpington to St Ives, largely along a former railway line.
Speaking of this element, Doug Higgins, project director at developer Socius, says it is 'the first scheme in Cambridge to have a Cycle Heart Rating and the only major scheme in Cambridge that provides all the cycle parking conveniently at ground floor, avoiding the need to descend into basements using ramps or lifts.'
Cambridge Library of Things – a community library of objects from power tools to projectors, ice cream makers to inflatable mattresses – is also to be allocated space in the scheme which replaces a Travis Perkins store and yard. Architecturally, the eight blocks wrapping around the central greenspace are brick masses, the largest being the sawtooth-roofed commercial block along the railway line which acts as an acoustic buffer between the railway line and other buildings which stagger down in height to three-storey residential units facing Devonshire Road.
Railway Museum, York
Later in 2022 the secretary of state will make a decision on which city will be home to the new Great British Rail National HQ. York is one of six contenders for the award, which is being chosen in part – for a reason not entirely explained – by public vote. One thing which will no doubt support York’s shortlisting is the National Railway Museum, which has been in the city since 1975, subsequently growing in a somewhat disconnected fashion to accommodate its collection.
This scheme aims to bring some clarity and cohesion to the group of halls, industrial sheds, and Victorian remnants scattered across the site. Located centrally between the existing buildings, the new Central Hall is a drum that will act as the main arrival space for visitors. From here new paths will lead to existing collection spaces at ground level while a circular balcony above overlooks the new hall and frames views out towards the city and across the historic railway landscape.
Either side of the orientation drum, two open-plan spaces connect through to the existing buildings. To the east will be the new café, a large open-plan room with exposed structure offering connections to the newly landscaped Museum Square outside as well as through to the Great Hall. To the west is a new 800m² Railway Futures Gallery, a space for changing displays, not only highlighting technologies but also exploring how transport intersects with issues of ecology, urban development, and globalisation.
The new scheme will require the removal of Leeman Road, which currently bisects the site, with the new structure primarily formed of load bearing timber framing and steelwork, with external masonry walls and standing seam metal roofs. Construction is planned to start early next year with a view to opening the new Central Hall in the museum’s 50th year.
Social housing and health centre, Havering
A central courtyard sits within this scheme, a space offering security for resident families and protecting the children’s play space from three roads that edge the site. Along one long and the short side residential units sit over three floors above a ground floor for circulation, offices, and community use. A new health centre will occupy the ground and first floors of the other long side of the U-shaped building, with two floors of residential units above.
As well as two wheelchair accessible homes, there is a range of unit types offering various bed configurations as families require. In four locations it is also possible to interconnect units to house a family of up to eight people, a flexibility identified by the hostel management team to allow them to respond to specific needs as they arise.
The project is not just stacked units. It also incorporates communal and amenity spaces specifically considered to the needs of the community. A visitor breakout room enables residents to meet their visitors who for safeguarding reasons may not have access to the residential levels, and a secure reception also offers a comfortable place for meetings or other uses. As well as other functional spaces such as cycle storage and laundrette, an internal play space has a clear line of sight from the reception area, and has direct access into the courtyard.
The landscaping of the courtyard is reminiscent of Robin Hood Gardens’ strategy, though scaled down. A central mound and scattered trees provide informal and flexible play spaces overlooked by the buildings. Landscape architect B|D plans a mix of natural materials among the soft permeable scheme – playful routes with stepping logs, cobble and stepping stones connecting more open play spaces.
Physical activity hub, Bedworth
Gross internal area: 5587m²
Client: Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council
Architect: GT3 Architects
Landscape architect: Colour
Planning authority: Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council
Planning ref: 038702
A new swimming pool is the centre of a new sports space which will see the surrounding Miners’ Welfare Park transformed into a space of exercise and activity. Project architect Matt McCreith says that GT3 approached the project 'more like a community building as opposed to being a leisure centre that is only sports focused'.
To do this, the architect sought to embed the hub into the park setting, creating an approachable building that feels 'part of the park landscape' rather than sitting on it. One element of this approach is to form the building of three masses, the central section having a transparent feel with entrances on both sides so it can be used as a route through the park even for those not stopping to use the hub. One of the other two blocks is clad in timber while the other has an aluminium cladding system referencing the town’s ribbon weaving industry history.
The hub itself contains a 25m pool and smaller learning pool, as well as a sports hall and a variety of studio and fitness spaces on the first floor. Most of the planning application, however, concentrates on the external elements, with a scheme designed alongside Colour landscape architects' plan for the 89,000m² site. This envisages an 'active landscape' incorporating: a green gym; cycling tracks for learners, racers, and boarders; a stage area for performances or fitness classes; a football pitch and various other play and active uses which are designed into the topology of the site. Paths will run throughout, including a 1km loop designated for running and cycling which also forms part of the Mega Loop, a perimeter path for those counting their daily steps.
Mixed-use development, Central Methodist Hall, Birmingham
Coinciding with the Commonwealth Games is an arts festival including a free exhibition in Birmingham Museum which documents The Que, a much-loved music venue in the city’s history. As well as a rock venue where Bowie, Pulp, Massive Attack and more played, it was also a club from its inception at the height of the rave scene in 1989 through to its closure in 2017 when it was added onto the At Risk Register.
With TODD Architects’ plans granted permission by planners, in a few years it should be off that register, and find a new cultural use in the city as a mixed-use project comprising 150 hotel rooms, bars and restaurants and – continuing its cultural legacy – a 1,500 seat 'luscious' event space. Externally, the richly decorated terracotta facades will be restored, with the most noticeable change externally at the top – a new three-storey stepping-back extension replacing the existing roof. This space will be occupied by the hotel, while above the main hall the pitched roof is also set to be rebuilt to include a restaurant with city views. Ground level shops will be restored, predominantly for use by food and beverage operators.
The rescue of at-risk buildings of such scale inevitably involves compromises, and here that is the replacement of the existing curved roof with the stepped hotel extension, an act that the council’s conservation department recognises causes a degree of harm to the significance of the Central Hall. It notes, however, that the loss is offset by the retention of the main internal space without subdivision and with a planned programme of use, considered 'superior' to the many previous plans for the building which did not offer this. While the roofline change is significant, Historic England had no objections and Birmingham Civic Society 'applauds the sensitive design', and the Victorian Society is pleased with the proposals which it hopes will secure the building’s future for many generations to come.
Affordable housing, Ealing
A site comprising two parcels of land owned by Ealing Council divided by a larger plot owned by the Diocese of Westminster is set to become housing. A land swap between the two parties has made the plot viable, with land that the council was renting to an adjoining school falling into ownership of the Diocese in return for land to the east, currently occupied by school classrooms, becoming council owned. As the school is reducing its capacity it does not require all its classrooms, meaning that 92 affordable homes, delivered through Ealing’s wholly-owned housing company Broadway Living, will be able to fill the site.
Bicycle parking and space for 28 cars is at the centre of the site, enclosed by two mansion blocks and a row of mews houses and covered by a 600m² 'play deck' that provides a secure space for children. Of the residential units, 84 will be at London Affordable Rent with eight available through shared ownership, with a mix of occupation levels from one bed flats to four bed houses. The blocks are buff brick, with the architect deploying a range of techniques and bonds to add variety and texture. Balconies work to the 3.6m modular grid the whole project is designed to.
HOK has landscaped a new public park to the north of the site, connecting visually into the greenbelt. It plugs into the broader Healthy Streets approach of the scheme with outdoor gym furniture and exercise areas with a 'low budget approach' to an urban garden. This retains existing tarmac and leverages existing site conditions, low maintenance grasses and perennials in planters across the space with taller grasses and bushes planted at the site’s boundaries.