Occupying a key site in the heart of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, this later-living development successfully mediates between a sensitive conservation area and open parkland. Providing much-needed community infrastructure 23a Leyton Road occupies a key site in the town, providing 38 homes for later living together with communal facilities, community café and landscaped courtyards – all within the beautiful setting of Rothamsted Park.
The site is located in the heart of an affluent market town. Despite its location, the site had remained derelict for 14 years with six planning applications failing to unlock it. We adopted a more positive and opportunity-led approach, made possible with both good design and working closely with the community. The extra-care facility shares many of its communal functions with the wider town, providing vital social infrastructure for the existing community.
Harpenden sits within the green belt and is struggling to provide sufficient housing, particularly for the older generations. Low density developments on the periphery of the town are being considered in the local plan, and the solution for this sustainable brownfield site offers a more appropriate alternative where residents can live interdependently and contribute to the vitality of their town.
Whilst the majority of the public were supportive of the planning application, unfortunately the District Council’s planning department refused the application, and the proposals were taken to the Planning Inspectorate and heard at a public inquiry. Planning permission was granted in January 2016.
The scheme consists of 38 generous apartments at a density of 84 dwellings per hectare which represents a density increase of 170%, three times the previously consented proposals for the site.
Achieving such high density relied on the introduction of an innovative villa typology. The villa typically consists of four dual aspect apartments around a communal atrium. This allows the villas to be located relatively close to one another but staggered to define a diverse range of external spaces with clear thresholds between.
The buildings along Leyton Road are characterised by gable ends and protruding dormer windows that animate the eaves line. The geometry is further emphasised by the contrast between the plain clay tile roofs and white painted brickwork.
The form of the villas borrows heavily from the rich Arts & Crafts heritage of the town. Gables are a prominent feature and are twisted to create playful eaves lines and to reduce height on the corners. The palette of materials is traditional with plain clay tile roofs and white painted brick. We have tried to impress the value of the Arts & Crafts setting by expressing the tectonics of the structure through panelised bond patterns within a recessed brick frame. Often the framing affords an opportunity to express pattern, texture and direction to the facades. The construction setting out drawings show differing bond patterns used throughout the scheme within a consistent window condition.
“The appeal proposal provides a genuine opportunity for redevelopment of a town centre site where no other scheme has been forthcoming or implemented for 14 years. This factor amounts to a significant public gain, which alongside the high level of architecture, the scheme’s design qualities, and the scale of other public benefits described, would demonstrably and significantly outweigh the less than substantial harm caused to the significance of the conservation area.” – Appeal Decision APP/B1930/W/15/3004758
Housing Design Awards 2019 (completed): Shortlisted
Inside Housing Development Awards 2019: Winner, Best Older People’s Housing Development