Entrancing in Wolves
25 March 2010
Cross Street South, a development on the edge of Wolverhampton city centre completed in 2008, is an exemplary affordable housing scheme that will transform the surrounding area.
The brief for Cross Street South was brave and far-sighted. From the outset, Wolverhampton City Council sought a low-energy, high quality housing development. The list of development principles reads more like a wish list from Grand Designs than a local authority housing brief - from the comprehensive water strategy and the flexible living space, to the passive solar design and ‘super-insulation’.
The site, previously a car park in the Blakenhall district of the city, was owned by the council and was left unused for several years. It is surrounded by low-grade industrial units and fragments of mid-twentieth century housing estates. The Phoenix House tower block looms over the site: the last of six totems of 1960s housing which once dominated the neighbourhood.
A winner with judges and residents
Cross Street South is the type of scheme all housebuilders should aspire to. It was recently celebrated by CABE and the Home Builders Federation as one of the best new housing schemes in the country, one of seven schemes to receive a 2009 Building for Life award earlier this month. Judges praised it a ‘welcoming and liveable scheme’ and crucially, the residents love it. One tenant called it exceptional – ‘the home I’ve imagined’.
The development scored particularly highly on sustainability and street design. But there are many other reasons for its success.
Strong local authority leadership
The vision of the local authority was critical. By setting such an exacting brief and holding a design competition, the message to designers and developers was clear: we will only work with you if you share our ambition of creating a great place to live.
The housing works for the community and responds well to local need. The winners of the competition were Bromford Group, a housing association, who worked with Cole Thompson Anders architects and Integer environmental consultants. Twenty-seven two bedroom flats have been provided to address a shortage of smaller dwellings in the area. In fact, the council gave the land to Bromford Group, on the proviso that housing was provided with affordable rent for local residents.
Getting the details right
Buildings are well thought out: they work well in the site and reinstate the traditional street pattern. Quality has been achieved by very careful attention to detail of every element of the construction and specification.
The development fulfils the council’s and developer’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Key to this was getting the basics right: orientation, insulation and ventilation. This provided the platform for innovation with sustainable urban drainage, a biomass boiler and green roofs.
The design of the public realm has really supported the sense of community. The communal space is arranged around a courtyard and the allotments and eco-park bring residents together.
Cross Street South is a shining example of how a simple housing development can lift quality of life. It will act as a catalyst for wider regeneration of the area and help to boost confidence for local people, businesses and investors.
Ken Coupar, enabling officer at CABE