More than one level to bungalows

Dominic Church, CABE senior advisor
17 September 2010

It seems difficult to believe that six years ago, residents were threatening to chain themselves to railings in protest against proposals to rehouse them in Hirst Gardens in Burnley.

Hirst Gardens, Burnley Wood, Burnley

Hirst Gardens, Burnley Wood, Burnley. Photo by Brendon Hollands Architects Ltd

The sheltered housing, completed in 2008, is one of the first schemes to be built within the Elevate East Lancashire Pathfinder programme: nearby terraces remain boarded up.

Now the 40 bright, clean-lined bungalows and the home-zone style streets are a source of local pride. The change in attitude towards the development took time, though, and was achieved through intensive resident consultation and involvement. The scheme design is nothing like the traditional ‘Coronation Street’ style stone-clad terraced housing of the area.

The scale and massing of the bungalows, designed by architects PRP, provides very effective continuity with the surrounding two storey terraces. The roofs provide a continuous ridgeline that fits in with the neighbouring roofs on the sloping site. You could even argue this design amounts to a successful reinvention of the bungalow.

Elderly residents need to spend as much time outside their homes as possible to avoid becoming lonely, and high quality open space facilitates that. The semi-private homezones are well overlooked, and small courtyards at the rear offer secure private and shared space. Residents had spent many years living as neighbours already and were given a choice about who they shared those spaces with.

The wheelchair accessible homes encourage independence. The risk of loneliness is further tackled by giving each bungalow flexible open plan: foldaway doors mean that the second bedroom can be used as extra living space or guest accommodation.

Artists worked with residents and other local people to select a colour palette that had historical and personal meaning. Doors and windows in primary colours form a cheerful contrast to the crisp white walls and reflect the optimism of the Burnley Wood housing market renewal area.

Hirst Gardens is a community involvement success story. The attractive family housing nearing completion across the road proves the optimism is spreading.

This article originally appeared in Property Week on 27 August 2010.