Rother a nice view

Paul Lavelle, advisor for urban design and homes at CABE
23 September 2010

A local housing association provides a coherent response to a challenging hillside site in Canklow, Rotherham.

Canklow, Rotherham.

Canklow, Rotherham. Photo by Richard Hanson.

Come gaze with me from Canklow’s brow,
On wooded hills and verdant vales:
On the sinuous Rother’s silent flow

A lot has changed since Alderman John Guest wrote these words in 1875 but, visiting Boston Park at the top of a small hill south of Rotherham, you can still see what he meant. The views towards the Don Valley are intriguing, with the story of rapid industrial growth and decline now written into the landscape.

On the way up the hill from Canklow Road is South Yorkshire Housing Association’s ambitious development of 71 new homes for rent or shared ownership. It has deservedly won awards locally and proves that, with judicious use of public funding, you can get high quality housing even in a fragile market. Designed by Cartwright Pickard, the scheme provides distinctive new family homes.

South Yorkshire Housing Association took a risk with this cleared housing site and came up with original ideas. With support from Rotherham Council, they reworked initial plans in order to respond to the local context and promote wider regeneration. It is a steep and challenging site but the simple north-south arrangement of the streets and blocks exploits the topography to the full and makes the most of the valley views.

The new homes echo the nearby traditional terraced housing, and this coherence is reinforced by the limited palette of materials and the simple patterns of door and window openings. Variety is provided by the rhythm of the saw-tooth roofline and the sparing use of coloured render. The arrangement of public space and the street furniture makes for wider and quirkier streets than those in the surrounding area. But it also works well for accommodating cars on the street in a way that is not obtrusive, means no loss of private open space and allows space for play.

This is just one piece of Canklow’s regeneration but it sets a high standard. There are other big projects in the pipeline. Boston Castle, an 18th century hunting lodge in the middle of Boston Park, has been empty for a long time but is now at the centre of a campaign for restoration, which could make it a great destination. This is an area with an interesting past and a promising future.

This article originally appeared in Property Week on 17 September 2010.