Poundbury is an urban extension to the Dorset county town of Dorchester, built according to the principles of Charles, Prince of Wales, on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. Poundbury was highly commended in the Transport for New Homes Awards 2019. Judge Jenny Raggett, who visited the development, tells us why.
One of the few properly walkable places we found, with a full diversity of community provision integrated with new homes, was Poundbury in Dorset.
Although the architectural feel of Poundbury might not be to everybody’s liking, as a greenfield urban extension it is highly unusual in its achievement of a new walkable community, much along the lines of the visions we have seen for the new ‘garden settlements’ that the government hope we will build. Poundbury is green with urban trees and parks. There is a mix of all kinds of homes including rented and affordable accommodation, with offices, cafes, pubs, small shops, a garden centre, supermarket, community facilities and school all within the actual fabric of the town. There are over 2,000 people working in Poundbury and this daytime influx of people, in addition to the 3,500 residents themselves, creates a good footfall during the day for the many eating establishments and shops close by.
We have seen so many greenfield sites that are essentially housing estates with little else apart from a primary school and perhaps a convenience store by the ring road. There is normally a very large supermarket by a roundabout out of town, with a large car park, and the business park off another large junction also comes with a large car park. The nature of destinations as much as the housing itself tell the story. Out of town retail, employment and leisure on separate parcels of land mean driving everywhere.
Poundbury is completely different in this respect. The garden centre with its cafe and the supermarket are right in town, and so is everything else. You can collect the children from the school and walk to the supermarket or other shops; you can go to one of the parks or have tea. If you work in one of the offices or factories you can enjoy a meal out at lunch or pop into the shops without jumping into the car. Walkability is a lot to do with having things to actually walk to – and in the case of Poundbury there are many.
Perhaps it helps also that walking around Poundbury is interesting compared to the other urban extensions we have seen. Different views greet the pedestrian and the varicose nature of the streets beckons you on to see what is around the corner. The number and variety of urban trees very much add to the public realm.
Many urban extensions are cut off from their parent towns so that you can’t reach them on foot or cycle along overlooked streets. In the case of Poundbury, great care has been taken to integrate the new area with its parent town Dorchester so that streets join up – an entirely different model from the roundabout and link road concept so often seen in the ‘classic’ urban extension. What this means is that the new area and its shops and its many community facilities are accessible to a wider population, not just to Poundbury residents.
What about public transport? If you come from a small town in the rural south west as I do, the bus services in and out of Poundbury seem remarkable. The number 10 bus which goes between Weymouth, Dorchester and Poundbury (at Mansell Square) runs 7 days a week at turn-up-and-go frequencies, and continues into late evening, albeit at reduced frequency. Other buses go through Poundbury itself, providing services to Dorchester (half hourly) and to Bridport and Axminster (2 hourly), though not in the evenings or on Sundays. There are two railway stations in Dorchester and if you don’t want to take the bus, there is always the option of cycling to them from Poundbury (10 minutes) or you might enjoy the half hour walk with pavements all the way.
For a greenfield urban extension, Poundbury is eminently liveable; for this it earned the high commendation of our judges.
Responsible for Poundbury:
Estate Director: Ben Murphy
Masterplanner: Léon Krier
Architects: Ben Pentreath of Ben Pentreath Ltd and George Saumarez Smith of Adam Architecture
Highways Consultant: Andrew Cameron of Andrew Cameron & Associates
Council: Dorset Council (from April 2019, previously West Dorset District Council)