Polnoon – a model for housing development
I appreciate that a blog about a new housing development might not initially seem the most exciting of topics, but after my visit last week to the Polnoon housing development in East Renfrewshire, I hope as you read on you’ll be as enthused as I am about it!
As we all know, good-quality, well-planned housing contributes to strong, resilient communities which then have a positive impact on the quality of people’s lives.
In recent years though, our street planning tends to have prioritised the movement of vehicles to the detriment of the people who live there.
To counter this, we introduced Designing Places (now replaced by Scottish Planning Policy) and Designing Streets, two key design policy statements which together challenge accepted thinking on what makes good street design. By placing people above cars, we are seeking to create successful places with character and atmosphere, allowing people to develop a relationship to the place where they live.
What I saw at Polnoon is this new approach being actively put into practice. The development considers not just the actual build of the houses but the way in which the houses, and their inhabitants, connect with each other. It has taken the most advanced thinking in street planning and design to build a network of streets, lanes, courts, with a central square at its heart; to create not just another housing development, but a safe, attractive, sustainable community. Designated play areas are safe and overlooked and the trees match the native species of the village, creating a ‘green background’ and a strong connection to nature all the way through the neighbourhood.
It was also encouraging to see that affordable housing sits alongside other housing of various sizes, allowing a mix of people with different needs and lifestyles to live there. The same materials are being used throughout all of the construction, again creating a strong sense of connection between all of the houses.
I even learned what a ‘bio-retention system’ is, a design feature which Polnoon is using which involves specialist planting and a specially engineered ‘dip’ in the landscape so that plants quickly absorb extra run-off water from excessive rain.
The build is on target to being completed by 2017. My belief is that when it’s done, Polnoon will become the gold star model for other housing developments to copy. By considering the people as well as the houses, we are helping to build stronger, more resilient and supportive communities.