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Upton, Northampton, England Delivering Better Places: Visual Case Study 6


WHAT ARE CASE STUDIES Case Studies aim to set out thinking, briefing or possible forward action on a specific topic or question. They provide in-depth information and can outline ways to tackle issues. This Case Study has been prepared by A+DS. WHAT IS THIS CASE STUDY ABOUT? This case study has been informed by Delivering Better Places, a collaborative publication from The Scottish Centre for Regeneration, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland and Architecture and Design Scotland, who worked with the University of Glasgow to create a good practice guide. The guide helps public, private and community stakeholders identify good practice and improve their understanding of delivering better places. Delivering Better Places, S Gov, 2011

This case study provides a visual analysis of the Upton development, Northamptron, England presenting text from the Delivering Better Places analysis of the development alongside images which illustrate the findings. The objective of this case study is to provide a visual tool to highlight elements of successful developments from around Europe, to help inspire the delivery of better places for Scotland. The images within this case study have been selected from the Steve Tiesdell Legacy Collection, which can be accessed in full on flickr.


Site Location




Upton is a sustainable urban extension intended to demonstrate good design and development practices for housebuilders. A combination of factors in the late 1990s created a desire for exemplar residential development. These included housing demand in southeast England; concern about the quality of speculative house building product; increasing interest in environmental sustainability; influence of New Urbanism and in design codes in particular; and a new government. The south-west of Northampton provided an opportune location for such an exemplar project, particularly since the land was in public ownership. With The Prince’s Foundation and EDAW, the place promoter (English Partnerships) developed the project through two Enquiry-by-Design events, and then led development through the provision of advance infrastructure with close control of development through a design code. Upton has been particularly innovative in terms of engagement through Enquiry-by-Design charettes, the large scale use of a design code and the implementation of a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS). It also combines traditional urbanist principles with advanced sustainability principles, with all new homes achieving EcoHomes ‘Excellent’ standard. The key place delivery lessons from Upton relate to the use of a combination of instruments and actions, including: Enquiry-by-Design charettes, a masterplan, a design code, intelligent land sub-division and parcelling, innovative roads, and the provision of advance infrastructure. The Upton experience is particularly applicable to greenfield development sites in Scotland with the prospect of establishing good property and land values.


Does the place have a distinct identity? Yes – three-storey terraced housing on relatively small plots, at higher densities and with enclosed spaces and cars parked within street blocks, give the development a more urban character, which contrasts with Northampton’s standard suburban development. SUDS with swales are a signature element.


Does the place have spaces that are safe and pleasant? Yes – consistent use of street blocks with public fronts and private blocks means streets are overlooked and surveyed by ‘eyes-on-the-street’. Swales means that main streets are wider and greener, giving a pleasant appearance. The perimeter block layout establishes a clear front/ back distinction and provides doorways and windows onto the public areas.


Is the place easy to move around (especially on foot) (‘permeable’)? Yes – the consistent use of block structure makes the street pattern very legible; pavements are comfortably sized, while swales means wider streets. Neighbourhood is quite compact – through relative shortage of places/destinations worth walking to.


Does the place make visitors feel sense-of-welcome? Yes – though quiet during the day, apart from opening and closing times of the school. Neighbourhood presently lacks amenities. Central square has been laid out and public realm installed, but no development around it yet.


Will the place adapt easily to changing circumstances (‘robust’)? Houses are low-rise and could be converted to other uses. Those on main spine avenue have higher ground floors to allow for later conversion to business premises. Houses have small gardens, and therefore opportunities for extensions are limited.


Does the place make good use of scarce resources (‘sustainable’)? All housing achieves EcoHomes ‘Excellent’. Development appears quite car dependent (Northampton is also very car dependent). Bus routes/stops are clear and convenient; intensity of buses and bus usage may increase other time. Elements of mixed use development are in the pipeline.

Project Information LOCATION:

Immediately to the south-west of Northampton, in England’s south-east Midlands. Accessible by local bus services. PROJECT CONTEXT: Urban extension/greenfield. PROJECT TYPE: Growth. RATIONALE: Better practice and environmental exemplar project intended to do ‘something better’ than conventional suburban development. PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The project consists of approximately 1,350 units on a 43 ha sit (approximately 50% complete), styled as a neighbourhood rather than an estate. At Upton’s centre is a primary school; new shops and retail opportunities will be provided on the edge of the neighbourhood. Upton forms part of the larger south-west extension of Northampton. PLACE PROMOTER: English Partnerships, supported by the Prince’s Foundation and EDAW. LAND OWNERSHIP: ‘Inherited’ by English Partnerships (now HCA) from Northampton Development Corporation and Commission for New Towns. DELIVERY METHOD: Enquiry-by-Design, a masterplan and a design code were used to engineer a shift away from standard developer/road engineer development. English Partnerships acted as land developer and sold serviced plots to housebuilders – all within a co-ordinating masterplan. Housebuilders buying land parcels had to comply with the requirements of the design code. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME: Project was conceived in late 1990s, with design and approvals work being progressed in the first part of the twenty-first century. First developments were completed by 2004. Delivery is through the release of eight land parcels to developers. Land parcels are multi-block parcels and relatively large (150-300 units each). Housebuilders are building them out in phases, so development is not as coherent or joined-up as would be desired. The first two land parcels are complete; four are on site; two are currently being marketed.

Architecture and Design Scotland Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate Edinburgh EH8 8DD Level 2, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, G1 3NU T: +44 (0) 845 1 800 642 F: +44 (0) 845 1 800 643 E:

Upton Visual Case study  

A case study providing a visual analysis of an exemplar development informed by Scottish Governement publication Delivering Better Places an...

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