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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

OXLEY WOODS: OUTLINE CONTEXT APPRAISAL AND DESIGN PRINCIPLES April 2013

SUMMARY Oxley Woods is a nationally significant and internationally award-winning award winning housing estate, with a diverse and friendly community. It is widely recognised as an example of Milton Milt Keynes’ innovative approach to architecture, urban design, energy policy and environmental sustainability A small area of the original estate remains undeveloped, while two adjoining vacant sites will be marketed for development in the coming months. Residents Residents of Oxley Woods are keen to encourage the construction of similarly high quality schemes. This Thi Outline Context Appraisal is our proactive proactiv contribution to these processes. We identify here key features of the Oxley Woods estate that would have relevance releva for the consideration of the context, character and detailed design of any new schemes proposed. We then outline design principles that we believe flow from these. Planning policies at both local and national level continue to highlight the importance of good design and the need for further improvements in building performance, particularly with respect to energy efficiency, low-carbon low carbon energy and quality of life. As residents esidents of Oxley Woods we reaffirm our willingness to actively support the developmentt of new schemes that seek to advance these goals and Milton Keynes’ reputation for innovation.


O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

Contents Summary ............................................................................................................. 1 Introduction to Oxley Woods .................................................................................. 2 Rationale for this Outline Context Appraisal .............................................................. 4 Location of Oxley Woods and adjacent development sites ........................................... 5 Oxley Woods and Milton Keynes’ reputation for innovation ....................................... 10 Planning policy and Oxley Woods ........................................................................ 10 Key principles for design solutions: ............................................................ 11 Oxley Woods within the Oxley Park grid square ....................................................... 13 Continuity of the High Street character area ........................................................ 14 Site layout and vistas........................................................................................ 16 Character areas and design coherence ................................................................ 16 Key principles for design solutions: ............................................................ 17 Design features of the existing Oxley Woods estate ................................................. 18 House Types and Elevations............................................................................... 18 Roof Forms ...................................................................................................... 19 Building Heights, Scale and Massing ................................................................... 19 Building Line and Setbacks, Continuity of Frontage ............................................... 20 Materials and Colour Palette .............................................................................. 21 Windows and ventilation doors ........................................................................... 21 Front Doors ..................................................................................................... 21 External items.................................................................................................. 22 Boundary Treatments and Landscaping ............................................................... 22 Key principles for design solutions: ............................................................ 23 Appendix 1: MKC New Residential Development Design Guide .................................. 24 Appendix 2: National Planning Policy Framework ..................................................... 27 Contact Information ............................................................................................ 28

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

INTRODUCTION

TO

OXLEY WOODS

Oxley Woods is a nationally significant and internationally award-winning housing estate, located in the new Oxley Park grid square in the West of Milton Keynes. The estate was designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners (RSHP) for George Wimpey PLC. It was selected for construction as a winning entry to the national ‘Design for Manufacture’ (DfM) competition, which sought to advance the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). The estate was built on Oxley Park Site 6 – an English Partnerships / Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) site designated for the DfM competition. The 122 houses are constructed from an innovative timber panel system and clad with a mixture of white and coloured ‘Trespa’ panels. The two and three storey homes each have flat and mono pitched roofs and include an ‘Ecohat’ for ventilation. High standards of building performance were achieved in respect to environmental impacts, energy usage, and liveability. As a consequence, Oxley Woods has been recognised as a continuation of Milton Keynes’ strong reputation for innovation in architecture, urban planning and building standards. The distinctive contemporary design has won multiple national and international awards, including the prestigious Manser Medal.1 The estate has received over 120 visits from international delegations and featured on BBC radio and TV. A strong community has developed, with residents from a wide diversity of backgrounds taking pride in the distinctive neighbourhood. Over recent years, residents have organised community activities including annual ‘Big Lunch’ street parties, picnics in the park, a fireworks evening and the group servicing of ecohats. The community has its own online forum2 and regular newsletters. Residents have also taken an active role in providing tours of their homes to potential purchasers and other visitors – including architects, bankers, politicians and project developers. Residents highlight how there is a positive sense of light and space within homes that increases quality of life. This is matched by a similarly successful approach to site layout that allows clear lines of sight while maintaining privacy, giving cohesion to the site as a whole.

1 2

See See

http://www.architecture.com/NewsAndPress/News/AwardsNews/Press/2008/OxleyWoodsWinsTheManserMedal.aspx http://oxleywoodsliving.co.uk/

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

RATIONALE

FOR THIS

OUTLINE CONTEXT APPRAISAL

122 homes have been constructed at Oxley Woods, of a total of 145 originally intended for the estate. At present, two small land parcels from the original Oxley Woods site remain undeveloped. Following the merger of George Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow to form Taylor Wimpey in 2007, the developer decided to pursue alternative designs for the completion of the estate.3 A planning application was subsequently submitted for the proposed construction of 26 homes to be built using traditional construction methods. This application was unanimously refused planning permission in March 2012 by Milton Keynes Partnership, following a similarly unanimous vote by Milton Keynes Council Development Control Committee. Residents of Oxley Woods had submitted detailed comments and over 40 letters of opposition to the proposed scheme. Subsequently, in April 2012, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) adopted a New Residential Development Design Guide as a Supplementary Planning Document. The guide underlines the importance of effective context appraisal to inform the design of new residential developments, both for new estates and infill sites. MKC officials therefore suggested to Taylor Wimpey that a full site context appraisal should be carried out (and that residents should be consulted on key design principles), ahead of any fresh design work being undertaken. Unfortunately this approach has not been pursued by Taylor Wimpey, and a revised planning application is due to be submitted to MKC 4 in spring 2013. 5 Residents of Oxley Woods were disappointed to not have had the opportunity to provide early constructive input to this process. Additionally, in summer 2013 the HCA intends to begin marketing Oxley Park Sites 4 and 5 for sale. Site 5 lies alongside Oxley Woods on the other side of the linear park. Site 4 has additional relevance for Oxley Woods as it sits adjacent to the entrance to the estate, directly abuts existing Oxley Woods homes, and will continue two existing street scenes. HCA intends to provide initial guidance to potential developers that can help secure an effective design solution, and has already sought input from residents of Oxley Woods. This outline context appraisal has therefore been compiled by a group of residents of Oxley Woods as a positive contribution to the consideration of 3

We note that HCA gave approval for a revision to the permitted scheme on the basis that the inclusion of modern methods of construction would be maintained. 4

MKC is now the appropriate planning authority, following the transfer of powers from MKP.

5

We understand that this submission will be for a full planning application, without any pre-application discussions having taken place with officials. Given the previous refusal of planning permission, the adoption of updated planning guidance, and a change in planning authority, we are puzzled by this approach on the part of the developer.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES design solutions for the remainder of the Oxley Woods estate and the adjacent vacant sites. The approach advocated in the MKC design guide has been followed in that we consider the context of the Oxley Woods estate from the city level down to specific design features.6 However we do not claim that this is a full context appraisal. Instead we have concentrated here on identifying key elements of the existing site design and layout that we believe should inform any comprehensive developer-led context appraisal(s) and the subsequent consideration of any proposals for the completion of Site 6 and adjoining sites. Residents will of course be pleased to provide further input to any specific schemes proposed. Residents are keen to see a high quality design solution in place for the completion (and potential expansion) of Oxley Woods. While our preference remains for Site 6 to be completed with the original RSHP designs (or a variation of them), we would be willing and proactive participants in support of the development of alternative innovative schemes.

LOCATION

OF

OXLEY WOODS

AND ADJACENT DEVELOPMENT SITES

FIGURE 1: AERIAL VIEW OF OXLEY PARK, MILTON KEYNES

Oxley Park is located on the West of Milton Keynes, with the edge of the estate giving on to open countryside. The majority of the grid square is now under development, with just two vacant sites remaining. A mature hedgerow running through the estate marks the boundary of land ownership between HCA (Oxley Park East) and Westbury Homes (Oxley Park West).

6

Appendix 1 below further identifies specific elements of the MKC design guide that we believe have relevance for consideration of Oxley Woods and its surroundings.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES FIGURE 2: SITE DIVISIONS IN OXLEY PARK EAST

Source: Oxley Park East Design Codes, p120

‘Phase 2’ refers to the original intended phasing of construction in Oxley Park East from South to North.

The mature hedgerow to the West of Site 6 marks the boundary with Oxley Park West.

FIGURE 3: AERIAL VIEW OF SITE 6, AND THE VACANT AREAS OF SITES 4 AND 5

Site 4 lies at the entrance to Oxley Park from V2 Tattenhoe Street. It contains the land in front of the existing Ash Pole Spinney and extends to meet the existing Oxley Woods homes in Site 6. The linear park lies between Site 6 and the vacant Site 5. The two remaining undeveloped land parcels of Site 6 are visible to the South of Milland Way and to the North of the linear park (as highlighted).

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES FIGURE 4: OXLEY PARK EAST CHARACTER AREAS

Source: Oxley Park East Design Codes, p26. Site 4 lies almost entirely within the ‘Oxley High Street’ character area, with potentially a handful of plots within ‘The Parks’ character area. Site 5 lies within ‘The Parks’. Site 6 (Oxley Woods) contains both of these character areas, together with the additional ‘Oxley Wood’ character area. The remaining undeveloped land parcels of Site 6 span both ‘Oxley High Street’ and ‘The Parks’.

Figure 5 below provides an overview of the layout of the original permitted scheme for Oxley Woods. The two remaining undeveloped land parcels are located in the bottom left of this figure, and were intended to contain 23 homes. FIGURE 5: THE ORIGINAL PERMITTED SCHEME FOR OXLEY WOODS, AS DESIGNED BY RSHP

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES C LOSE PROXIMITY OF S ITE 5, O XLEY W OODS , AND S ITE 4

Linear Park

|

Site 5

|

Linear Park

|

Existing Oxley Woods homes |

Site 4

S ITE 4 RELATIONSHIP TO EXISTING O XLEY W OODS HOMES

Site 4 abuts three existing frontages of the Oxley Woods estate. Detached homes to left (Murphy Road) lie in ‘The Parks’ character area. The terraced homes in middle and right (Holden Avenue) lie in ‘Oxley High Street’ character area, which joins with V2 Tattenhoe Street.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES S ITE 4 CONTINUES TO MEET A SH P OLE S PINNEY

Development on Site 4 will link the existing Oxley Woods street scene back towards the V2. It would also include facing properties on either side of the connector street. This can be seen branching left to reach Sites 2 and 3 (already under construction).

U NDEVELOPED LAND PARCELS OF O XLEY W OODS (S ITE 6)

View from Linear Park towards Milland Way, illustrating position of remaining undeveloped land parcels within Oxley Woods boundary.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

OXLEY WOODS

AND

MILTON KEYNES’

REPUTATION FOR INNOVATION

The existing Oxley Woods estate is widely recognised as continuing Milton Keynes’ reputation for innovation in architecture, urban design, energy policy and environmental sustainability. Oxley Woods is featured prominently in the MKC Core Strategy, which highlights it as an exception to recent residential developments in Milton Keynes which lack local distinctiveness. In positive contrast, Oxley Woods is seen as adding to the architectural creativity and innovation that was evident in many early MK estates (2.31). Oxley Woods was developed as one of ten sites across England under the Design for Manufacture competition, which sought to accelerate innovation in construction methods while improving building performance and reducing costs. The distinctive exterior design of the existing Oxley Woods homes therefore reflects the panellised construction methods used. The existing homes at Oxley Woods achieved a front-running ‘Very Good’ rating under the Ecohomes scheme in place at the time of project development, a Gold Standard under Building for Life, and Lifetime Homes standards for accessibility and inclusivity. The strong environmental performance and energy efficient construction methods were reflected in the marketing of the site,7 further reinforcing links to Milton Keynes’ continuing aspirations to be a leader in this field. As a consequence, Oxley Woods regularly features in photographic and artistic representations of contemporary Milton Keynes.

PLANNING

POLICY AND

OXLEY WOODS

MKC planning policy highlights the continued importance of innovation in design and architecture. These are identified as key elements of the existing character of Milton Keynes and as unique selling points that will help to position Milton Keynes as one of the top ten cities on the national stage.8 MKC Core Strategy Policy 13 on ‘Ensuring High Quality, Well Designed Places’ highlights this importance in respect to both character and design: Character of Place All new development must be of high design quality in terms of layout, form and appearance, and make a positive contribution to the character of the area in which it is located. All new development must be based on a thorough site appraisal and be sensitive to its context.

7

The original Oxley Woods marketing material accurately proclaimed it to be “a truly innovative and outstanding development of sustainable homes combining comfort and character with an environmentally friendly lifestyle.” 8

As highlighted in the proposed MK Core Strategy.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES Design of Place To ensure high design quality, all new developments should: [inter alia] Provide a choice of contemporary, innovative, exemplar architecture that reflects Milton Keynes’ reputation as an ambitious, forward thinking, innovative 21st Century city Integrate energy efficiency and solar performance in the layout and orientation of buildings and neighbourhoods

Core Strategy Policy 14 on ‘Sustainable Construction’ likewise notes that “Milton Keynes has a history of promoting leading edge, energy efficient buildings” and seeks to extend this through setting high standards for new development including the integration of renewable energy and sustainable design to help tackle climate change. Similarly, the New Residential Development Design Guide explicitly mentions the existing Oxley Woods estate as a recent exemplar of this continued leadership in innovation. Furthermore, the design guide states in its Design Aspirations / Vision (p25) that: The requirement for improved sustainability standards should be exploited and seen as a positive way of influencing the character of a development with respect to layout, landscaping and detailed design appearance.

We believe that the success of the existing Oxley Woods estate in meeting this challenge presents an ideal opportunity for any future schemes to continue this innovative approach – for example by seeking to achieve higher levels of building performance, such as levels 5 or 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes or full Zero Carbon Home status. Achievement of these levels of building performance requires close attention to the use of materials and further favours the use of modern methods of construction. Such an approach would be welcomed by residents of Oxley Woods. Given the distinctive nature of the existing estate (and its national and international reputation), it would be appropriate for any new developments to seek to maintain and advance its innovative approach to improved building performance. K EY PRINCIPLES FOR DESIGN SOLUTIONS : •

Innovative in design and layout.

Use of modern methods of construction.

Front-running building performance on energy efficiency, environmental impact and liveability.

Commitment to delivering sustainable construction, including through the integration of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.

These elements have all been integral to the success of the existing Oxley Woods estate, and create a clear link to the broader leadership aspirations of

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES Milton Keynes on the national and international stage. They are also supported by the government’s intentions for planning policy (as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework),9 localism agenda, and Zero Carbon Homes. Additionally, we would highlight that competitor cities such as Peterborough,10 Bristol 11 and Brighton 12 have already seen the construction of significant Zero Carbon developments, including via the HCA’s Carbon Challenge.13 The existence of Oxley Woods and the opportunities available for its completion (and expansion into adjacent sites) provides a focal point for additional efforts to recover Milton Keynes’ leadership in supporting innovative and energy efficient housing developments.

9

Appendix 2 below provides further details of relevant aspects of the NPPF.

10

See http://www.morrisvista.co.uk/

11

See http://www.hanhamhall.co.uk/site/web/home

12

See http://www.onebrighton.co.uk/index.aspx

13

See http://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/ourwork/carbon-challenge

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

OXLEY WOODS

WITHIN THE

OXLEY PARK

GRID SQUARE

The Oxley Park Development Framework supplementary planning guidance set out a vision for the development of the new grid square (2.0, p15): The development of Oxley Park provides an opportunity to create a new, highly attractive community, on the western edge of Milton Keynes. The key design aims and principles for Oxley Park are: • to promote the objectives of sustainable development through the layout and design of development; • to create an attractive, high quality development; • to create a place for people with a strong sense of character and identity...

Additionally, the Development Framework further encouraged developers to come forward with innovative proposals that would deliver high quality designs: Detailed design should adopt building techniques and material sources that allow for greater sustainability. The concepts of 'experimentation', 'innovation' and 'best practice', will allow for an increasingly progressive approach to design and development. Greater energy efficiency and reduced depletion of finite resources will be central to the development, achieved through the exploitation of the best modern technology such as modular construction methods. (3.21, p23) Designers and developers should consider the role that their particular proposal will play in improving legibility within Oxley Park. They should also seek to create, identify and maximise opportunities for landmark buildings, views and vistas and focal points. (3.7, p21)

These requirements were further supported in the specific guidance set out for Site 6 under the DfM competition. We believe that the existing Oxley Woods estate has clearly achieved these aims, and should be recognised as playing an important role in the Oxley Park locality. Standing on higher ground along the northern edge of the grid square the development provides a stunning backdrop – particularly from the linear park that runs along the southern boundary of Oxley Woods. Similarly the Oxley Woods homes are visible from the neighbouring Westcroft grid square and Childs Way (H6). In this section we consider how any future schemes can maintain and enhance the legibility of Oxley Woods and the character and identity of the grid square as a whole.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

CONTINUITY

OF THE

HIGH STREET

CHARACTER AREA

On entering Oxley Park from Tattenhoe Street (V2), the currently vacant land of Site 4 lies to the left. At present, Oxley Woods provides the first built element, situated as it is on the main route or ‘High Street’ through the grid square. Holden Avenue has matching RSHP houses on both sides. This will be the immediate design context for any development on Site 4 (as indicated by the pink hatched area in Figure 6 below), which will need to provide a coherent continuation of the street scene back towards the entrance to Oxley Park from the V2. The existing Murphy Road will likewise be continued into Site 4 alongside the linear park. FIGURE 6: ‘HIGH STREET’ CHARACTER AREA ZONES FOR SITES 6 AND 4

Source: Oxley Park East Design Codes, p34

Current entrance to Oxley Woods. Site 4 includes a small land parcel to the right of the above image, located between the existing building and redway.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES Moving along the ‘High Street’ (now Milland Way) there is a view of the Linear Park to the left with terraced RSHP houses on the right, as indicated by the green section in the centre of Figure 6.

View along Milland Way. Currently undeveloped land parcels lie at centre of image.

The final section of Milland Way has RSHP designed houses lining the northern side. It was originally intended to have RHSP houses facing on the southern side as well, reinforcing the entrance from the western gateway into Oxley Woods from the other direction. This is the immediate design context for any development proposed for the remaining areas of Site 6, as indicated by the orange colouring on the left of Figure 6.

View of existing homes on Milland Way, facing the first of the remaining two vacant land parcels belonging to Site 6.

The existing retained hedgerow defines the break point between Oxley Park East and Oxley Park West, as indicated by the ‘Green Threshold’ on the left hand edge of Figure 6. This clearly reinforces the need for a design solution for the remainder of Site 6 that engages with the existing Oxley Woods estate, while providing an appropriate gateway for the continuation of the High Street into Oxley Park West.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

SITE

LAYOUT AND VISTAS

Any schemes proposed for the remainder of Site 6 or for Site 4 and (to a lesser extent) Site 5 will need to consider how to relate to existing vistas and sight lines into the Oxley Woods estate. For example, the pair of Type H houses (plots 9 and 10) on Swanson Drive at the top of Welles Lane provides an excellent vista when viewed from Milland Way, framed by the houses to either side of Welles Lane. Any scheme for the remainder of Site 6 should therefore give thought to the provision of a suitably matching vista when viewed from the other direction, which at present overlooks an empty land parcel. Similarly, the pair of Type H houses (plots 110 and 111) on Milland Way provides the same focal point when looking up the road that enters Oxley Woods from the south (and which divides the two remaining undeveloped land parcels of Site 6). The originally intended RSHP Type K houses (plots 123 and 145) were placed to provide a strong gateway to the southern entrance to Oxley Woods through the Linear Park. Matching house types beyond these plots were intended to reinforce this gateway.

CHARACTER

AREAS AND DESIGN COHERENCE

The existing homes at Oxley Woods span three different character areas of the Oxley Park East design codes (‘Oxley High Street’, ‘The Parks’, and ‘Oxley Wood’). These are distinguished by alterations to the densities and placement of the individual properties, while maintaining the overall legibility of the estate. For example, the Oxley High Street character area (Holden Avenue and Milland Way) uses terraces and linked properties to provide higher densities and strong continuity of frontage (discussed further below). Out of 56 units in total, there

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES are only two sets of semidetached properties and three sets of three-building terraces, with all other homes in longer terrace combinations.14 Other properties of the same types and size can be found in both ‘The Parks’ and ‘Oxley Wood’ character areas, but are instead placed as semi- or fully detached properties to enable reduced densities. For example, three such properties in Murphy Road are oriented overlooking the linear park to provide the desired sense of ownership and surveillance foreseen in the design codes. Figure 5 above (p7) illustrates how the original RSHP houses proposed for the southern edge of the remaining part of the site bordering the Linear Park were therefore intended to be identical to those used elsewhere in Oxley Woods. However a wider spacing and informal build line were used in accordance with the requirements for ‘The Parks’ character area. K EY PRINCIPLES FOR DESIGN SOLUTIONS : •

A holistic design across the the site(s) that addresses the immediate context of Oxley Woods and the linear park through differences in density and massing, not via differing building materials and elevational treatments.

Continuity of the High Street character area between Site 4 and Site 6 (and across Milland Way within Site 6), particularly with respect to built form, massing, density, and continuity of frontage.

Appropriate gateway buildings / alignment of built forms to delineate thresholds.

Integration of vistas between the existing Oxley Woods estate and the remainder of Site 6, including via appropriate framing buildings on the connector street into the south of Site 6.

Use of variation in alignment, positioning and densities of houses to enable buildings of similar size / design to be effectively deployed in different character areas as a means of ensuring coherence and legibility across schemes.

Appropriate treatment of plots overlooking linear park, as per existing Oxley Woods homes and ‘The Parks’ character area, through massing and density.

14

We note that the original RSHP designs for the remaining land parcels proposed a departure from this use of longer terraces due to the need to encompass greater on-plot parking provision. However the original RSHP designs proposed to use 5 double-fronted detached homes and 3 sets of semi-detached properties to provide a continuation of the building line along the southern side of the Oxley High Street character area.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

DESIGN

FEATURES OF THE EXISTING

OXLEY WOODS

ESTATE

The MKC Residential Development Design Guide provides guidance on key areas that should be considered prior to the development of proposals. Subsequent to consideration of the context and layout, it sets out key questions relevant to the detailing of designs:15 Detailing the Place • Have elements including setbacks, continuity of frontage, boundary treatments, privacy distances and the requirement for buildings to turn corners been considered? • Has the detailed design appearance particularly regarding materials, windows and roofs been carefully considered with respect to the context? • Does the detailed design appearance help contribute to the character and identity for the development? • Has the need for energy efficient buildings helped to drive the design and appearance of the building? • Has the requirement for the provision of services such as bin storage been integrated into the layout?

In an attempt to provide useful input that would assist in these questions being answered more fully for any new intended scheme, the following section identifies key features of the existing Oxley Woods design and layout. We believe that these would be important considerations in any developer-led assessment of local context and the subsequent identification of options for detailed design development.

HOUSE TYPES

AND

ELEVATIONS

The Oxley Woods estate consists of a range of two and three storey, terraced, semi-detached and detached house types. These house types are all part of a design ‘family’, closely related in plan form and elevational treatment. All the house types have a Service Zone containing front entrance, staircase, utility room and bathrooms. The Living Zones, consisting of living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, are located to one or both sides of the Service Zone depending on the size of the house. The Service Zones are recessed or project beyond the Living Zones, depending on the house type, with a flat roof, ‘ecohat’ ventilation system and integrated roof light. Thus the elevations reflect the arrangement of rooms within the house, as illustrated in Figure 7 below.

15

MKC New Residential Development Design Guide, p 110

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES FIGURE 7 - FAMILY OF HOUSE TYPES DESIGNED BY RSHP FOR OXLEY WOODS

Source: Oxley Woods marketing materials – key for plan of estate (see Figure 5 above).

Note: Housing Association properties do not differ in design and layout from other house types, but were coloured grey on original plan to indicate that they were not for sale. Typically, Housing Association properties at Oxley Woods are Types A, C, G plus the maisonettes located on Holden Avenue.

The houses are constructed from pre-fabricated structural timber panels with integral insulation. The panels are faced with a rain-screen cladding consisting of smooth-faced white and coloured Trespa panels. The shapes and sizes of the Trespa cladding reflect the shapes and sizes of the structural panels, providing a visual cue to construction methods. The exterior panels on the Service Zones are always a different colour from the panels on the Living Zones, again reflecting and reinforcing the arrangement of the rooms within the house. Houses are typically two-tone in colour, with the deeper colour on the recessed service zone to add depth to the street scene.

ROOF FORMS The roofs are flat over the Service Zones and mono-pitched over the Living Zones. The mono-pitched roofs slope from side to side or from front to back, depending on plot orientation, enabling the inclusion of additional high level windows to maximise solar gain. The roof gutters are concealed behind the roof parapet. The single downpipe is recessed into the rear elevation of the Service Zone. The roofing material is a single ply synthetic polymer membrane, which allows for a shallower pitch to be used than is typically possible with traditional construction methods.

BUILDING HEIGHTS, SCALE

AND

MASSING

As a consequence of this consistent treatment of the core elements across house types and differing building footprints there is a coherent approach to estate layout and design integrity. As noted above, this has enabled different densities 19


O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES to be constructed for different character areas, while using the same set of house types. The use of a membrane roof covering allows a lower roof pitch than can be achieved using roof tiles. Additionally, only the Living Zones have a mono-pitch roof, with the Service Zones having a flat roof. In other areas of Oxley Park developers have used mono-pitched roofs, with traditional roof tiles and at higher pitches, across the full width of the house. In the existing Oxley Woods houses the panelised construction provides external walls which are only 230mm thick overall. This results in a light, refined external appearance for both overall building width and the depth of window and door recesses. Traditional masonry construction, in which external walls providing minimum thermal performance need to be at least 300mm thick, results in wider frontages and a bulkier appearance. Bulky masonry construction and wide, high pitched roofs should be avoided in the remaining areas of Site 6 or areas of Site 4 abutting existing Oxley Woods homes, as this would result in a comparatively overbearing street scene and increased loss of light.

BUILDING LINE

AND

SETBACKS, CONTINUITY

OF

FRONTAGE

Throughout the existing Oxley Woods estate a consistent small set back from the highway is used. Houses face onto the public highway to provide continuity of frontage, with corner plots typically also having windows on side elevations. Houses have been placed so as to provide a continuous building line along street scenes. This is the case both within the straight street formations in the ‘Oxley Wood’ character area and the curved formations along the ‘Oxley High Street’ character area. As noted above, the plots proposed for the remaining undeveloped land parcels in the original RSHP design would have maintained this approach through the use of wide-frontage and semi-detached properties. These would have been aligned so as to provide the appearance of a continuous build line to match the facing terraced properties. A similar approach may also be required for some parts of Site 4 given the small size of some of the individual land parcels and revised planning requirements for on plot car parking.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

MATERIALS

AND

COLOUR PALETTE

The Trespa cladding panels provide clean, crisp facades, which reflect honestly the underlying structural timber panel construction. They are therefore an integral part of the design of the existing homes at Oxley Woods, and a key element to be considered when appraising street scenes. Aside from windows and doors, no other external material is used on elevations. Roofing materials are rarely visible from street level (and again are of a single material). MKP planning officials worked closely with the original architects and developers to agree a limited palette of colours for use across the estate. The number of panel colours on any one house is generally limited to two and the panels on the Service Zones are a different colour from the panels on the Living Zones. Panel colours are predominantly white, light grey and cream with occasional contrasting shades of dark grey, brown and red. Front doors and window frames are predominantly dark grey or dark brown with some tan. This set of colours has further helped to give coherence and legibility to the existing Oxley Woods estate as a whole, while enabling clear identification of individual properties. Any alternative designs for either Site 6 or Site 4 would need to carefully consider the selection of external materials and associated colour palettes. The success of the existing ‘family’ of building types would strongly suggest that any new schemes should use a consistent material(s) selection across building types and character areas.

WINDOWS

AND VENTILATION DOORS

Large undivided fixed pane windows provide daylight to the Living Zones. Corner windows provide surveillance to front doors and streets. Small, insulated doors beside the windows in the Living Zones provide ventilation and fire escape. Three storey houses have floor to ceiling fixed pane windows on landings in the Service Zone. Some house types have glazed doors giving access to walk on or Juliet type balconies. The balconies do not project beyond the face of the building – all house styles have a crisp ‘ground to sky’ elevation. The use of large windows further adds to the passive solar gain capacity of the existing homes, while skylights provide additional natural light above stairwells. The large window sizes on existing homes would need to be reflected in the choice of windows for any new adjacent schemes. Window location and orientation would also need to be considered to avoid overlooking.

FRONT DOORS Front doors are flush with a paint or metal finish in dark grey or brown to match window treatments. Doors are extra wide to provide disabled access and are as

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES high as the internal floor to ceiling height. All front and rear entrances are accessible at ground level without any steps. This forms part of the successful achievement of the Lifetime Homes and Building for Life standards, which should also be pursued in any new schemes.

EXTERNAL

ITEMS

The existing homes at Oxley Woods are noted for their crisp contemporary design. The use of Trespa as the sole exterior material is accompanied by an absence of distracting details or materials – for example there are no visible bargeboards, gutters, drainpipes, external wires, or meter cupboards. Balcony frontages and doors to meter cupboards are all faced in Trespa panels matching the surrounding panels. Door canopies are constructed from Trespa panelling and house an external light. Houses with front doors under a first floor balcony have a wall mounted external light with plain square diffuser. TV aerials and satellite dishes are all connected via a single bracket located to the rear of each property. Such details are often overlooked in the development of standard housing designs, but would need to be carefully considered in any schemes for Oxley Park Sites 6 and 4 to maintain coherence in the street scene.

BOUNDARY TREATMENTS

AND

LANDSCAPING

Existing properties at Oxley Woods have wooden fences and gates supplemented by ‘live planting’ fences on key elevations to provide softer boundary treatments, particularly for prominent boundaries addressing the public realm. These green boundaries provide a complementary contrast to the trespa panels, which would not be achieved through the use of brick walls. Source: MKC Residential Development Design Guide

The layout of the existing Oxley Woods estate has also maintained existing trees and hedges, supplementing these with additional planting to create areas of green space within the highway. This ‘urban square’ format could potentially be replicated in any new schemes, while a similar approach to boundary treatments would help tie existing and new developments together.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES K EY PRINCIPLES FOR DESIGN SOLUTIONS : •

A family of related house types with a consistent elevational approach, to ensure coherence and legibility across street scenes and sites.

Frontage widths, building footprints and roof heights similar to the existing Oxley Woods houses.

Flat and mono-pitched roofs consistently deployed across house types to aid massing and avoid overbearing and loss of light.

A consistent, simple elevational treatment should be deployed across all house types, using durable and easy to maintain material(s).

An appropriate colour palette should be developed, with variations used to differentiate plots and / or zones of individual buildings.

Careful detailing of roof edges, gutters, downpipes, meter cupboards, balconies and external lights.

Landscaping and boundary treatments that integrate with those of the existing Oxley Woods estate.

FIGURE 8 – KEY FEATURES OF THE MILLAND WAY STREET SCENE

The elevations of houses along Milland Way illustrate the following key features: •

A family of related house types with a consistent elevational treatment.

The Trespa cladding panels provide clean, crisp facades, which reflect honestly the underlying structural timber panel construction.

The Service Zones and Living Zones have different coloured cladding panels to emphasise the arrangement of the accommodation. Service Zones have flat roofs, Living Zones have mono-pitched roofs.

Simple fixed pane windows with adjacent ventilator doors for Living Zones. Corner windows provide surveillance to front doors and streets. Some three-storey houses have floor to ceiling windows on the Service Zone landings.

Other three-storey houses have balconies fronting the Service Zones. These do not project beyond the face of the Living Zones but are expressed in a different panel colour.

Balcony frontages and doors to meter cupboards are all faced in Trespa panels matching the surrounding panels.

No visible gutters or downpipes.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

APPENDIX 1: MKC NEW RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT DESIGN GUIDE The New Residential Development Design Guide was adopted by MKC as Supplementary Planning Guidance in April 2012. Its aim is to help ensure a high quality of development for the future growth and regeneration of Milton Keynes. It therefore serves as a Development Management tool in the assessment and determination of planning applications. The existing Oxley Woods estate features prominently in the design guide as an exemplar of good practice: •

The front cover of the guide features photograph of Oxley Woods homes.

The contemporary and detailed design of Oxley Woods is highlighted as having helped create identity for the estate (p17).

Similarly, Oxley Woods is praised as being a recent example of Milton Keynes’ continuing efforts to support innovative energy efficient housing schemes (p21).

Photographs of Oxley Woods are also used to illustrate good practice on boundary treatments, corner windows, use of materials etc.

More broadly, the design guide encourages developers to undertake context appraisals to inform the development and detailing of proposals. Section 2.5 highlights that this applies to smaller scale infill sites as well as larger scale development: 2.5.2 The immediate context of the site is critical in the design of small-scale residential schemes, particularly where development infills within an existing streetscene. The ‘area character appraisal template’ (see Appendix C, Table C2) should be used to assess the character of development adjoining the site. In particular, account should be taken of the existing: • Building line and setbacks; • Building heights, scale and massing; • Building types; • Continuity of frontage; • Roof form • Materials; • Fenestration; • Front boundary treatments.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES 2.5.3 The analysis of the immediate area should identify what aspects of the context are important to reflect in the new development. It may be that there is a uniform use of materials, a consistent building line, or predominant building type.

This guidance has been used to inform the Outline Context Appraisal and Design Principles identified in this document. We note, however, that we have not undertaken a full technical appraisal for the site as would be required to complete Table C2 of the design guide. The intention here has instead been to identify key issues that would be of relevance for further consideration by the developer of any scheme(s) adjacent to the existing Oxley Woods estate. Residents will of course be pleased to provide assistance to any such consideration, including through the development of a more formal neighbourhood design statement were this to be desired.

ADDITIONAL

POINTS OF RELEVANCE

We identify here some additional issues raised by the design guide which we believe to be relevant to the development and consideration of any scheme intended to sit alongside the existing Oxley Woods estate: Milton Keynes is defined by the following positive design characteristics which should act as a design cue for the future: ‌ Innovative and architectural interest and variety of early estates... Innovative low energy housing and other projects designed to raise energy efficiency. (Executive Summary, p4) Regarding detailed design appearance of buildings, the Design Guide does not advocate a particular style of architecture but as a new town with a history of innovation it does not support poor quality pastiche types that do not add to the character or identity of a development. (Executive Summary, p5) 2.2 Context Appraisal 2.2.2 The site’s relationship to its immediate surroundings should be analysed, including important views into and out of the site, existing routes and access points, and the character of adjoining development. 2.2.3 The character of the new development should also be developed from an understanding of the context of the surrounding built and natural forms. A mix of high quality materials and a contemporary approach to architectural design and detailing which draws upon a history of innovation within Milton Keynes should be utilised. The positive features of the surrounding local area that help create an identity or character for the development should be used as design cues to be interpreted in the new development. Other key features of Milton Keynes: Innovation 2.3.24 Milton Keynes has led the way in low energy housing and other projects designed to raise energy efficiency. Architects were attracted to Milton Keynes as a city where it was possible to test innovative ideas for low energy and sustainable homes. 2.3.26 The work on low energy housing since the early 1970s, and most notably in Shenley Lodge during the late 1980s, has given rise to a wealth of experience upon

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES which central government has based its ongoing work on Part L building regulations. The work also led to the adoption of national standards ‘beyond the regs’ by HCA. It’s important that Milton Keynes maintains this momentum and continues to provide exemplar housing during the run-up to zero carbon homes nationally in 2016. 2.3.27 Other examples of innovative energy efficient housing schemes include ‘Future World’ at Kents Hill, ‘Homeworld’ in Bradwell Common, and more recently Oxley Woods in Oxley Park. 2.6 Character and Identity for the Future of MK – Lessons from the MK Context Design Aspirations / Vision [extracted points of particular relevance] • The character of new development must be developed from an understanding of the positive attributes of the site itself and surrounding natural and built forms; • The elements of a development that a developer can use to create and affect character or identity of a place are primary street layout, densities, massing, detailed design appearance and landscaping and public realm; • Small infill sites might need to respond very closely to the existing development within which it sits, while larger greenfield developments in particular may need to generate a larger variety in terms of layout and design appearance; • For a large development the ‘unit’ of character should be the street. So by definition the character of a street should be uniform in terms of visual distinctiveness. Other streets, and buildings that line them, within a large development or new neighbourhood can have varying features but there should be some common elements throughout the scheme (e.g. a landscaping feature, street structure or building material) so that the development or neighbourhood as a whole has a feeling of a common identity; • With respect to the potential for design appearance (or architecture) to influence the character of, in particular large greenfield developments, a careful balance needs to be struck between too much variety in terms of building appearance, which may give the impression of an architectural “zoo” and hence undermine a coherent identity for the development from being created and not enough variety which could lead to an overly monotonous character. As a general rule, a limited palette of materials is believed to lead to the creation of a stronger character for a development. Development briefs and/or design codes should specify what the requirements are regarding the design appearance of the development with a view to creating a strong character for the development; • Character and identity is principally established and perceived in the most public areas of a development, most notably the streets as well as the buildings that enclose them. These areas require the most careful attention with respect to design; • This makes the features that comprise the streetscape fundamental in influencing the character of the development. Table 2 outlines those features that will vary according to street type and how the designer chooses to use /design them; • The requirement for improved sustainability standards should be exploited and seen as a positive way of influencing the character of a development with respect to layout, landscaping and detailed design appearance.

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES

APPENDIX 2: NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) attaches great weight to design. Securing high quality design and a good standard of amenity is one of the core planning principles. At paragraph 56 it states: 'Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute positively to making places better for people.'

While there is at present no neighbourhood plan in place for Oxley Woods, this outline context appraisal has sought to achieve the goals of paragraph 58 of the NPPF by setting out “the quality of development that will be expected for the area” and by sharing our own “understanding and evaluation of its defining characteristics”. Paragraph 58 further notes: Planning policies and decisions should aim to ensure that proposals: • will function well and add to the overall quality of the area; • establish a strong sense of place, using streetscapes and buildings to create attractive and comfortable places to live, work and visit; • respond to local character and history and reflects the identity of local surroundings and materials; • are visually attractive as a result of good architecture and appropriate landscaping.

The local distinctiveness of the existing Oxley Woods homes is without question they feature on the cover of the MKC’s New Residential Development Design Guide SPD and in the Core Strategy. Paragraph 60 of the NPPF says that “it is proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness.” In seeking good design, the comments in this outline context appraisal echo paragraph 61 of the NPPF that “although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are very important factors, securing high quality and inclusive design goes beyond aesthetic considerations.” Paragraphs 63 and 64 of the NPPF set out the intended approach to consideration of design elements within a planning application: 63. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs which help raise the standard of design more generally in the area. 64. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

Furthermore, Section 10 of the NPPF highlights the importance of planning in meeting the challenge of climate change. Paragraph 93 states: ‘Planning plays a key role in helping shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the

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O XLEY W OODS : O UTLINE C ONTEXT A PPRAISAL AND D ESIGN P RINCIPLES impacts of climate change, and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. This is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Energy efficiency and building standards are further underlined as essential elements of delivering improved performance, and are key elements of the government’s approach to zero carbon homes. We therefore believe that there is a strong case for innovative proposals for the remaining areas of Oxley Park Site 6 to be encouraged via the planning system. We welcome efforts to date to promote the appropriate consideration of the existing context, and continue to offer our assistance in the development of high quality design solutions. Similarly, the forthcoming marketing and sale of Oxley Park Sites 4 and 5 offers further potential for innovative solutions, for example by seeking to achieve Zero Carbon Homes standards. We believe that such efforts would be in keeping with the existing Oxley Woods development, and would likewise receive the active support of residents.

CONTACT INFORMATION Residents of Oxley Woods will be pleased to provide further input into the consideration of design solutions for the completion of the estate and adjacent sites. In the first instance, please contact: Chris Littlecott chris.littlecott@googlemail.com and / or Barbara Swann bswann123@btinternet.com

Picture credits: Many thanks to Oxley Woods residents for the use of the following photos: Paul Mullett: p2 and p15 Gill Parker: p3 Andrew Grant-Reed: p20

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Profile for Chris Littlecott

Oxley Woods Outline Context Appraisal April 2013  

Document written by residents of the Oxley Woods estate, Milton Keynes. Aims to inform consideration of schemes for the completion of the es...

Oxley Woods Outline Context Appraisal April 2013  

Document written by residents of the Oxley Woods estate, Milton Keynes. Aims to inform consideration of schemes for the completion of the es...

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