Healthy communities: How do you double the number of houses whilst providing more public open space and traffic-free streets?

Innovative plans to transform a post-war housing estate in Woking, Surrey, into a vibrant, sustainable community have been revealed.

The proposals will regenerate Sheerwater, a largely deprived suburb, into a thriving, balanced neighbourhood that meets the housing and future needs of local residents. The plans have been put forward by Thameswey Developments Ltd, as developer, on behalf of Woking Borough Council.

The masterplan will see the existing number of homes on the 30 Ha site double from 570 to around 1200, nearly half of which will be affordable, complete with community facilities, public parkland and gardens.

Mark Rolt from Thameswey Developments Ltd says:

“The vision for Sheerwater is to create a desirable, attractive and highly sustainable place to live and work. A place that, through high quality design and community facilities, will reduce existing levels of deprivation and where the community can thrive into the future. The aim is to promote healthier lifestyles and create a lively neighbourhood with a real buzz.”

To maximise public space and build on Sheerwater’s strong sense of community, car movement will be restricted to the perimeter of the site. Instead of multi-car forecourts to the homes, ground-level car parks will be located central to the development, with housing and ‘podium gardens’ set above. The result will be a network of pedestrian streets, parks, squares and gardens, where children can play safely out of doors and residents can come together.

A new community hub, complete with local shops, doctors’ surgery, community centre and nursery, as well as existing primary and secondary schools, will all be within walking distance of the homes.

Set in five neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct identity, the new homes are designed to be contemporary and elegant, with a mixture of mews houses and low-rise apartment buildings, each overlooking landscaped gardens or parkland. They will cater for any stage of life and circumstance, from one-bed studios up to five-bed family houses, including homes for the elderly, people with disabilities and sharers.

Chris Kenny, BDP housing architect, says:

“We needed to increase the number of homes but also wanted to maximise the public spaces at the same time. Surrey has high levels of car ownership so we have created car parks with gardens above them and moved the roads to the perimeter of the neighbourhood.”

The ingenious designs will enable denser housing development, whilst also providing 4 hectares of excellent quality outdoor space; including parks, gardens, sports facilities and semi-rural greenspace, for all the residents to enjoy. The parks and gardens will include habitats that encourage wildlife and pioneering water management systems will see rainwater collected and used to irrigate the gardens.

Centralised systems for waste management, and sustainable heating and electricity, will be housed underneath the buildings to service the entire neighbourhood. Energy usage for each home will be minimised with the use of enhanced insulation, extensive solar panels and low energy lighting. Electric car charging is also incorporated into the house and apartment designs.

Chris Kenny, BDP Housing Architect explains:

“These proposals aim to demonstrate how a deprived estate can be transformed into a vibrant neighbourhood through intelligent, sustainable design. The project has taken the approach of investing in high quality public spaces and infrastructure to maximise the value of the new houses that are put on the market, the sale of which will help fund the affordable housing and community facilities.”

The vision for Sheerwater is to provide a healthy and sustainable community which results in a place full of thriving homes and a legacy for the future.