I love looking at houses. Seeing where and how people live can give us a great insight into what their everyday life is like and what obstacles and benefits they might encounter on a daily basis. In fact, one of the things I liked the most about my job as delivery cyclist at JustEat (apart from being outside and active all the time) was getting to see the variety of residential buildings in my city and especially their insides. Of course, I wouldn’t step into people’s apartments, but I’d go into staircases in blocks of flats and occasionally into people’s gardens! I’d also get to know the route from the city centre to their home, which sometimes was eye-opening. It made me realise how lucky I am to live where I live, in the same apartment where I grew up with my parents and brother and have lived ever since I was born.
(Of course, now I live abroad, but my parents still live in the same place and it’s my home-home, always has been).
Next door (i.e. next plot) to my university halls there is an active construction site. Now the builders have got to the point where I can hear the hammers from Monday to Saturday and the humming of their heavy duty machines. So, hearing this day in, day out, I can’t help but wonder what is going to come of this in the next umpteen months.
You can see the final version of the information boards PDF for the Coldean Lane development here. They look pretty good – they’re clear, legible, and not too difficult to read for the average person (that is, a non-construction or architecture professional – which includes me).
What was once a green field:
Is intended to look as follows:
It’s a pretty spacious plan of six buildings, which are meant to be “five to seven storeys” high (Hyde, n.d.). I’m not sure whether that’s the final plan – Hyde wrote that the height of blocks was reduced because of concerns about impairing views from the South Downs (the national park neighbouring the site), but I don’t know if the 5-7 number is from before or after the adjustment. However, I can see seven being an option because the site is sloping and it’d probably be possible for the blocks closer to the A27 road, since some of the university halls at Varley are pretty high on the number of storeys (not 7, but 5 for sure). What I like about the site is that it seems to allow quite a lot of green space, despite providing a large number of 240 new flats. Half of the flats are intended for council use, to be rented on low social rents; the other half is meant to be available to buy from Hyde through a shared ownership scheme.
A shared ownership scheme, at least in the UK, is a scheme in which people who can’t afford a mortgage on 100% of a house value can buy a share of the house (between 10-75%) and pay rent on the remainder. It bridges the gap between renting and home ownership, and it’s available to people whose household earns £80,000 or less per year (or £90k if they live in London).
The priorities of the scheme are to provide housing that’s affordable, both in terms of rent/purchase price and running costs – the buildings are energy efficient and well insulated, making use of orientation to minimise solely north facing units (north facing windows receive the least amount of natural light and heat coming from the sun – and remember, we are in Britain). The size of the flats responds to what is most in demand – 77% of households on the council housing waiting list in Brighton&Hove are in need of 1-2 bedroom properties (Hyde, n.d.).
It’ll be a long time before we see what the development will look like (it’s meant to open in summer 2023), but there’s the “artists impression” provided in the consultation boards:
Although the image isn’t particularly clear, I can see how it’s making reference to the existing buildings in Coldean Village. Both Varley Halls and the semi-detached family housing are mostly made of brick in similar, brown-ish tones. The toned colours definitely respond to the natural surroundings in the area (Stanmer Woods and the South Downs National Park), so it’s good that the building doesn’t use bold colours – they wouldn’t stand out positively when looked at from afar and above. The building looks modern because of the flat roof, simple geometric shapes, and minimal, subtle ornamentation. Overall, it’s not a bad look for the suburban area of Coldean.