Oxley Woods, Milton Keynes

Gerardine Hemingway brought her tenacious design skill to Oxley Woods, Milton Keynes, and in conjunction with Richard Rogers & Taylor Wimpey, was responsible for the colourations and flow of the houses. Here is an extract from a wonderful article in Architects Journal, 'Is Oxley Woods The Answer To The Housing Crisis':

‘"People are buoyed up by living in these houses – they are really different,’ says retired architect Barbara Swann, who relocated to a three-bedroom home overlooking Oxley Woods’ yet-to-be-built final phase in November 2007. Her views are not untypical. A sample survey of residents completed 18 months after completion revealed 100 per cent of residents would recommend Oxley Woods to friends and family – results that shocked client Taylor Wimpey.

Described by Manser judges as a ‘thorough-going attempt at innovation within the all-too risk-averse conventional house builders’ market’ the suburban Milton Keynes development was the product of John Prescott’s Design for Manufacture competition to create a £60,000 house using modern methods of construction. The acclaimed houses – designed to be constructed in three days from full-height insulated wall panels – were expected to pave the way for an industry-wide revolution in off-site manufacture, which would put paid to scaffolding, lengthy builds and muddy sites.

Surveying the landscape, it’s no surprise that many of these residents also describe themselves as pioneers. The once green-field terrain now resembles a suburban Eldorado where eponymous ‘noddy boxes’ close ranks against their experimental neighbours. Behind the loose panels and pockmarked scrubland, Oxley Woods residents are satisfied.

Richard Minns – who works services global banking IT systems from his living room – said: ‘We were going to move into The Hub [by Glenn Howells] in the city centre, which was opening at the same time – thank god we didn’t. I’m proud to be a part of an experiment.’

Mobile hairdresser Gemma McCann – who relocated to Oxley Woods with her partner Matt in 2007 – added: ‘When I visit other new estates in Milton Keynes I feel very grateful to live where I do. This is due to the open spaces surrounding our homes and also when I look out of my house I am not subjected to brick walls from surrounding houses and gardens.’

Furthermore, the estate’s attrition rate – which might indicate satisfaction with housing quality – has been low, with only five households selling and moving on in the past six years.

We know there have been some build and engineering problems with Oxley Woods (not that we were involved in that side of things), but in experimental projects like this there are always likely to be issues. We believe that history will show that this development is a significant cog in the move to more sustainable housing estates.

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