The Prince of Wales, current heir to the throne and eldest son of the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born on the 14th November 1948. In 1989, His Royal Highness published the book ‘A Vision of Britain’ which set out his beliefs in principles of architecture and urban planning – Poundbury is a living embodiment of those ideas.
Fed up with the “monstrous carbuncles” littering Britain’s built environment, the Prince asked the architect Léon Krier to masterplan a new settlement on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall (an estate established back in 1337 to provide an income for the heir to the throne). When work began in 1993, the basic idea was simple Poundbury would be a high-density urban quarter of Dorchester which gives priority to people, rather than cars and where commercial buildings are mixed with residential areas, shops and leisure facilities to create a walkable community. This approach aimed to challenge some of the planning assumptions of the latter part of the 20th century and the past decade. As Poundbury has developed, it has demonstrated that there is a genuine alternative to the way in which we build new communities in the UK
But it is the style of architecture – snootily dismissed as “chocolate box” neo-Georgian – that has attracted all the attention. One architectural critic describes the local fire station as “the Parthenon meets Brookside”. Another deems the place “a toy town, a museum of a mythical past”. There are a few intellectual admirers, however. Novelist Will Wiles thinks Poundbury is “a fabulous curiosity… a psychedelic urban experience”. It should be pointed out, Poundbury does have a much wider variety of housing types than its metropolitan critics give it credit for. Among the 1,200 completed homes there are fine five-storey Georgian terraces, cottages crafted from locally sourced, chunky grey stone, and ambitious arts and crafts-type dwellings that channel Charles Voysey and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
As at January 2016, Poundbury is home to 3,000 people living in different types of housing, including 35% affordable housing for rent. It provides employment for some 2,000 people working in 170 businesses. Poundbury is over one-half built and when completed in 2025, it is planned to grow to 2,200 homes, increasing Dorchester’s population by about one quarter. There are also currently 11 specially built Eco Homes in Poundbury with more planned for the future.
In 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and they had two sons – William and Harry. In 1996, the couple divorced and Diana died in a car crash in Paris the following year. In 2005, Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, who uses the title Duchess of Cornwall.
So, why is he a #Houseproud hero?
Prince Charles' ideas for Poundbury has aimed to challenge planning ideas which have often resulted in ghettoised and run-down social housing estates and out-of-town shopping centres, forcing ever greater reliance on the car. Poundbury has proved increasingly influential among industry professionals, attracting international interest and generating many organised tours every year from architects, town planners, academics and house builders. Its success has been recognised far beyond Dorset and many of the founding principles of Poundbury have now been incorporated into the British Government’s Planning Guidance Note PPG3.
In 2010, Dorset County Council completed an Economic Impact Assessment of Poundbury, which concluded that the Poundbury development had already contributed over £330 million in demand for goods and services to the local economy and will contribute a further £500 million by 2025. He says
“I was accused of going back to, I don’t know what, the Middle Ages. Extraordinary when you think about it. All the volume housebuilders said it couldn’t be done. They wouldn’t be able to sell their houses next to people on the lowest incomes. But it has worked and I think that approach has helped to add social as well as environmental and, funnily enough, commercial value.”