Walkable neighbourhoods, narrow side streets and a variety of architectural styles are defining characteristics of Nansledan, an urban extension to Newquay supported by the Prince of Wales.
By Alex Wozniczko, Transportation Professional, November-December 2020
Above: Bright colours are a feature of many of the houses of Nansledan, where the first of eight 'urban quarters' is complete
Pastel pinks, greens and blues are among the bright hues of houses clustered together on a sustainable development taking shape beside the north Cornish coast. On an overcast autumn day; the distinctive colour palette is a reminder of summer. Welcome to Nansledan, a new town on the outskirts of Newquay with around 420 homes now occupied and a total of 3700 set to be built over the next 30 years. Its development is overseen by the Duchy of Cornwall and follows many of the urban design principles introduced at Poundbury in Dorset by the Prince of Wales, including a focus on creating people friendly streets.
Generously wide footways continue at grade along primary streets across the junctions of secondary roads to give precedence to pedestrians, while residents are encouraged to park their vehicles in off street areas which also serve as shortcuts for those on foot.
Tertiary streets between houses tend to be very narrow; providing shelter from Atlantic storms in winter and helping keep vehicle speeds down for the benefit of walkers and cyclists. But vehicles will play an important role in the next stage of Nansledan's development, with traffic set to be directed through a central 'Market Street' featuring shops and businesses.
"Two fundamental parts of the masterplan are placing a new Newquay strategic route right through the middle of the scheme and delivering a comprehensive network of sustainable transport connections," explains development planning director Alex Wozniczko MCIHT of civil engineering Consultant AWP. "We are trying to recreate the hustle and bustle of traditional high streets of some older towns, that may be lacking in other new developments."
Scheme masterplanner Hugh Petter of ADAM Architecture says taking traffic through the centre of Nansledan will create an element of 'heat and friction' to help businesses to thrive.
Above: Many styles of housing are on show
This approach, he adds, marks a development from the concept used at Poundbury where through traffic can make use of a bypass around the site. But what Poundbury did achieve was a "breaking of the mould" of the previous zoned approach to planning, featuring separate areas for housing, industry and work activity.
"People previously used cars to get everywhere, but Poundbury demonstrated the desirability of dense mixed use walkable neighbourhoods," Hugh says. '' At the time it was revolutionary. "For the Cornish context the Prince of Wales wanted everything to be led by sustainability so we spent a long time consulting to understand local needs so we could create a new place that would strengthen and diversify the economy of the whole of Newquay;" he adds.
Nansledan's project manager Peter James - who previously ran the Poundbury project - says this latest scheme borrows many of the design principles of its predecessor. But he points out: "We are not taking a Poundbury and putting it in Cornwall. "We use local materials including granite for the kerbs and slate for the roofs of houses, and local designs for both the residential and commercial buildings."
Peter adds that the pastel colours of the properties are appropriate for the area's seaside location, the narrow side streets are typical of Cornwall and the whole site features super fast broadband. Many houses have garages with passive provision for an electric vehicle charge point and communal chargers in public areas will come later. Parking bays are provided beside several major streets, but there is little evidence of yellow lines. Even with traffic set to pass through the estate's centre, Peter adds that "pedestrians will come first and cars second".
Nansledan is being designed with local commerce placed at the centre of eight 'urban quarters' each containing around 500 homes. The idea is that most people's daily needs can be met within a five to 10 minute walk of their homes.
Alex Wozniczko says a well designed street network with direct routes to facilities for pedestrians and cyclists can help to reduce traffic dominance. 'We want to get to a point where walking or cycling to a high street for a coffee or getting to school feels natural rather than jumping in the car." Bus priority measures are being considered along future main routes, as well as a bus only link to improve journey times and reliability.
Opportunities for a new rail station, park and ride and public transport hub are also being explored on the train line between Newquay and Par. Why should people consider moving to Nansledan? Peter describes the "pride of place and sense of community" of the area and Hugh speaks of the "low carbon lifestyle" with good public transport.
Alex says that it delivers a good quality of life with the ability to move around locally with ease. 'Who wants to drive for miles and sit in traffic, when so much is on your doorstep?"
Expansion of Nansledan may soon be governed by a new Local Development Order rather than through standard planning permission. The idea is to reduce the number of planning applications required by developers, in line with Government planning reforms. A consultation on the plan closed on 17 November.
Residents share their views
"What makes Nansledan different to other new developments is its focus on the aesthetic," says local resident and teacher Cameo Woudberg. "I'm not sure that's always the case elsewhere." Cameo has lived in the town for four years and says residents have to abide by a design and community code which stipulates certain things you cannot do, such as install a satellite dish. "It is a lovely place to live, but you do have to be clear about the restrictions in the beginning," she adds. 'There is a real sense of community here and great efforts are made to help people get to know one another."
Nansledan Community Association chair Theresa Ferguson says the design code helps "keep the place neat and tidy" but adds that parking in the street can be an issue, despite many residents having garages and the courtyards at the back. "I don’t park out front as I want to keep the road relatively free," she says. "Because I have a space, I feel I should use it." Theresa welcomes the footways that extend across the entrance to side roads as well as the focus on outdoor space, including an area known as the SANG -a 'suitable alternative natural greenspace' -with pathways that meander through fields planted with wildflowers.
On a walk through town we pass townhouses of Georgian design, stone cottages and others with front porches resembling beach huts. She shows me a yellow seahorse in the art deco style and points out nesting boxes for birds and 'bee bricks' in walls featuring cavities to allow bees to enter and nest. Newly planted fruit trees grow up several exterior walls and many of the street names are traditionally Cornish. We meet Lucy Thomasson on the way to the local primary school with her son. What drew her to Nansledan? "The community, having shops nearby and being able to walk to school," she says. "Most of the children who live in the town do walk, cycle or scoot."
Later that morning I chat to Gaye Strudwick who moved to Nansledan two years ago. "I have a car and enjoy driving," she says, "but will I still want to when I am 80? "I have three cafes within walking distance of my home and there is a small shop nearby. The footpaths are wide and there is not much traffic. "The houses have a Cornish look and many open straight onto the street like they do in Mevagissey. There is a wonderful feel about the place and I hope that continues as Nansledan gets bigger."
One of the best aspects of both Nansledan and Poundbury, says project director Peter James, is the parking courtyards which provide "a fantastic level of connectivity" for people walking through. "We timed someone at Poundbury walking to the supermarket through the courtyards and found it took them half the time compared to getting into their car, driving and finding a space to park." Masterplanner Hugh Petter adds: "Parking courts often have a bad name and are traditionally backland areas with one point of access. "But ours generally have two points of access, each overlooked by properties. People moving through them on foot and bike provide an element of natural policing. They are dynamic spaces."