03 Aug 2022

Derwenthorpe - a modern garden village

On the 21 July 2022, I had the pleasure of leading a guided tour of Derwenthorpe in York. Organised by the CIH Yorkshire and Humber regional group, the tour provided an opportunity for members to come together, build their network and see first hand the how Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) has taken the vision of their founder to create a modern mixed tenure garden village with a thriving and engaged community.  

Joseph Rowntree was a Quaker business man, philanthropist and social reformer. In 1904 he built New Earswick on the outskirts of York, as a garden village for people on low incomes, including staff who worked in his chocolate factory. He famously said, “I do not want to establish communities bearing the stamp of charity but rather of rightly ordered and self-governing communities”. 100 years later JRHT used this garden village concept to create Derwenthorpe as a modern more environmentally sustainable version, which includes homes that are social rented, in shared ownership and owner occupied.

The tour was free to CIH members and was attended by around 15 individuals from a range a different housing organisations in the region. In addition, the group was joined by four residents who live on the development. This really added to the tour as they were able to use the benefit of their local knowledge and lived experience to provide an honest account of the benefits and the ongoing challenges of living in such a innovative development.  It was a good reminder to me, not that one was needed, on how important it is that we as housing professionals try harder to ensure that we involve residents when we are discussing their neighbourhood or designed services which will impact on their lives.

The tour started at the ‘Super Sustainable Centre’, a building with a community space used for a range of activities, which also houses the development’s central district heating system. Next the group took in the children’s play area, the wildlife rich ponds which provides the sustainable urban drainage solution, before a closer look at the homes themselves. It was here the group could see first-hand how some of the design principles had been put into practice on the site, such as maximising green space, the promotion of sustainable transport and the creation of spaces to encourage neighbours to engage and built relationships with each other.  

This is the first tour of this type which the CIH Yorkshire and Humber team have put on for a while, but given its success will hopefully be the first of many.  If you know of a development or housing scheme which you think would be interesting for other housing professionals to see and learn more about, do let me know, especially if you would like to get involved in organising the tour itself.  My email is matt.lewer@jrht.org.uk or you can find me on twitter at @HousingMatt and LinkedIn.

Written by Matt Lewer

Matt Lewer is the vice-lead of the CIH Yorkshire and Humber regional group.

Credit to Clive Greenwood for the photos.