Poundbury is an experimental new town or urban extension on the outskirts of Dorchester in the county of Dorset, England. The development is built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. It is built according to the principles of Charles, Prince of Wales, who is known for holding strong views challenging the post-war trends in town planning that were suburban in character. Since starting in 1993, the town has received both criticism and praise from architects and design critics.
The development is built to a traditional high-density urban pattern, rather than a suburban one, focused on creating an integrated community of shops, businesses, and private and social housing. There is no zoning. The planners say they are designing the development around people rather than the car, and they aim to provide a high-quality environment, from the architecture to the selection of materials, to the signposts, and the landscaping. To avoid constant construction, utilities are buried in common utility ducts under the town. Common areas are maintained by a management company to which all residents belong. It consists of 35 percent social housing and is designed for sustainable development, which includes carbon neutrality.
To some degree, the project shows similarities with the contemporary New Urbanism movement, and also a commitment to vernacular and new classical principles. The design of the houses use typical architectural patterns from Georgian and Germanic styles which pre-exist in the neighbouring suburb of Dorchester. The development includes period features such as wrought iron fences, porticos, gravelled public squares, and 'bricked-up' windows; known as blind windows these traditionally serve an aesthetic function and are widely misattributed to the window tax.
Poundbury has a population of 3,000 residents and provides over 2,000 people employment in over 180 businesses. The town is expected to be completed by 2025 with the population estimated to increase to approximately 6,000 residents.
Although construction started in October 1993, the overall plan was conceived in the late 1980s by the Luxembourgish architect Léon Krier, and its development and architectural co-ordination is still ongoing under Krier's direction. It is expected that the four plan phases will be developed over 25 years with a total of 2,500 dwellings and a population of approximately 6,000.
Greetings card entrepreneur Andrew Brownsword sponsored the £1 million development of the market hall at Poundbury, designed by John Simpson and based on early designs, particularly the one in Tetbury.
As of 2016, Poundbury has a population of 3,000 residents and the population is expected to increase by 2025 when completed to almost 6,000 residents.
Economy and employment
In 2010, Poundbury increased Dorset's county local economy contributing over £330million; it is expected to contribute £500million within the next 15 years.
In 2010, more than 2,000 Poundbury residents were working in 180 local businesses. In 2017, the number of businesses increased to 185, providing 2,345 jobs. Businesses include a Waitrose store, a technical company which produces parts for airplane wings and a chocolate factory. One notable local employer is the breakfast food manufacturer and exporter Dorset Cereals, which since 2000 has employed more than 100 people at its purpose-built barn factory. Reportedly there is space for about 80 additional businesses.
Poundbury has two primary schools in the catchment area: (1) The Prince of Wales and (2) Damers First School. The latter was already an existing school in Dorchester but in 2017 relocated to Poundbury, where a new school building was built.
In 2018, the Prince of Wales officially opened Poundbury's first church, the Dorchester Community Church.
Attractions and landmarks
Due to Poundbury's unique looking buildings and plan, the town has been visited by architects, government officials, planners, housebuilders, and developers from around the world.
Tourist attractions are centered around the Queen Mother Square, it includes Strathmore House in honour of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's heritage which has been called a replica of Buckingham Palace. In 2016, the Queen Mother statue was unveiled at the square by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Also in 2016, a pub named the Duchess of Cornwall Inn was opened in honour of the Duchess of Cornwall.
Every year in August, the Dorset Food & Arts Festival is held at the Queen Mother's Square attracting thousands of people. The festival showcases the town's fine produce and arts and also raises money for charities.
Criticism and praise
Poundbury's aesthetics have been criticised by several commentators. One described it as "fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute".
Following New Urbanist principles, Poundbury was intended to reduce car dependency and encourage walking, cycling, and public transport. A survey conducted at the end of the first phase, however, showed that car use was higher in Poundbury than in the surrounding (rural) former district of West Dorset. Nonetheless, the community has received positive recognition from New Urbanist publication Better Cities and Towns.
British architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright of The Guardian states, "Poundbury, the Prince of Wales’s traditionalist village in Dorset, has long been mocked as a feudal Disneyland. But a growing and diverse community suggests it's getting a lot of things right."
According to English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, “the proportions are human proportions; the details are restful to the eye. This is not great or original architecture, nor does it try to be; it is a modest attempt to get things right by following patterns and examples laid down by tradition. This is not nostalgia, but knowledge passed on from age to age.”
The new Dorset Fire and Rescue Service HQ/Fire station nears completion September 2008. In 2016 Dorset Fire and Rescue Service merged with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. This meant that the new services H/Q moved to Salisbury and the Dorset building became support offices and Dorchester Community Fire Station.
- Fairford Leys – a similar project located on the edge of Aylesbury
- Poundbury Hill – an Iron Age hill fort near Poundbury
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To visit Poundbury is to be delivered to the furniture floor of a provincial department store in 1954, translated into architecture. It is fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute.
- Rybczynski, Witold (3 December 2013). Behind the Façade of Prince Charles's Poundbury. Architect.
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- "Dorset and Wiltshire fire services merge". BBC. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
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