Architectural students from twinned city of Grenoble visit Barton housing development

Published: Monday, 25th September 2017

Architectural students from Oxford’s twinned city of Grenoble in France have visited Barton to learn how new housing developments can encourage healthy lifestyles.

The 885-home development at Barton was specifically designed, by developers Barton Oxford LLP (which includes Oxford City Council and Grosvenor), to promote healthy lifestyles.

The new community features:

  • Streets that are designed for walking and cycling
  • A network of parks and green spaces including outdoor gym equipment running through the development to encourage physical activity
  • Community facilities, including: a new primary school with a community hub; sports facilities, including grass pitches, a 3G pitch and a multi-use games area; and new pavilion, including kitchen, changing rooms and flexible community space
  • Two civic squares and community gardens to promote social activity
  • Improvements to the existing allotments
  • Homes designed to be used for a lifetime, including, for example, halls wide enough for buggies and wheelchairs
  • Social housing and private housing designed to look the same (known as tenure blind development), and mixed together throughout the development

Designing the development to encourage healthy lifestyles led, last year, to Barton being chosen as one of NHS England’s Healthy New Towns.

The project has, so far, seen Oxford City Council receive £126,000 to develop ways of encouraging healthy lifestyles across the new development and the established community of Barton, including:

  • Research commissioned to identify the health issues in the Barton area – and the projected health issues within the new Barton development – so they can better be tackled
  • Providing grants to local community groups to: develop a buddy system to support isolated elderly people in accessing healthcare; expand the Good Food Oxford food bank; train community champions to signpost residents to health services; create physical activity sessions; provide mental health awareness training for community leaders; create inter-generational food projects; and fund a post to help residents tackle non-clinical reasons underlying their ill health

Dr Stéphane Sadoux, deputy director of the Centre of Excellence in Architecture, Environment & Building Cultures at the Grenoble School of Architecture (Grenoble Alpes University Community), and 22 of his final year architectural students visited the new Barton development on Friday 15 September.

The visit was part of a week-long field trip to England to learn about architectural and urban design, and suggest sites as a basis for final year projects.

The group were given a tour of the site by CA Blackwell and leading housebuilder Hill, which is developing Mosaics, the first phase of new homes available at the housing development.

During the tour, they received information about the health elements of the new Barton development and how it is a catalyst to encourage health lifestyles in the existing Barton community.

Forty per cent of the houses at the new Barton development (354 homes) will be acquired by Oxford City Council for social housing, offering discounted rents to low income families.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, and Councillor Mike Rowley, Executive Board Member for Housing, also met the students to explain the wider context of health inequalities and housing across Oxford.

Councillor Mike Rowley said: “The new Barton development is so much more than just about building 885 new homes. Encouraging healthy living has been built into the fabric of the new community – and the Health New Towns project has enabled the new development to be a catalyst to encourage healthy lifestyles across the existing Barton community.

“We have learnt a lot during the new Barton development, and it was great to be able to share our learning with students from our twinned city of Grenoble.”

Greg Hill, Deputy Chief Executive at Hill, said: “This is a landmark development that will set a new benchmark for housing and the development of healthy communities in Oxford, and we have worked with some of the brightest minds to deliver homes which combine excellence in both design and function.

“It is great that students from other global cities can see the results first hand, and that we are able to demonstrate just how much can be accomplished when housebuilders and local authorities work together to meet local housing needs.”

Dr Stéphane Sadoux said: “The students we are training today will still be practicing in the late 2050s. Over the course of their career, they will face unprecedented health-related and environmental challenges. Best practice exchange, especially at an international level, is an invaluable addition to their curriculum.

“The project is an impressive example of the way a bold political vision can be implemented through a public-private partnership which allows resources and expertise to be pooled to address crucial issues. In particular, the design code produced for the area demonstrates the central role of urban and architectural design in this process. We were particularly impressed by the fact that, although the site is located on the outskirts of the city, the layout and density feel urban and walkable – they are not what you would find in a typical suburban development.“