Cosying up

I’m not sure whether what has been reported is exaggeration on the part of Mr McCloud of Hab Housing or poor reporting on the part of the Adver. Either way, it smacks of spin — a mix of the ordinary and the bizarre, whipped-up to look like a luxury concoction.

The TV presenter’s fresh ideas for the Pickard’s Small Field site off Pinehurst Road also include making drains transparent so residents can see the flow of water and increasing wildlife.

I presume those last two aren’t related. Perhaps ‘transparent drain’ is developer-speak for a ditch, in the same way that a car park made from moss and reeds sounds very much like a muddy field.

And one car per home was presented as being a possible house rule of living in his sustainable homes. “I am aware that Swindon is not a bike city but a car city so we face some challenges here,” he said. “I saw some sour faces around the room when I talked about reducing the number of cars per household.”

Before Mr McCloud polishes his environmental credentials to a blinding gleam, lets not forget Swindon Borough Council’s residential parking standards that restrict the number of parking spaces per house.

Thirty per cent of the homes have been designated social housing

That’s also a Swindon Borough standard.

“In the average street in Britain, a resident might only know six or so neighbours,” he said. He advocates sharing tools and cars, as a way of bringing people together. “Sharing objects and material goods is important so people also share experiences,” he said.

Is he planning to run tool inspections? Will anyone owning more than one drill and a saw be evicted for being a member of the DIY bourgeoisie?

His company – HABS – plans to put the homes on the market for competitive prices, but McCloud says all the extra perks will come for free. “Our challenge is delivering this for the price of a three-bedroom house,” he said.

Well, there’s a surprise. The prices will be ‘competitive’… he wouldn’t be in business very long if they weren’t. And as competitive pricing means charging what the market will bear, rather than what the product costs, those ‘extra perks’ are far from free.

Communal orchards or hedgerows with food and a communal hub were also presented as likely possibilities. “We think landscaping is an important part of what we do,” he said. “The opposite is a lawn that gets mowed once per week. Biodiversity is one of our biggest objectives.”

And just who is going to pick up the tab for maintaining these orchards? A little extra on your Council Tax to pay for Mr McCloud’s utopia perhaps?

There’s no doubting that the urban environment in which people live is matters, but there are limits to what landscape and architecture can do to affect the quality of those lives. When developers forget this and imbue their creations with tasks of social engineering that are beyond their powers, they don’t create the ideal homes of the future; they create the sink-estates for the next generation.