Several of the residents here at Oxley Woods, ourselves included, have had a few conversations with people on site lately, and a pattern of replies and tone has been coming through that we feel cannot be ignored.
Despite being 25 buildings short of completing the planned eco-housing developing here on the Western fringe of Milton Keynes, the builders appear to be moving out, and leaving residents in the lurch. With no plans to build at least 22 of the proposed, Lord Rogers designed, eco-homes on the estate. Instead, we understand, attempts are underway to change the plans, and replace the more spacious eco-homes with cheaper to build, run-of-mill brick buildings, like you can find on any new development up and down the country.
In some ways, we feel fortunate. Our house has been worked on so much it almost feels like it’s been rebuilt and it’s proving a wonderful place to live. However, some people are still waiting for important work to be done that was promised in the Spring, in fact, we still have a couple of issues outstanding which are simply being ignored and/or forgotten by the dastardly due of Wood Newton and Taylor Wimpey.
There are two areas of concern here. First and foremost, there’s the people who have bought into the development. It seems that Wood Newton (the sub-contrators who put the houses together) and Taylor Wimpey (the sales and site management people we give our money to) are passing the buck as to who is supposed to be doing what.
We’ve heard stories of people being told Wood Newton are not to fix snags (under instruction of Taylor Wimpey), while Taylor Wimpey are saying this is absolutely not the case. It seems a meeting is on the cards next week (w/c 29th November) between the two companies to go over snagging and assign responsibilities. So, if you are a residents with ANY problems, it seems a prudent move to get a snagging list into Taylor Wimpey as soon as possible.
Please visit the residents’ forum to see the current, more in depth discussion regarding snagging, and builders leaving the site.
The other issue is more of an ideological and environment concern. Many of us bought into this development because of three reasons. The stunning design of the properties, their strong environmental or “eco” credentials, and their low running costs due to the carefully considered thermal properties of the houses.
Due to its positioning within Oxley Park, with a stream and hedgerow on one side, the edge of the estate on two others (one lined with woodland) and a linear park to the fourth side, the Oxley Woods development feels very special and unique. Many of our visitors comment on how, with the bright houses perched at the top of a sloping landscape, Oxley Woods feels like a completely different place to the surrounding developments of Milton Keynes.
If what several people have been told is true, and the developers get their way, this award winning eco-friendly design by world famous architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, is going to be dropped, primarily on the grounds of cost. Which is somewhat ironic considering they won awards for their cost saving modular design, as part of the “Design for manufacture” government competition. Turns out, very few of the designs follow a set pattern, and almost every property appears to be a bespoke design, with panels and large windows tailor made to fit. A layman might think that would come to light during the design and planning process?
Anyway, some people take the view that less of these houses will make our properties more unique, and that will help sales if people really want one, as there’s less choice. Others feel that, despite the concern being the bottom line of the builders, and these bespoke properties costing too much to put up, that the perception will be that the development failed for other reasons, quality control, poor sales, or any combination of the above.
Some people just don’t want to be looking across the street at brick clad homes. It’s not what they were sold, and it’s not what they want. We’re fortunate in that we look out onto parkland, trees and ponds, but a number of residents could be looking out onto very normal brick properties in time, and it seems some of them at least are really not happy about that thought.
What would it show about the authorities if they let a builder abandon this development that was so hard fought in the place, just to stick up regular housing, so the builders can make more profit?
My personal view is that if Wimpey and Wood Newton don’t want to play nice any more, or even if they can co-operatre, that building different properties shouldn’t be a problem. But really, they should be different. I don’t think they should be allowed to abandon the environmentally friendly ideals, and I don’t think they should build “regular” houses if it can in any way be avoided. Perhaps they can come up with something else, something clever, something genuinely affordable to build and environmentally friendly. Surely there are designs out there, even if you look outside of the UK, which can be bought and built on a scale of around 25 properties, that are eco-friendly, attractive, and unique.
We’ve also heard that the builders, Wimpey at least, are packing up shop and moving out. For at least six months. They’ve been busy tidying up the site this week, and it seems are soon to be gone. Leaving two great big empty plots of land, unadopted streets, and unfinished roads. It’s seems it’s going to be a strangely quiet place around here for quite a while.