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  • Michael Mehaffy

UK King and Queen visit Poundbury to mark completion of new public spaces

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

The couple commemorates the 30-year anniversary of the start of construction, and assess the success of its many innovations

ABOVE: The Royal website provides an account of the visit by the King and Queen.

POUNDBURY (UK) - In what the BBC refers to as a "landmark visit," the UK's King Charles and Queen Camilla visited Poundbury on Tuesday, June 27, commemorating the completion of Queen Mother Square and the Duke of Edinburgh Garden. The couple also did "multiple walkabouts," according to the UK's The Telegraph newspaper, meeting residents and examining the progress in different parts of the 400-acre community.

The Telegraph article, titled "King pulls back the curtain in his own vision of urban dwelling," is subtitled "Charles and Queen Camilla were checking progress in Poundbury, the experimental village he imagined back in the 1980s."

The Telegraph quoted one of the residents who met the couple, Faye Harris. Her parents have lived in Poundbury for 20 years and, she said, they "love it" there. She was also charmed to meet the couple. "It's a bit surreal standing in my dressing gown to meet the King and Queen, but wonderful," she said.

The Telegraph also quoted resident Jack Noel, who has lived in Poundbury since 2019, and who noted that it's clear to him how invested the King is in the community. "He's so natural and open. We were just saying how nice it is that he's prepared to get so close to people and he's so interested, you really feel he cares," Noel said.

As the BBC article noted, "Construction at Poundbury, on the edge of Dorchester, began in 1993 on architectural principles championed by the future King," including sustainability and ecological design.

"By the time of its completion in 2028," the BBC reported, "the Duchy of Cornwall community is expected to have grown to 2,740 homes from about 2,300 at present, Buckingham Palace said."

In a Tuesday speech opening Queen Mother Square, Andrew Hamilton, Poundbury's development director, said that "many of us have joined with Your Majesty on this long journey. We started building exactly 30 years ago and now we have a thriving community."

Among Poundbury's innovations are 35% permanent affordable housing, "pepper-potted" across the community (mixed indistinguishably with other homes), mixed-use zoning (with 207 businesses integrated into the town and providing over 2,300 jobs available to its population of 3,800, as well as many shops and services within walking distance); and a number of innovative ecological features. Among the latter are a net zero emissions biomethane generator that provides fuel for up to 59,000 homes; “solar slate” roof systems; electric charging stations throughout the town (installed long before they became common elsewhere); high-insulation homes using cavity wall construction with high thermal mass; and a shift away from plastics and other problematic substances, toward natural and renewable materials.

But Poundbury's most acclaimed innovation seems to be its popular emphasis on walkability and public space, and its de-emphasis (but not elimination) of the car. Streets are attractive and walkable, and safe for bicycles as well as pedestrians.

Poundbury's lessons will be assessed at the 59th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference, October 10-13, along with other case studies of more ecological, livable urban developments. The conference is already roughly 2/3 full, and interested parties are encouraged to register and make travel plans soon.

The Telegraph article, like other coverage, documents Poundbury's success -- a demonstration of the possibilities for changes in development practice when effective tools and strategies are applied. Those are the tools and strategies that the IMCL conference will explore, with partners at the Duchy of Cornwall (Poundbury developers), the Prince's Foundation, and other key partners.

The success of Poundbury, according to one resident quoted by The Telegraph, "shows that you can do things differently from commercial urban developments, and it works."

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