Environmentally-friendly terrace houses to appear in Wales?

Today 14th December was the last day to take part in the consultation for Cardiff’s Local Development Plan preferred strategy adopted in October by the Cardiff Council. As mentioned in November, Cardiff has been growing lately and is expected to rise to 400,000 inhabitants by 2026. The City council must therefore find a way to provide new accommodation, get empty houses back on the market and help potential buyers by creating a Mortgage Scheme.

Cardiff’s Council and the Welsh Government are aware of the housing problem and the expected population growth and they do try to adapt and find solutions, like the House into Homes Scheme that helps landlords make their properties fit for the market. However, not everyone agrees with the Council’s decisions, which is precisely why the Local Development Plan was out for consultation, so people could have their say.

Indeed, the Local Development Plan which proposes to build over 45,000 new homes has raised concerns in some local communities such as the Welsh-speaking village of Creigiau, which fears for its future as a small village in the Cardiff countryside if 2,750 houses are built as planned by the LDP. The strong community has collected 1,100 signatures (almost every household) to petition against the Development Plan. They not only fear the loss of their identity but are also afraid that the village infrastructure will not be sufficient with so many houses added.

Developing infrastructures to fit the population growth is indeed a major issue. It is a good thing to build homes for new inhabitants but transportation - train, buses, roads and so on - must grow alongside the population. If you commute by train you may have noticed that Queen Street station will undergo heavy refurbishment works from 27th December to 18th January. It is part of a 3-year plan to improve Cardiff Central, Queen Street station and the Cardiff rail network in general. This £220 million plan aims at releasing congestion between Cardiff and the Valleys, by adding new platforms and entrances to Cardiff Central, Queen Street and several other neighbouring train stations.

Coming back to houses, when building new homes it is important nowadays to make sure they are affordable, energy-efficient and well insulated while fitting a modern lifestyle. An extra challenge is to keep tradition alive, by building terrace houses in the Valleys for instance. Terrace houses are a favourite among the Welsh close-knit communities and the Valleys and 40% of Welsh homes are terrace houses. This is why the Royal Society of Architects in Wales has launched a design competition, the winner of which has just been announced. Hatcher Prichard Architects and consulting engineers Ramboll have come up with the idea of a terrace house with a grass roof, solar panels to heat the hot-water tank and the house, LED lighting throughout the house and a clever use of space.

From the outside the terrace house would look pretty much the same as older traditional versions, while being totally different from the inside. Isn’t it the perfect modern terrace house, being the same as all the others from the outside and totally different - and sustainable - inside?

14 December 2012

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