Connecting Leicester's vision
Ashton Green is a 135 hectare greenfield site to the north of Leicester that is a major element in the city’s strategy for growth and regeneration. As part of the ‘Connecting Leicester‘ vision, the site has the potential to deliver the highest quality of built environment whilst protecting and enhancing the natural surroundings of the city.
Though the land had been earmarked for residential development in local plans going back to the 1980s, there was no viable masterplan to take it through to planning application.
We were appointed with Taylor Young to develop a masterplan for a Sustainable Urban Extension of around 3,500 houses together with employment and community facilities. This major project is critical to setting the standards for sustainable development in Leicester. We explored a variety of place making options and established a consensus around the masterplan vision that supports an economically viable community with a strong local character.
Collaborative working was essential to the success of our approach. Before making any recommendations we wanted a clear understanding of the needs of stakeholders and of the wider community, with which to define the project objectives. To achieve this we developed a consultation programme that integrated with existing City Council activity to creatively engage local communities throughout the realisation of the project. To support this joined-up approach we also liaised closely with the HCA Advisory Team for Large Applications as well as the Highways Agency, local highway authorities and environmental groups.
A multidisciplinary approach
The main thrust of our contribution was in developing strategies and recommendations for the transport, energy and environmental aspects. Ashton Green is comprised principally of agricultural land with a number of wildlife constraints. Our multidisciplinary approach enabled us to work with this landscape to integrate transport plans and sustainable energy initiatives within a framework that responds to local conditions and connects with the surrounding countryside.
We undertook a variety of ecological assessments including protected species, arboricultural and of the species-rich hedgerows that are a defining characteristic of the site. These surveys were used to develop a green infrastructure for the masterplan. Where practicable, breaches for footpaths and roads use existing hedgerow gaps and natural drainage ditches are connected to new Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems. Biodiversity is supported and encouraged through the inclusion of mixed-use open spaces, including a community orchard, and green corridors that enhance habitat connectivity across the site.
The outcome of our efforts has been the comprehensive and robust delivery of a masterplan that evolved in response to the consultation process. It has received approval from both the Ashton Green Project Board and Leicester City Council Cabinet and been commended by both CABE and the HCA.
Ashton Green is seen as the most innovative and sustainable new development in Leicester in more than 30 years and will enable substantial progress towards delivering the 20,000 new homes needed in the City over the next 20 years. In addition to much needed new homes, this major development will bring employment opportunities and economic regeneration.