As we were visiting the Dorset stretch of the Jurasssic Coast, we decided to take a short detour to Poundbury to see what it looks like for ourselves. Poundbury is a thriving new urban development on the outskirts of Dorchester, West Dorset. The town was commissioned by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales who outlined his pioneering ideas in his 1989 book ‘A Vision of Britain’. It’s an experimental new town built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.
Parking our car in Queen Mother Square we were charmed by the elegant mock Georgian architecture. On one side of the Square stands this impressive yellow building, opposite is a branch of Waitrose in an equally elegant building and at the far end of the Square a block of high end apartments are under construction.
Walking round the town we found it to be a unique and fascinating place to visit, not exactly a quintessential English village but it does contain some picturesque cottages, village greens and a butchers shop that was voted Best in Britain 2015. I liked the characterful architecture and the way different styles are blended side by side.
Construction started in October 1993 using Luxembourg architect Leon Krier’s plans. The development focuses on an integrated community of shops, businesses and housing. The town already has 2,500 residents but this number is expected to rise to 6,000 by the mid 2020’s when the final phase is completed.
There has been criticism for mixing too many different building styles and for the use of non local building materials which are inconsistent with the nearby historic county town of Dorchester. Poundbury was intended to reduce car dependency and encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport. An electric shuttle bus makes regular trips between the development and nearby Dorchester but interestingly all this has had little impact as statistics show that car use in Poundbury is actually higher than in other rural districts of West Dorset.
Housing is a mix of modern and classical styles with such features as town houses built with some bricked up windows, as can be seen in many historic town houses around the country, the windows being bricked up as a cost saving measure to avoid payment of window taxes. There isn’t an industrial zone, instead light industry is blended into the townscape. A notable employer is Dorset Cereals who are based in Poundbury employing 100 people in their purpose built barn/ factory manufacturing breakfast muesli.
Before returning to our car we stopped for coffee and cakes at the Potting Shed which was full of rustic charm, served delicious food and had lots of interesting gardening gifts on display.
On leaving Poundbury, my impression was of a prosperous small town, with pleasantly laid out housing, shops dotted around on street corners rather than being along one high street and a feeling of calm. It will be interesting to return when the development is finished to take a further look then.
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