Oxley Park, Oxley Wood, Milton Keynes: design for manufacture

Oxley Park was built as a result of a competition to build ‘£60k’ homes at ‘Code level 4 for Sustainable Homes’, introduced by Prescott back in 2006. The winning schemes are mostly built out now or nearing completion across the country. Oxley Park, Upton and Newport Pagnell were the first to be completed. Oxley Park is probably the most modern-looking.

Somehow, these streets feel slightly uncomfortable; but this may have partly been the fault of a dull day, the lack of anyone on the street, and the fact that planting has not really established itself yet. Certainly, the vision of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners on behalf of housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Paradigm housing association was not just interested in the homes, but how they were put together as part of the neighbourhood.

These photos were taken just after occupation of the properties in late 2007 / early 2008. Welles Lane properties were selling for £230k at the time. Holden Avenue (site 6 Wimpey) was on the market in early 2011, selling for £200-£240k.

The BRE showcase homes had already shown how code 4 and 6 level homes could be built (see above). But these were one-off, very expensive eco-homes.

The idea of the ‘design for manufacture’ competition was to show that high quality market housing could be built inexpensively using mass manufacture techniques. The ‘Eco-hat’ (above) was the RSH chimney that pushed the eco-ratings up in these modular homes – used at the top of the service stack to control fresh air, re-circulate hot air and provide passive solar heating.

The detailing is incredibly crisp, but on some areas lacks visual quality – for instance the door fittings look flimsy. The juxtaposition of this modern, modular detailing against the more necessary clutter found in most developments is interesting too. The images below show how perhaps aerials should have been integrated into the design; also how despite eco-fencing, every Englishman still needs a garden shed.

I intend to go back soon and see how the planting has affected the development, how the neighbourhood has come together since the construction of the additional streets (there are about 150 homes altogether), and to hopefully ask some of the residents what it’s like living in mass-manufacture. If anyone living near here reads this, or you know someone how lives here, please let me know what you think. Whatever the issue, it’s pushing the boundaries and testing new ideas for housing – something generally lacking in this very conservative market.

Design for manufacture at Upton, Northampton



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