Dacorum Borough Council is currently embarking on an ambitious new homes delivery programme, aiming to deliver 300 more affordable homes in Hemel Hempstead by 2020. Hemel Hempstead is in the north western quadrant of the M25, approximately 25 miles north- west of central London. It is very well located in relation to the motorway network and Hemel Hempstead is a popular choice for commuters because of its outstanding road and rail communications together with excellent local amenities and facilities. The urban population of Hemel Hempstead is 83,000.

This competition entry for 55 affordable homes at Paradise Fields in Hemel Hempstead provides an innovative housing solution on a challenging sloping site with various opportunities and constraints. The scheme design maximises the site with an even percentage mix of 1 bed 2 person flats and 2 bed 3 and 4 person flats, whilst simultaneously offering homes with a high quality design, access to green space and good solar and daylight access.

The urban design of the scheme has been carefully considered to give priority to cycles and pedestrians without hindering functionality with regards access for vehicles and car parking. The scheme is arranged along a mews street, lined to the South by a row of courtyard dwellings. 3 and 4 storey terraced rows of dual-aspect apartments sit perpendicular to the street, creating external spaces between that alternate between semi-private courtyard gardens and landscaped parking courts. The arterial access road - envisaged as a ‘shared surface’ mews street - is an efficient way of distributing vehicles across the site whilst creating a strong character for the scheme.

Paradise Fields challenges some of the current ‘norms’ in housing design, by reinterpreting the social ambitions found in mid-twentieth century council home building. By combining these with a wealth of current best practice guidance for affordable housing, the result is an innovative and forward-looking scheme.

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