Taking a longer-term view to shape places with legacy
West of Ifield
The average cost of a home in Horsham is more than 12 times the average salary, while in Crawley it is more than 8. The site for West of Ifield, which sits between these two towns, and just south of Gatwick Airport, has the potential to address this critical issue through the provision of 3,000 new homes, a major new neighbourhood centre, as well as approximately 2,700 new employment opportunities.
Working as masterplanners and town planners on behalf of Homes England, Prior + Partners are part of a multi-disciplinary team bringing forward a hybrid planning application for the site. A minimum of 35% of the new homes will be affordable, with our practice’s role over a five-year period having involved supporting the client in promoting the site through the Horsham Local Plan, as well as design a robust masterplan for the development of the site over the next 15 years. These proposals have been developed through consultation with the local community, early engagement with delivery partners and discussions with local stakeholder groups.
In an endeavour to set a new benchmark for the approach to new communities, a secondary school will be the first building to be delivered at West of Ifield. This will sit as part of the new neighbourhood centre, where amenities include a primary school with a nursery, a health centre, swimming pool, as well as shops and cafes, all designed around a community square. The neighbourhood centre will be delivered as part of an early phase of development to underpin and root the new neighbourhood. It will also ensure the existing communities around the proposed new housing are supported with improved amenities as other residents start moving in.
Our work began by considering the existing landscape. Most of the site has been long in public ownership and was part of the land originally bought to accommodate the Crawley New Town in the 1950s. The area sits between Ancient Woodland, Flood zones around the River Mole, historic assets in the far north and Ifield Meadows, which separates the site from the existing Ifield neighbourhood.
Our masterplan was heavily influenced by this tapestry of natural environments, and we worked closely alongside landscape architects Gillespies and engineers Ramboll to ensure the masterplan protects and respects these landscapes, and is able to achieve a significant biodiversity net gain.
Five distinct character areas are created, all influenced by the existing landscape. Within each will be several different typologies of flats and houses, arranged dependent on the location of the character area, to produce a set of neighbourhoods with distinct identity. A Design Code will also be submitted as part of the application to help guide the future expectations of this new community.
The economic story has been another important driver behind the proposals, particularly in the post-covid economic situation of the Gatwick region. The masterplan will accommodate a significant number of new jobs within a substantial new employment area, providing a range of employment space – from an innovation centre to mixed-use office and industrial facilities. Combined with the jobs generated by the educational amenities and the neighbourhood centre, West of Ifield should become a diverse community and bring economic resilience to the wider area.
While our illustrative masterplan demonstrates one way in which development could come forward, we have been careful to ensure that the planning parameters that form part of the outline aspects of the application allow for sufficient flexibility to aid future innovation and support Homes England in a varied approach to Developer Partner procurement. It is envisaged that development parcels can be aligned to both SME and innovative constructors, as well as volume housebuilders. The Design Code provides the critical control to ensure that under any disposal model, a set of distinctive place attributes will be guarded and delivered.
The overall proposals for West of Ifield will appropriately stitch the new neighbourhood into Crawley and surrounding villages, while retaining strong defensible landscape boundaries around the western and southern edge of the site to maintain clear separation between existing urban areas.
Once delivered, West of Ifield will expand the variety of housing and employment opportunities locally, and create a new community that is rooted in principles of long-term legacy and stewardship.
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