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114 years on, why George Cadbury's Bournville is still the role model for successful housing

George Cadbury’s achievements were recently recognised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which awarded him honorary membership

Bournville, Birmingham
Bournville, Birmingham

It has been 114 years since one of Birmingham’s most famous sons, George Cadbury, designed Bournville in a bid to alleviate overcrowding and squalid living conditions in the city.

Since then, many have credited the model village with laying the foundations for the development of garden cities and introducing the benefits of open spaces into modern town planning.

George’s achievements were recently recognised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) which awarded him honorary membership, a tribute also posthumously bestowed to Robbie Burns, the poet who also worked as a land surveyor, and evolutionary biologist and surveyor Alfred Russel Wallace.

RICS president Louise Brooke-Smith said: “This great man’s achievements are as relevant today as they were when he founded Bournville Village Trust in 1900.

“I have no doubt that we can all learn lessons from George Cadbury’s legacy and I hope that it will inspire policy makers and professionals alike as we strive to provide the housing our nation so urgently needs today.”

George Cadbury
George Cadbury
 

Accepting the RICS honour on behalf of George Cadbury, Bournville Village Trust chairman, Duncan Cadbury, said: “The Trust and the Cadbury family is very proud to receive the award of RICS Honorary Membership on behalf of George Cadbury.

“A man with incredible foresight, George designed, planned and created a sustainable and mixed community in Bournville that would later act as an exemplar for garden cities in the UK.

“We believe that there is much that today’s planners and developers can learn from George’s work and we at the Trust continue to develop affordable, high-quality homes and communities based upon his principles.”

Related: Cadbury owner Mondelēz International appoints new president for northern Europe.

While much has changed since Bournville’s conception, the Bournville Village Trust believes policymakers and planners can learn from the unique legacy he left behind.

Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust, talks about that legacy and its lessons for today:

 

Create mixed communities

Contrary to popular belief, George Cadbury didn’t just build homes for workers of his chocolate factory.

The village was, and still is, home to a mixed community, split just about equally between tenanted and owner-occupied homes and importantly, it’s a community that works with 95 per cent of residents feeling that their neighbourhood is a good place to live.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation* also suggests mixed communities are the way forward and a tested way of delivering “high quality, popular neighbourhoods which achieve socio-economic integration”.

 

Be distinctive but homely

George Cadbury appointed architect William Alexander Harvey to design Bournville’s homes, which were distinctive yet homely. Significantly, they met the needs of the people of the day, including bungalows for retired workers from the chocolate factory.

At Bournville Village Trust we believe that a important factor in tackling the housing crisis is to build the right homes, for the right people, in the right places.

Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust
Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust
 

There are plans which will soon see Bournville become home to a new care village developed in partnership with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, Birmingham City Council and a range of other health and social care partners.

It will meet the housing, health and social care needs of people well into the future and we believe that it will become a national exemplar for the way that a range of high-quality services can be delivered effectively in one place at a significant saving to the public purse. 

 

Keep building

In Bournville, building came to a standstill during the Second World War but resumed quickly thereafter. Several self-build groups constructed their own homes from scratch with support from the Trust and we’ve also worked with Birmingham City Council and others to build new homes.

Today, England is building only half of the 245,000 homes needed each year to meet demand, according to the National Housing Federation.* 

If we want to build more homes, we need a sustained and long-term building programme, innovative and environmental housing solutions and increased partnership working between developers and housing associations. 

 

Develop villages not just homes

George Cadbury firmly believed that local facilities helped communities to thrive, just to provide housing wasn’t enough.

This is why Bournville is characterised by attractive well-used open spaces, community halls and facilities, all managed by the Trust.

Bournville Village Green
Bournville Village Green

According to research from the University of Exeter*, living in an urban area that has green spaces can have a ongoing effect on boosting people’s health and wellbeing.

Therefore, we must invest in and protect our urban open spaces and find new ways to encourage people to interact with them.

Nationally, there is a renewed political push for garden cities and we believe that the lessons learned at Bournville, inspired by the vision of George Cadbury over 114 years ago, are still hugely relevant in this current debate. 

 

Sources:

* Mixed communities: Success and sustainability by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/mixed-communities-success-and-sustainability

* European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25682368

* Broken Market, Broken Dreams: Home Truths 2014/15 by the National Housing Federation. http://www.housing.org.uk/publications/browse/home-truths-2014/

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