Derwenthorpe timeline

  • 1904: Joseph Rowntree’s Vision

    Joseph Rowntree writes of his wish in the context of the foundation of New Earswick: ‘I do not want to establish communities bearing the stamp of charity but rather of rightly ordered and self- governing communities’. In some ways rather similar to Derwenthorpe, New Earswick was planned as a mixed community, with housing for workers and for managers – and ‘green’ in its way, with gardens for everyone, each with a fruit tree

  • 1988: The vision revived.

    Richard Best, who had recently been appointed as chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT), was keen for the Trust to embark on a new Garden Village. The Trust settled on a site, but decided to pull out in 1990 when the risk of subsidence from earlier mining became apparent.

  • 1989: Site designated for housing.

    The site of what became Derwenthorpe was designated for housing in the Greater York Study.

  • 1996: York acquires the land.

    York had become a unitary authority, and a chunk of (neighbouring authority) Ryedale’s land had fallen into York’s hands. The Council planned to sell it to a volume house-builder on condition that 30% was developed as affordable housing and passed across to a housing association.

  • 1998: Council approaches JRHT

    The City of York Council asked if JRHT would care to be that housing association. JRHT firmly declined this offer, believing that what would result would be a very basic estate, with social housing all together in one part of it. The then Director of Housing for the City, Bob Towner, understood, and agreed to promote the idea of JRHT acquiring the whole site and drawing up a Masterplan for a sustainable, well-designed, mixed income new community

  • 1999: Council and JRHT in agreement.

    JRF/JRHT Trustees cautiously approved this approach, and in June, JRHT began a consultation process, distributing 13,000 leaflets to everyone around the site. JRHT held a competition for four finalists to produce a Masterplan for what was then called ‘New Osbaldwick’. Each presented their case to the hundreds of local people who turned out for the consultation, over many days, in a marquee. The City agreed to sell the land to JRHT in return for careful attention by the Trust as lead developer to environmental and social sustainability, provision of affordable housing and community participation. This agreement would later come back to haunt the partnership as this transaction eventually ended up being investigated by the European Commission.

  • 2000: The masterplan is chosen

    The PRP Masterplan was chosen (not the one that local people had chosen). The final Masterplan proposed 540, mainly family, houses on the site, with more than one- third ‘affordable’. The community would have high-quality design, Lifetime Homes, traffic calming in home zones, sustainable urban drainage and careful attention to social mix, while provision of community facilities was intended to benefit both Derwenthorpe’s residents and surrounding neighbourhoods. The East–West power lines would be put underground for aesthetic and safety reasons. Finally, as at New Earswick, JRHT would be committed to the long-term and beneficial management of the public areas and social facilities of Derwenthorpe.

  • 2002: Land transfer agreed.

    York Council signed an agreement to transfer the land to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Foundation, in return for ‘careful attention to environmental and social sustainability, provision of affordable housing and community participation’.

  • 2003 Planning application submitted.

    An ‘outline’ planning application was made to York Council. Local MP John Greenway presented a petition signed by 800 people calling for a public inquiry

  • 2004: Great Crested Newts discovered.

    Two great crested newts were discovered on the site. More environmental studies had to be done and the master plan was adjusted

  • 2005: Plans provisionally approved.

    Local planners were ‘minded to approve’ application, but the relevant Government department decided that it needed to be called in for an inquiry by an independent planning inspector and the Secretary of State.

  • 2006: Application called in by government.

    Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly called in the planning application, kicking off a six- week public inquiry.

  • 2007: Final approval!

    The development was given planning permission by Ruth Kelly. Studio Partington were appointed as the scheme’s architects. Protesters applied for the Derwenthorpe site to be classified as a village green.

  • 2008: European Commission objects.

    The village green inquiry investigated and rejected the claim. The European Commission objected to the sale of land by York Council to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.

  • 2009: Prototype houses built.

    JRHT built two houses on Temple Avenue next to the Derwenthorpe site – numbers 54 and 69. These were intended to test different construction methods. Both houses have similar provision for ventilation, heating etc. At around the same time, JRHT retrofitted 67 Temple Avenue, a 1930’s semi, to see if it was possible to achieve the same exacting energy performance standards in an existing dwelling refurbishment as that being predicted for the Derwenthorpe prototype dwellings at 54 and 69.

  • 2010 EC rules in favour.

    The European Commission investigated the City of York Council’s decision to sell the site to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust without going out to open tender. It decided not to refer the case to the European courts. The Commission ruled that JRHT must procure a developer for each phase. Later that year, work began, with JRHT signing a contract for the infrastructure works including the Sustainable Energy Centre. Mansell was chosen as infrastructure contractor.

  • 2011 David Wilson Homes signs up.

    A Development Agreement to build 64 homes on phase 1 was signed with David Wilson Homes.

  • 2013: Phase 1 is built.

    2013: Phase 1 (Stephenson) was largely completed, and the first residents moved in. Derwenthorpe won a Housing Design Award, a What House? Award, and a Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire Award for sustainability. JRHT signed a Development Agreement with David Wilson Homes for the construction of phases 2-4.

  • 2014: Civic Trust Award.

    Derwenthorpe won a Civic Trust Award for Phase 1

  • 2017 RIBA awards.

    Derwenthorpe won a Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) National Award for phase 1 and two RIBA Yorkshire Awards for Best Large Residential Development and Sustainability for phase 1.

  • 2019 Phases 1-4 built.

    Derwenthorpe (Phases 1-4) are due to be completed. Planning permission is granted for phase 5 (the Grid Land).

  • 2020 Covid-19

    Covid-19 interrupts final completion of landscaping. Work proceeds carefully. Planning permission granted for phase

  • 2021 Phase 5 due.

    Subject to planning conditions being satisfied, Phase 5 should be built.

The author, Steven Burkeman, is grateful for help from Jonathan Gibson of JRHT, and has used an article from Inside Housing extensively. He also referred to a paper he wrote some time ago.