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The style of the new Cliveden Village may come as a surprise to many, but the eco-friendly homes for the over 55s are proving very popular, reports Tessa Harris...
The very name Cliveden conjures up visions of luxury and opulence. The estate, which at its centre boasts a magnificent Italianate mansion, designed by Sir Charles Barry, was once synonymous with high society and political intrigue and famous and, since it opened as an exclusive hotel in the 1990s, it has attracted the world's elite from crowned heads of stars to the king of pop - Michael Jackson himself.
Of course the estate itself and, indeed, the hotel, are actually owned by the National Trust and to secure its future the Trust naturally wanted to make use of its most valuable asset - building land. While all income generated from Cliveden Village will be used by the National Trust to conserve, protect and improve the Cliveden Estate, the development of 135 new homes is probably not in the style usually associated with the esteemed custodians of our English heritage.
That's because, rather than play on the historic, classical architecture, the Trust, in conjunction with developers Countryside Properties have made the brave and, what some may call ground-breaking, decision to go with an ultra-modern look.
The reason is simple. The new homes are on the site of the former Red Cross Hospital that was built by the Astors for WW1 soldiers recovering from the front - many of whom were Canadian. Later it became the main hospital for east Berkshire until the construction of Wexham Park Hospital in Slough. So, the new "village" homes are in a very simple, contemporary style with an emphasis on sustainability.
The development ends a long row between the National Trust and Taplow residents over the years who argued that the area was too isolated to support a new community because of its distance from any public transport, services, employment or recreation. So the developers and residents reached a compromise: the houses were to be occupied exclusively by over 55s. This meant that any potential burden on local schools and the concerns of extra road traffic that families would provide would be negated. The developers call Cliveden Village the "blueprint" for "high-end, age-exclusive new property." Says a spokesperson: "Just because you are over-55 does not mean you lack the joie de vivre and desire for new experience. We have labelled them the NONY generation, Not Old, Not Young."
In the spring the first of 135 new homes were launched and generated a huge amount of interest and indeed, at time of going to press, all but two of Phase 1 have been sold, with some new owners already having moved in. Says estate agent Lynn Ackoff-Thomas of the Frost Partnership:" Because Cliveden is very famous, lots of people who are interested have been local at some point." For example, the daughter of one buyer who lives in South Africa, was born in the hospital. The development is not due to be completed until 2010 and all properties are on a 125-year lease, generating much-needed income for the National Trust.
Countryside Properties' strong environmental agenda is reflected in its choice of design and the materials used. The National Trust's architectural panel say they selected a modern design for the primary reason that modernistic designs are better suited to passive solar architecture than traditional designs. For example, they have large areas of glass allowing sun penetration to warm the building fabric, which then radiates its absorbed heat at night to keep the
interior temperature stable.
The result is that houses and apartments come in simple shapes with flat roofs, but these are embellished with details, such as copper parapets, timber shingles and oak doors and frames to provide interest.
Wherever possible and viable, the homes are built using materials that are renewable, sustainable or recyclable, and a carefully designed urban drainage system across the development ensures that all rainwater is returned into the ground rather than adding water into the public system.
As many properties as possible have been oriented to maximize the amount of heat that they can gain from the sun, and renewable energy is provided to a selection of properties which are fitted with solar hot water installations (those houses with pitched roofs). Every home is
equipped with a 'mechanical heat recovery system', which continuously circulates fresh air throughout the property while extracting heat from the recycled air, to help reduce energy costs.
Residents also have access to a range of recycling facilities, including a green waste regime run in association with the National Trust at Cliveden. Homes are equipped with low energy external lighting, dual flush toilets and bicycle storage; and houses have water butts fitted.
Inside the homes are designed to maximise light and space. Floor to ceiling windows in the some of the homes, for example, allow light to flood in.
The interiors of the showhomes have been designed in two different styles. One concept is entitled "Chuck out the Chintz" which offers a contemporary design palette for those buyers who wish to make a fresh start in their new home, while the second aims to show home buyers can still used their existing furniture, which may be more traditional, to blend in with the modern architecture.
They have been designed by the London team of Todhunter Earle, who were behind The Vineyard at Stockcross and Raymond Blanc's Manor aux Quatre Saison.
Only two, two bedroom, two bathroom homes, with a price tag of 575,000 currently remain from Phase 1. Phase 2, containing 10 apartments with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a balcony, has not yet begun but already seven buyers have registered their reservations.
Phase 2 will also see the introduction of the underground parking and four new house types.
The overall design of the new Cliveden may come as a bit of a surprise to many, but judging by the response from potential buyers, it seems to be a welcome one.
To register interest or to find out further information, call The Frost Partnership on 01628 668835 or visit www.clivedenvillage.co.uk