Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 17:09 UK

Charles' village 'is an ego trip'

The construction of Poundbury, Dorset, began in 1993

A cabinet minister has suggested the Prince of Wales's model village of Poundbury in Dorset was born of an ego trip more than concern for residents.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears MP likened Poundbury to the communities built by 19th Century industrialists.

She compared Poundbury to Bournville in Birmingham, Saltaire in West Yorkshire and Port Sunlight in Merseyside.

She said they "owed more to paternalism and the aggrandisement of the benefactor than concern for residents".

She added: "If I were feeling cheeky, I might add Poundbury to the list."

But residents of the village had mixed feelings about Miss Blears' comments, made during Thursday's launch of the new Fabian Housing and Community Policy Network.

David Dawkins, 44, the transport planner for Dorset County Council, said: "It's not so much self-aggrandisement. I would say it's a lot more cynical. It's a money-making venture on a green belt site.

"This whole thing about sustainable housing is just hogwash."

Bournville - Built by chocolate baron and philanthropist George Cadbury in the 19th Century for the enhancement of employees' quality of life
Saltaire - Built in the 19th Century by the Victorian philanthropist Sir Titus Salt, to provide self-contained living space for the workers at his woollen mills
Port Sunlight - A garden village built in 1888 by soap manufacturer William Hesketh Lever

Mr Dawkins, who is selling his 395,000 four-bed, semi-detached house in Poundbury because of problems with school catchment areas, added: "If developers can get planning permission to build high-density housing on a green belt or semi-rural location, then it's a licence to print money and that's what Poundbury is all about.

"If they can cite Poundbury as a precedent, that's very convenient. They can make a killing and that's what it's all about, in my humble view."

He said the majority of luxury housing was aimed at wealthy people wanting to retire to the county.

Fran Leaper, the chairwoman of the Poundbury Residents' Association (PRA), disagreed.

"It sounds like Hazel Blears having a little go at Prince Charles," she said.

"It's not an ego trip. It is a vision of a lovely piece of architecture that will help foster community spirit.

"It isn't totally perfect but it is extremely successful."

Poundbury is an extension of Dorchester built on planning principles detailed in Prince Charles's 1989 book, A Vision of Britain.

Hazel Blears
Hazel Blears said Poundbury owed much to "paternalism"

After a five-year public consultation period, construction was started in 1993 and is being done in phases. It is due for completion in 2025 and could eventually cover 40 hectares (98 acres).

Simon Conibear, Poundbury development manager, said: "Most people living in Poundbury like it. An independent survey showed an 80% satisfaction rate among residents.

"It is a pioneering development which integrates affordable housing with private homes.

"It reduces the reliance on cars by creating facilities which are within walking distance of homes.

"Like any other development, the popularity of the housing has led to an increase in house prices but providing affordable housing has always been an integral part of the Poundbury vision and we are currently increasing the percentage from 20% to 35%."

Former resident Mark Johnston, 39, sold his 298,000 three-bed, semi-detached house in Poundbury last year after planning run-ins with the Duchy.

The teacher, who now lives in Dorchester with his wife and two sons, said: "The Duchy are not interested in anything the residents have got to say apart from the Poundbury Residents' Association, who are just happy to be on Prince Charles's estate.

"The social housing is the only places with people with families. Everyone else has been priced out."

He added: "I don't agree with a lot of what Hazel Blears says. She's a bit of a comedian at times, but I hate to say it, maybe she is right this time."

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