East Cambridgeshire District Council approached Haysom Ward Miller to design a housing development on the site of a recently demolished swimming pool building, with a brief to develop a scheme which could serve as an exemplar for new housing in Ely. The houses were to be light-filled and contemporary in feel, contextually appropriate and sufficiently compact to be affordable. The site is in a difficult location, wedged between a public car park and a large metal clad sports centre. However it is in the town centre, close to local amenities, within walking distance of the train station, and adjacent a large sports field - called Paradise.
With the demolition of the old swimming pool building views of the Cathedral from the playing field and footpath were suddenly revealed and the layout of the development was informed by a strong desire to preserve this view. Lines were drawn across the site from the Cathedral's famous lantern to the entrance gate into the Paradise field, and the buildings were aligned to keep this sight-line clear. This created an internal street through the site with the buildings around this central space. To keep this a people-centred area the car parking is located at the entrance to the site so that the focus of the housing is around a shared communal green space.
To reduce the impact of the construction process on the car park, playing field and nearby residents, the houses were designed in collaboration with a local modular homes supplier so that the units could be delivered to site 'ready made'. To be transportable the modules had to be light weight so the external cladding is a combination of panels and timber framing. For robustness and durability the ground floor is an external skin of brick, which will be built on site and create a continuous colonnade to visually integrate the modules into a unified whole.