Derwenthorpe Case Study

Derwenthorpe featured as an exemplary designed housing project in Birmingham’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the Langley SUE. So as to better understand the merits of this scheme this case study has been put together based largely from Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) and other assessments available online.

The LINK to the detailed report shows feedback as generally positive, although there are some reported teething problems related to the District Heating Scheme, Heat Recovery, and an over expectation by occupiers of the sustainability benefits that is not always met, and also some issues between neighbours because of the relatively low car parking provision (1.1 per dwelling). But more positively community cohesion was reported to be very high and occupiers like the landscaped open space adjacent to the tightly packed housing. These lessons are very important for Langley where the relationships of built form to open space are critical factors in successfully establishing a new community.

A visit to this and other exemplary sustainable housing schemes is recommended by Eco Sutton, in order to assess the pros and cons of different sustainability and design approaches, to provide a reliable and informed benchmark of what constitutes the “highest standards” of sustainability and design.


Derwenthorpe is a mixed-tenure housing development situated approximately 2 miles to the east of York City Centre which is adjacent to Osbaldwick, Tang Hall and Meadlands. The design and planning for this new estate was undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) and the building contract for all 4 build phases has been awarded to Barratt Developments (under the brand name “David Wilson Homes”). The credited Phase One Architect is Adam Cornish. The Phase One Contract Value was £8m.

Most new housing developments are free-standing and generate constant car journeys. Derwenthorpe has been created as an edge-of-town extension to allow residents to link to the existing infrastructure. It is situated in the village of Osbaldwick on the outskirts of York. Local amenities in the village include schools, nurseries and doctors’ surgeries. There are dentists, chemists, vets, supermarkets, a health club, a library and a post office. It is served by excellent transport links into York city centre and beyond.

Community Ethos:

Over 100 years ago, Joseph Rowntree built York’s garden village of New Earswick  as a model community. He hoped others might learn lessons in addressing social issues. A century later, the new community of Derwenthorpe was created to emulate this model. It is providing much needed new housing in the city.

The development explores three themes focusing around creating sustainable communities:

  • environmental performance – practical solutions to deliver zero-carbon homes;
  • environmental behaviours – encouraging and supporting more sustainable lifestyles;
  • digital and social media – addressing the barriers to digital inclusion and using it to support community development.

An over-arching priority remains the creation of a vibrant community. This means a high level of involvement by its citizens in decisions that affect them all. Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust is actively involved in initiatives to provide low carbon heat and attractive green and open spaces. Also, a self-governing community residents can be proud of.


Derwenthorpe was one of the first large-scale low carbon communities in northern England. It meets demanding targets for reduced energy and water usage. Its ‘green’ heating and hot water system is at the heart of the development.

All homes built will meet or exceed the Code for Sustainable Homes level 4 standard and include features such as MVHR Heat Recovery Systems in order to reduce energy consumption. Hot water and central heating is provided by means of a district heating biomass furnace system which is housed in the “Super Sustainable Centre” (SSC) in the middle of the site.

The community uses a district heating system. It means that homes don’t have their own boilers. Heating and hot water is efficiently distributed to all homes by the predominantly biomass boilers. These are in the village’s centrally located SSC. Woodchip is used in the biomass boilers. It burns with extremely low pollution effects on the environment (compared to traditional sources like coal and oil). It is sourced locally through both harvesting trees grown specifically for this purpose and recycling forestry thinnings.

The SSC generates hot water. This is distributed to homes through underground pipes. It then passes through a Consumer Interface Unit to generate hot water for radiators, washing and bathing.

The temperature in each home is controlled by residents via a digital programmer and upstairs/downstairs thermostats. There are also thermostatic radiator valves on individual radiators. Heat and hot water usage in each home is measured by a heat meter. This sends automatic readings to a company called Switch1. They use these readings to generate accurate monthly bills.

Tenure and Layout:

Derwenthorpe will eventually offer 489 high-quality environmentally friendly and energy efficient homes. The Lotherington Quarter is located off Temple Avenue and takes its name from Elizabeth Lotherington. She was the grandmother of well-known businessman and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree. It is a mixed-tenure development of 120 properties. They are two, three- and four-bedroom family homes. They are available to rent, part-buy or buy through our shared and full ownership scheme. This approach to quarter design is very appropriate to the larger Langley SUE to create a sense of place and distinctiveness in what is a far larger scheme. Also Derwenthorpe’s approach to mixed tenure offers a more varied package to prospective occupiers with an avoidance of stigmatisation.

The Seebohm Quarter is located off Fifth Avenue. It takes its name from Benjamin Seebohm, he was second of the four sons of Joseph Rowntree. Langley can learn from Derwenthorpe in creating place names and identities based on local Suttonian historical figures.

There are two, three, four and five bedroom flats and houses available to rent, part-buy or buy through the JRHT shared and full ownership scheme. Each home has been designed with eco-friendly features including communal biomass boiler heating and a drainage system that prevents flooding. Some have balconies and en-suite bathrooms.

Community Activities and Initiatives:

Community activities are encouraged in Derwenthorpe. JRHT claim that the SSC offers a central meeting place for residents, local schools and community groups to use, including The Derwenthorpe Partnership Advisory Committee, which provides resident input into the development of the community, and the Derwenthorpe Community Fund.

The Derwenthorpe Community Fund was created to invest in initiatives that benefit the local community. It has a particular focus on tackling the actions highlighted by local people. The types of activities that come under the grant include:

  • Working with schools and other local agencies and community organisations to provide community activities for all ages;
  • Developing opportunities for children and young people to engage in community-based activities;
  • Supporting or establishing events and activities that make best use of open space and recreational facilities in and around Derwenthorpe;
  • Supporting or developing learning opportunities for adults;
  • Supporting or developing social events and activities that promote social cohesion and inclusion.

These provisions are relevant to the Community Development Trust (CDT) as proposed for Langley


The development has won a number of awards for both design and build, including:

  • Civic Trust Award, 2014 for Phase 1
  • Housing Design Award, 2013 (completed category)
  • What House? Awards, 2013. Silver awarded in the “Best Development” category
  • Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire Award for sustainability, 2017 for Phase 1
  • Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire Award for Best Large Residential Development, 2017 for Phase 2


Photographs (where known): Tim Crocker

Thanks to JRHT / LINK

Detailed Report is available at:  LINK

One thought on “Derwenthorpe Case Study

  1. Pingback: Langley Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE): NEW DECADE PROGRESS REPORT In it for the Long Haul . . . ? – ECO Sutton

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