26th Oct 2023 — Garden City Collaboration

Garden City Collaboration

In 2022, we were delighted to be shortlisted as part of the VeloCity & Tibbalds wider team in the international contest for a new 705-hectare garden community in Essex; Colchester Garden City. The site is located on the Eastern edge of Colchester and seeks to provide a landscape led scheme with 9000 new homes, amenities, and employment expansion opportunities.


The team was led by Tibbalds and included several designers with specialist expertise and knowledge to ensure we could fully and competently address the present-day challenges of delivering a new town. Our role on the project was to provide specialist input on the Intergenerational Living. We drew on our expertise and experience in designing for intergenerational and multi-generational living, flexible and adaptable homes and developing neighbourhood and co-location strategies which are supportive and nurturing.


Client: Latimer by Clarion Housing
Competition: 2022
Location: Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community


Lead masterplanner, design code lead and lead consultant: Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

Local character and zero carbon masterplanning: Mikhail Riches

Community and social design focus: Featherstone Young

Placemaking and public realm: Petra Marko

Outdoor swimming specialist: Studio Octopi

Landscape Architect: BBUK

Green infrastructure: The Landscape Partnership

Biodiversity specialist advisor: Biodiversity by Design

Sustainability consultant: Expedition Engineering

Communications, identity & consultation lead: Thomas Mathews

Intergenerational living and active travel infrastructure: SWA


Team visit to Colchester and the site

The competition was split across two stages. The first stage required the team to provide an illustrated ‘Think Piece’ on how we would respond to the opportunities and challenges of the scheme.  The second stage involved developing the initial approach across two illustrative boards demonstrating how we would ultimately approach the masterplan.


Tibbald’s led the collaboration between the team and a mixture of in-person and virtual workshops were held along with group site visits. During the workshops the team questioned:

  • How could truly accessible 5-minute neighbourhoods be deliveded?
  • How to work with, collaborate and provide ties with the existing Colchester residents and businesses?
  • How can we celebrate and maintain the existing biodiversity of the site?
  • How could the new town grow over time?



The VeloCity established design principles were used to workshop our responses to the approach. A Miro board was used by all team members and was continually updated during the submission development, so even though we were across different practices and offices we could be continually working together.


Working as a collective was really enjoyable and it was exciting to see how different specialist input flagged different considerations. Having a number of voices and a large team, helped to ensure the brief and existing site was considered as a whole in relation to people, homes, economy, landscape and engagement.


Detailed below are thoughts that were raised in relation to our specialist input on intergenerational and mutli-generational living.

VeloCity Principal 1: People over cars

  • Homeshare: Bringing together individuals that can help each other. Typically, an older person and a younger lodger. The younger person does not provide personal care but may help with day-to-day activities like shopping or engagement with social groups.
  • Co-locating and ‘In residence’: An approach to sharing skills and knowledge between elders and younger people or vice versa. Those with skills to offer take a mentoring role to support others in need. In residence – Students and young people living in specialist accommodation for older people. Like an artist or craftsperson in residence programme
  • Cohousing: Intentional communities set up and run by the people that live there. Facilities shared on a neighbourhood level. Usually, mixed age groups but may be targeted at specific groups. Designed to encourage frequent and easy interactions between neighbours.
  • City wide: Programmes managed and supported by municipal housing authorities. One example in Spain uses a ‘good neighbour’ agreement where 1 young person is paired with elder people to partake in social or community activities on a voluntary basis in exchange for reduced rent.

VeloCity Principal 2: Resilient not fragile

  • Homes need to be capable of being flexible in layout and adaptable over time to new demographics such as an ageing population, new kinship models, shared households.
  • Intergenerational living helps strengthen communities and provides care across ages so older and younger people can remain autonomous but connected.


VeloCity Principal 3: Compact not sprawl

  • A compact city is inclusive, helping older people and those with restricted abilities be fully integrated with the rest of the community.


VeloCity Principal 4: Connected not isolated

  • Provide navigation through obvious wayfinding, signage, landscape markers and spatial types: under, over, between.
  • New neighbourhoods should be inclusive, helping older people and those with restricted abilities be visible and fully integrated with the rest of the community.


VeloCity Principal 5: Opportunity over decline

  • New models of live/work
  • The proposals should engender pride and generate vibrancy and motivation by being unique, high quality and well-maintained. Entrepreneurship will be encouraged through options for affordable rents.
  • Forward-looking housing models will be demonstrated to be more resilient and attract different groups to live there.
  • Provide opportunities and skills for a viable future, especially young people. Build social capital.


It was exciting to draw on our experience of providing different home typologies and referencing our work on neighbourhood strategies (Growing letchworth and Ebbsfleet Healthy Garden City ) to encourage intergenerational living. Having a dedicated specialist as part of the team meant, as a team, we could demonstrate this was a serious part of the masterplan approach. 


We really enjoyed collaborating with the wider team and discussing the opportunities regarding what it means to provide a truly sustainable, future-proofed new town!