AN architect is returning to his Sunderland roots in the hope of putting his mark on the landscape with a multimillion-pound development of one-of-a-kind eco homes.
Richard Marsden, who lives in Barnes, has teamed up with his former lecturer – Professor Paul Jones – and fifth year masters students from Northumbria University to push the boundaries of design.
Together they have put together a proposal to build 13 houses on Humbledon Hill, off Durham Road, which is now going through the planning process.
Exactly how much the properties will cost is not yet known, but chartered architect Richard, 29, thinks they will go for about £300,000 each.
The hill – which is home to a two-acre Bronze Age settlement – is listed with English Heritage and leaves another two acres of land available to build on.
“We chose this site in particular because of its prominence. What better way to showcase quality design and the regions talent than on a landmark site,” Richard told the Echo.
“We could have invested our time and money into other sites in the region but thought it was about time something was done for Sunderland’s benefit.
“There are many talented and wealthy people that are from Sunderland but they tend to migrate to Cleadon and Washington or further afield.
“Why? Because we have very little executive housing in the centre of Sunderland.
“Most of Sunderland football club live in Newcastle. We feel it’s about time we started taking care of our own and offer an exciting place to live.”
Richard’s Durham-based practice BDN Ltd has mentored and employed the students for the last 12 months, and workshops have led to 10 bespoke house-types that have already attracted attention from major housing providers.
They have also undertaken research into how Building Information Modelling (BIM) can help increase the development’s environmental credentials.
Richard, a former Shiney Row College student, bought the land last year with his father Alan, a builder.
Together the pair won Best Housing Development at Sunderland City Council’s Building Excellence Awards last year for a property in Birchfield Road.
Earlier this year, Richard won Young Achiever of the year for Construction Excellence in the North East and is in the running for the national award in London this November. He was nominated by Northumbria University mainly because of his work with Humbledon Hill.
He added: “The project is not a typical development in that the density is far generous than the norm.
“It’s more of a statement of intent that we can be up there with the best designers and we can provide great places to live in our own city.
“If we can successfully win the backing of local councillors and Sunderland City Council, we intend to see this project through to completion using local tradesman and consultants to really put Sunderland on the map in terms of construction excellence.”
Barnes ward Coun Lee Martin said: “I want to know what local residents think about developing on such a sensitive and prominent site before I come to a view myself.
“We do need more homes to be built as a city, but whether we allow development on such a sensitive site for just 13 of them is another thing altogether.
“I certainly hope the eco homes tag is not being used as a way of trying to get permission to build on such as sensitive site. All new homes have to be eco-friendly now after all.”