The story of how Hampton has ‘grown up’

2009: an aerial view of Westlake near Hampton Vale. Photo: David Lowndes
2009: an aerial view of Westlake near Hampton Vale. Photo: David Lowndes
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Part 2 of our feature, celebrating Hampton township’s 20th anniversary: The drive from London Road towards Serpentine Green stops abruptly at Hempsted.

The red lights blink into green and the road deviates left, a slow 20mph trundle for a few hundred yards , before it joins back to the original road.

Sledgers at the Tump in Hampton

Sledgers at the Tump in Hampton

Only buses and cyclists can pass along the A15 unimpeded. Motorists must use the loop system, and it is the same story in the reverse direction, towards Woodston.

This writer has fielded several phone calls from readers asking one question: “Why?”

My answer lies in the barren land with the car parking spaces and Tesco signs in the centre of Hempsted, and was supplied by Roger Tallowin of O and H Hampton, the company which delivered the Hampton infrastructure: a district centre will be built on the land and developers didn’t want turning on a road with a 50mph limit. So the one-way loop system was created to slow drivers down.

It is one of many little snippets I pick upduring a Land Rover tour of the development to learn more about the past, present and future of Hampton, as it celebrates its 20-year anniversary in 2013,

Hampton Nature Reserve. Photo supplied

Hampton Nature Reserve. Photo supplied

A big part of the story is the nearby GKL Group, the civil engineering company which has formed a ‘strong partnership’ with O and H.

There are also at least ten housing developers, adding their own angle to the various slices and segments of the Hampton development.

It is clear that the image of the 200 affordable houses in Hempsted are not, in Roger’s opinion, one of the highlights: “It should have been split into five areas by different developers, because it now looks too ‘samey’.

“In any development you don’t want to be able to see who lives where, and that’s what works well in Hampton Hargate.”

2011: Aerial view of Hampton Hargate's north east corner. Photo: David Lowndes

2011: Aerial view of Hampton Hargate's north east corner. Photo: David Lowndes

The other Hampton neighbourhoods might be distinct from Hempsted.

But many would argue that once inside the densely-packed rabbit warrens they all look the same. The list of visitors to the township who have never been hopelessly lost, or reached an impasse at one of the many confusing and frustrating crossings, would be a short one.

On Ruster Way, Roger’s answer is to challenge me with a rhetorical question on the aesthetic qualities of the homes: “Which of these are private properties, and which are housing association?”

I guess successfully, but the point is taken. Despite people’s attitudes towards social housing which ranges from ambivalence to snobbiness to fear, the buildings aren’t always abominations.

And Roger would no doubt contend that their proximity to houses costing in excess of £650,000 – the splendid self-builds on Winsor Crescent complete with five en-suite bedrooms, and in some cases acting as prototypes for zero-carbon properties on the South Bank – represents success.

I learn much about the thinking behind the development and quirky little stories which accompany it.

I learn that News International’s alarm systems have been set off by rabbits on several occasions.

I learn that a pub was planned opposite Maharani’s but residents complained about an establishment with a drinking licence being so close to schools.

I learn that the allotments at Hampton Vale are fully occupied – no mean feat in Peterborough.

I learn that O and H installed a £50,000 ‘cat fence’ along back gardens of Hampton Hargate Road, to prevent moggies escaping into the wildlife areas – ineffectively, as it transpires.

And I learn that even halfway into the life of Hampton there is no clear consensus which is best in terms of vehicle usage in a green area; parking for cars at the rear of a house, or parking at the front.

We go past the flourishing football club. In ten years Hampton has achieved a triple award winning football club and is one of the region’s fastest growing and most dynamic grass roots club, enjoying 35 per cent growth year on year – with plans to increase to over 50 teams within the next five years

It also provides funding for projects for members between 13 and 25 run to help the local community.

We drive past the Tump, the natural level of the land before development started. Roger tells me that someone is suing him after injuring themselves on their toboggan earlier this year, when it struck a signpost at the base.

Apparently legal action is quite commonplace on developments, and so various failsafes are in place. We pass Serpentine Lake and see the three metres of thick reeds, designed to stop young children from wading in from the edge.

O and H visits schools to talk to youngsters about the danger of the water, and Roger is dreading the day that he would ever have to look a grieving mother in the eye.

Along the journey he refers to everything from roads to play areas as his possessions – at Molyneux Square “The winter weather has killed all my plants” – but his tone is more paternal than capitalist.

And people know him. Workmen laying roads smile and two conservationists detailing vole numbers in the nature reserve stop to chat.

Nature and greenery is an integral part of Hampton, which has been cited by Natural England as an exemplar of how to integrate new development into the surrounding landscape, with a successful pledge to maintain 50 per cent of open space.

Around 110,000 trees have been planted, while £1.1 million has been spent on tunnels for great crested newts.

Crown Lake has its own bat cave, and those ridges of soil, bricks and rubble which look like the result of flytipping? They are hibernacula, specifically designed as perfect homes for small beasts to thrive.

Ecology and biodiversity charities Froglife, the Wildlife Trust and Buglife were involved with the design of 630 acres set aside for wildlife, and are managing these open spaces.

An hour, and several bumpy tracks later, we find ourselves on a lofty ridge to the south of the city. Yaxley is in the distance, but in 20 years it will be hidden behind the Goliath that is the 5,300-home Great Haddon development.

There is much more to come, many more hundreds of thousands of tonnes of ash and clay to be moved and deposited and worked before then. And it will never really stop.

Roger adds: “When Hampton started we did a lot for the community.

“But now people are self-organising, with thriving groups and clubs. It has a parish council, and a residents association, and lots of other things.

“Hampton has now grown up.”

Growing the economy: Hampton business in facts and figures

Hampton has created a jobs-to-homes ratio of 1.25 compared to the national average of 0.75. The total rateable value of Hampton businesses now exceeds £20m.

To date 5,800 new jobs have been created within Hampton – most recently national IT suppliers Kelway, bringing 200 jobs

The 2011 UK census showed Hampton and Orton wards have the highest proportion of employed people throughout the city.

During Hampton’s development, around 90 per cent of O&H’s £120-150million turnover was spent in the Peterborough area, employing local firms to do the work.

Big names include IKEA, Debenhams and Prologis – all of whom have distribution centres at Kingston Park.

Other well-known names include News International, Kiddicare, GKL Northern and Volvo. Deafblind UK and Mencap’s national headquarters are in Hampton

The new Opus development provides 61,000 sq ft of office space for both established and start-up businesses.

Footfall in the 280,000 sq ft Serpentine Green shopping centre increased in 2012 from 5.8m to 6.1million.