Planned English town reveals King Charles’ recipe for an ideal future

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In the days when he was crown prince, King Charles III was known for his strong and controversial anti-modernist views on architecture and land use.

But Prince Charles was not just a talker, he was a doer. And in the small town of Poundbury, in the west of England, he has founded and built a community that expresses his vision of how Britain might build its way out of a housing shortage.

Why We Wrote This

Thirty years ago, King Charles started building a town that matched his vision of urban planning. Today, though Poundbury’s architecture may be traditional, its sense of community meets modern aspirations.

Its 3,800 residents live in a quirky sort of place. It is an eclectic mix of differently styled low-rise houses and apartments, mostly built to traditional designs, lining streets that are rarely straight and mostly free of both litter and stoplights. Plenty of small businesses are scattered around the town.

The new king seems to have achieved one of his main goals – to create a sense of community in Poundbury – and he has ensured that 35% of the homes there constitute affordable housing. But is the town a model for how Britain could expand its housing stock?

Critics say it is too costly and cumbersome. Boosters, and there are many in Poundbury, say it is worth spending a little bit more to provide people-friendly environments.

In the days when he was crown prince, King Charles III voiced strong and controversial opinions on many topics. But he reserved his strongest and most controversial remarks for architecture and land use.

He once compared Britain’s postwar urban planners, unfavorably, with the German bombers that had reduced neighborhoods to rubble during World War II. Most famously, he called a proposed modernist extension to London’s National Gallery “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.” (The project was killed.)

But Prince Charles wasn’t just a talker. He was a doer. Here on a sloping green plain in southwest England stands the fruit of his passion: an experimental town that the future king built. 

Why We Wrote This

Thirty years ago, King Charles started building a town that matched his vision of urban planning. Today, though Poundbury’s architecture may be traditional, its sense of community meets modern aspirations.

Founded in the 1990s, Poundbury has grown into a community of around 3,800 residents who live in an eclectic mix of low-rise houses and apartments built mostly to traditional designs, from Georgian townhouses to Italianate squares, though a few modern structures dot the townscape. The streets, few of which run in straight lines, are free of both litter and stop signs. There are no billboards, nor power lines. Ignore the cars and you can easily picture Sherlock Holmes arriving at a foggy crime scene. 

It is an ambitious project that expresses the new king’s vision of how Britain should build its way out of a housing shortage, a vision that is deeply personal and not universally shared, given his anti-modernist zeal. “It’s his baby,” says Pru Wintrip, who has lived in Poundbury since 2003.  

Now, though, the experimental town belongs to Charles’ son and heir Prince William, who has inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, first established in 1337, and its $1.4 billion portfolio of assets, including the land on which Poundbury is built.

“It’s something everybody has been thinking about for a long time,” says Blake Holt, who chairs the residents’ association. “Our assumption is that William will be just as engaged as his father was, and maybe in a different way.” 



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