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Affordable, Innovative, Thoughtful, Profitable

Part 1

Can you explain what the Staiths South Bank development is, and how you got involved?

Well, Staiths South Bank is the first big housing project we've done. We'd no premeditated idea that we were ever going to do a housing development. When we sold Red or Dead we weren't quite sure what we wanted to do but we knew we didn't want to stay in the fashion industry as such, so decided to travel. We took the kids out of school for four months a year for two years, and just travelled around with no particular reason other than we'd worked really hard on Red or Dead, and it had taken a lot out of us. I also always felt that I wanted to be a much more involved dad. There were times when I was getting home too late, and you can be at home but you're not really at home because your mind is still at work - your mind is not with the family. It had been like that for a couple of years and we just thought "right, let's get away".

We went around Central America in an old Ford van for a while, and then went to Australia and throughout Europe. We just drove - we even had a caravan at one stage. But every time we came back we were just disappointed with Britain. We kept seeing so many things that we just hated. The dirt, the litter, a lack of courtesy, but the most visible thing was the shitty houses and shitty environments that we were building for the average person. And yet we'd seen some fantastic stuff all around the world, and we'd been documenting it too, because I've always been a happy snapper.

Then I read an article in the Sunday Times, by Jeremy Clarkson of all people, and he'd visited this housing estate and he said that for the first time he'd be prepared to give up his country pile and live somewhere like that - he thought it was great.

So we got in the car the next morning and drove up to this housing estate at Cambourne in Cambridgeshire - Gerardine and I - and it was absolutely shite. It represented everything that we knew was bad about housing developments: stupidly laid out, identikit houses. The roads were on curves so the cars had to park on the pavement, which breaks them up and makes it unsafe for kids. Play areas were remote, down alleyways, and unlit.

They had built houses in a circle, with grass in the middle sloping down to a 'village pond'. In theory it seems quite pretty, but kids can't play on a slope like that. The pond had then been fenced off because they realised it was unsafe, and footballs must have kept going into the water. Paper wrappers had blown in there and no one could get in to clear them out. This estate was starting to become an eyesore and it had only just opened.

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