The Big Interview: Kevin McCloud and his grand design in Stroud
FROM Hobbit houses to hi-tech homes, Kevin McCloud has sought out visionary buildings for TV's Grand Designs.
Now he's bringing a touch of grand design to 78 homes on a derelict site in Gloucestershire, and in reach of the ordinary home owner.
Kevin has been a regular visitor to Cashes Green where his company has been building homes and flats on the site of the former hospital near Stroud.
And with the first homes on the market, I met him at the site for the unveiling of his own grand design.
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It's clearly a project that he feels passionate about and he enthuses about the development, Applewood, with genuine feeling.
Kevin has clearly thought hard about what makes a community and how to make houses homes.
"This is a U-shaped scheme, with allotments, and a square in the middle for food growing. Wherever possible we have created 'shared space,'" he said, standing in the midst of the partially finished site where men in hard hats are still at work.
This is the environment we're familiar with where Kevin McCloud is concerned.
For 14 years, he's hunted out the nation's visionaries, and charted their ups and downs, dealing with builders, engineers and tight budgets to create unique buildings.
The 13th series of Grand Designs is now under way on Wednesday evening's on Channel 4.
While Grand Designs showcases ground-breaking buildings, housing has become one of the biggest issues facing broader society.
Where, how, how many, and affordability, are the key questions facing planners and builders and affecting everyone from concerned neighbours to cramped families.
Kevin McCloud hopes that his Applewood scheme will show that sustainable high-quality design can be affordable.
How to use space effectively to create a community is the key.
"There's a place to grow food and kick a ball about and sit and relax. The layout is very much about that.
"If you go to an Italian hilltop town, or a small English village you find shared spaces. It's fundamental."
The landscape is integrated into the scheme, with a stream and wildlife corridor running through Applewood
"We've multiplied up the green spaces.We want to maximise their value and produce a really high quality 'public realm'.
"This site breaks a lot of rules. It's not conventional but it does work. We've taken the best practice that we've seen on the continent and tried to put it into practice here."
His mantra for good development is a formula he believes can be applied to city centres like Gloucester.
"Mixed use is the key," he said.
"I was standing in a city square the other day and was thinking this should all be allotments.
"We should bring food growing into our city centres.
"Planning applications are tied up with regulations about putting shops and houses next to each other.
"But the most successful centres are where people live and work together."
He's talking to me as we take a tour of the show home, a three-bedroomed semi available for £210,000.
Despite the fact that there are at least 30 people also viewing the home, it doesn't feel too cramped.
High ceilings are one factor said Kevin, pointing up into the 2.4m space.
"Tall ceilings and tall windows get lots of light into the building and you get to see the sky. We like space around us, but we also respond to head room." he said.
"There's no doubt that making Grand Designs I have learned what makes a good building work; height, light and space."
We're in the kitchen which, he said, was at the front of the house because it was "good for surveillance, you can see your kids playing."
Everything's been built to a high eco-standard and Stroud, he said, had been a great place for this scheme.
"There's a receptiveness here. If you talk about eco-homes, people in Stroud 'get it.' They receive those ideas with open arms here."
Grand Designs celebrated its 100th episode a couple of years ago and has become a staple of Channel 4's schedule.
"People watch Grand Designs and think I'd like something of that.
"Why shouldn't our homes be glamorous?" he said.
Applewood is built by Haboakus a partnership between Kevin's company Hab and builder Oakus.
While some of the Edwardian buildings have been retained, the new homes are minimalist modern design.
Kevin is clearly not a fan of the Georgian pastiche style favoured by so many house-builders.
"Great play is made of twiddly bits on the outside, but once you're inside mock-Georgian houses they are pokey, cramped and boring," he said.
"Look, we're standing in the living room with 12 people , yet it's still spacious."
The fact that we're sharing this interview with a dozen others isn't problematic, except that I'm not the only one trying to grab a few minutes of Kevin's time.
He's incredibly friendly and approachable and manages to converse with everyone who chats to him, while somehow maintaining his interview with me.
I comment that the house had clearly been designed with a family's needs in mind
"It's called architecture," he replied simply.
"A great idea costs no more than a bad idea.
"We are evolving all the time and trying to push forward. We have got a long way to go with housing in the UK.
"I'm really proud of this."