Background and business case

Derwenthorpe is a new Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust development of attractive, affordable, eco-friendly family homes in a digitally inclusive, mixed-tenure community.

Most new housing developments are free-standing and generate constant car journeys. Derwenthorpe has been created as an edge-of-town extension to allow residents to link to the existing infrastructure. It is situated in the village of Osbaldwick (YO10) on the outskirts of York. Local amenities in the village include schools, nurseries and doctors’ surgeries. There are dentists, chemists, vets, supermarkets, a health club, a library and a post office. It is served by excellent transport links into York city centre and beyond.

Over 100 years ago, Joseph Rowntree built York’s garden village of New Earswick as a model community. He hoped others might learn lessons in addressing social issues. A century later, the new community of Derwenthorpe was created to emulate this model. It is providing much needed new housing in the city.

The development explores three themes focusing around creating sustainable communities:

  • environmental performance – practical solutions to deliver zero-carbon homes;
  • environmental behaviours – encouraging and supporting more sustainable lifestyles;
  • digital and social media – addressing the barriers to digital inclusion and using it to support community development.

An over-arching priority remains the creation of a vibrant community. This means a high level of involvement by its citizens in decisions that affect them all. Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust is actively involved in initiatives to provide low carbon heat and attractive green and open spaces. Also a self-governing community residents can be proud of.

Derwenthorpe was one of the first large-scale low carbon communities in northern England. It meets demanding targets for reduced energy and water usage. Its ‘green’ heating and hot water system is at the heart of the development.

The community uses a district heating system. It means that homes don’t have their own boilers. Heating and hot water is efficiently distributed to all homes by the predominantly biomass boilers. These are in the village’s centrally located Super Sustainability Centre (SSC). Woodchip is used in the biomass boilers. It burns with extremely low pollution effects on the environment (compared to traditional sources like coal and oil). It is sourced locally through both harvesting trees grown specifically for this purpose and recycling forestry thinnings.

The SSC generates hot water. This is distributed to homes through underground pipes. It then passes through a Consumer Interface Unit to generate hot water for radiators, washing and bathing.

The temperature in each home is controlled by residents via a digital programmer and upstairs/downstairs thermostats. There are also thermostatic radiator valves on individual radiators. Heat and hot water usage in each home is measured by a heat meter. This sends automatic readings to a company called Switch1. They use these readings to generate accurate monthly bills.

We can also install digital energy monitoring equipment in homes. This helps residents understand when and where energy is being used. It helps to reduce energy consumption. If you are interested in having energy monitoring equipment installed, please contact us.

Community activities and initiatives

As with all our communities, resident involvement is very much encouraged in Derwenthorpe.
The Super Sustainability Centre
The Super Sustainability Centre (SSC) offers a central meeting place for residents, local schools and community groups to use. This includes The Derwenthorpe Partnership Advisory Committee, which provides resident input into the development of the community.

The Derwenthorpe Community Fund was created to invest in initiatives that benefit the local community. It has a particular focus on tackling the actions highlighted by local people. The types of activities that come under the grant include:

  • working with schools and other local agencies and community organisations to provide community activities for all ages;
  • developing opportunities for children and young people to engage in community-based activities;
  • supporting or establishing events and activities that make best use of open space and recreational facilities in and around Derwenthorpe;
  • supporting or developing learning opportunities for adults;
  • supporting or developing social events and activities that promote social cohesion and inclusion.

For further details contact Joanne Lofthouse, Programme Manager

Programme Costs

Total Scheme Cost: £100 million

Value of Affordable Homes Programme support for scheme: £7.27 million

Scheme size – Derwenthorpe will eventually offer 489 high-quality environmentally friendly and energy efficient homes. They have been expertly designed to be as innovative as they are practical. Careful designs mean this scheme will offer homes to suit the needs of all kinds of buyers. This will plug the gaps in the current market with exciting and environmentally conscious ‘homes of the future’.


  • David Wilson Homes
  • Homes England
  • Studio Partington
  • City of York Council

Future Plans

To this day, JRHT still continues to promote Joseph Rowntree’s legacy and we are still actively tackling poverty. A vital part of our approach to tackling poverty is to build genuinely affordable homes. We have committed to delivering 1,000 new decent and affordable homes in the next 10 years, this will make a significant contribution to the affordability crisis both locally and nationally.