Co-operative neighbourhood planning to support regeneration and new homes – Stevenage Borough Council

Posted on 10th November, 2017

Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) is a New Town with a growing population and a housing register of over 2500 families. Its pioneer residents had the expectation that their parents would be able to join them in Stevenage on retirement and their children would be able to remain in the area by being rehoused in council homes. SBC’s ability to meet this demand is challenged by the three-quarters reduction of its council housing stock due to RTB from its peak in the 1960s to just over 8000 now. It has a lack of developable land. Like many new towns, it was built with very tight urban boundaries to ensure the town did not spread into the surrounding countryside. Within its boundaries it lacks brownfield sites, other than a few small sites such as disused pubs.

SBC decided to develop a co-operative neighbourhood planning model, more suited its community engagement model. The model is based on using existing community groups and supporting them with capacity building to reach out to the wider community so the planning exercise engaged as many people as possible, especially those that would not normally get involved. It was piloted for a neighbourhood regeneration scheme in Pin Green ward. Pin Green Residents Association and Friends of Hampson Park supported a number of events where those attending were able to contribute to the planning exercise. A Teddy Bear’s Picnic with a number of attractions for families attracted over 700 people, many of whom talked to the team of residents who were seeking their views on the development of their neighbourhood. There was also extensive discussion with the businesses at the old neighbourhood centre and the staff and groups using the old community centre.

This has resulted in the redevelopment of the neighbourhood centre with two new shops and the redevelopment of the community centre at a new site in the park as requested by the residents. This relocation freed up more land for the new council homes. The extra 12 flats increased the size of the scheme to 30 homes and made it financially viable through realising an additional £2.2m capitalised rental income. The new community centre sits alongside a children’s park designed and developed by local children and a public skate park designed by local young people who now feel a strong sense of ownership of the skate park.