Hackbridge is just 25 minutes from London by train and is well served by local services. Although once characterised by its industrial areas, it is now a leafy suburb with a population that includes young singles, families and former industrial communities. It is also the home of BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development), a pioneering eco-housing project. 

Challenge

This community was attracting increasing interest from developers. The Hackbridge and Beddington Corner Neighbourhood Development Group (HBCNG) wanted to create a neighbourhood plan as a way to influence what new development should happen where. They wanted to make sure the lives of residents and opportunities for businesses would further improve as the area grew. They also saw it as imperative that the community should have its say and be listened to. 

However, the group were aware that they needed expert advice to ensure this happened, so applied to Design Council Cabe for support.

What we did

The Cabe support helped educate residents who are now more able to contribute constructively to the neighbourhood planning process.

Helena Barrowclough, chair, HBCNG

A Built Environment Expert from Design Council Cabe helped the forum establish a structured way of working. He ran a ‘mapping and gapping’ exercise and devised matrices - including objectives, proposals, actions, information to research  and how to measure progress.

The group had set up themed sub groups. For the housing and built environment subgroups he advised on technical issues such as the planning process and how to evaluate development proposals. As a result, members of the forum felt more confident about planning and were able to question planning decisions in a more informed way. Role play, character cards and story boards were also used to bring the themed groups together in a fun and interactive way.

Another workshop honed the critiquing skills of the group by having them look at proposals that had already been created and undertake a peer review exercise to evaluate them.

Outcome

We could have delivered the plan a year ago but through this last year of responding to local development projects our plan is now better informed and more involved in local issues.

Helena Barrowclough, chair, HBCNG

The group has excelled in working with local people. Building a relationship with the London Borough of Sutton has in effect embedded a planning policy officer into the group who provides advice and analysis. The group has also contacted developers and offered local knowledge and ideas. It has built strong relationships with local businesses and shares information with an emerging group in adjacent Beddington.

The group successfully involved local people in the development of the plan thanks to a mix of approaches such as community events, working with schools, leafleting, public information boards, online surveys, Twitter, Facebook and a dedicated website. Face-to-face contact at the local railway station during morning commuting hours proved particularly effective. 

The group as a whole, and the individuals involved, have a much deeper understanding of their community and place and the potential impact of development and change. Their plan can communicate the ambitions of local people to ensure that change is positive.

They have confidence, skills and knowledge to influence planning even though their neighbourhood plan is in draft. At least one planning application has been altered to address design issues raised by the group.

As the plan is being drafted, the group continue to invest a great deal of effort to talk to members of the community who have not yet been involved.

You feel that you’re making a difference to the area, you can challenge ideas about your place and what others think you can do here.

Helena Barrowclough, chair, HBCNG

Design Council Cabe supported the HBCNG during 2012.

Read more about the Hackbridge and Beddington Corner Neighbourhood Development Group here.

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