Next in our series celebrating ten years of neighbourhood planning, we’re visiting Wing Parish in Bedfordshire. The parish worked with two developers while creating their neighbourhood plan to ensure that green space was at the heart of both projects and that development was brought forward at a suitable density.
Initially, the community was resistant towards development, but the parish council worked with developers during the neighbourhood plan-making process to show that development could be beneficial for the community and provide much-needed housing for young people.
Taylor Wimpey and Martin Grant Homes approached Wing Parish with plans to build 100 houses each on two different sites. Both developers presented their proposals to the community simultaneously as part of a neighbourhood planning consultation event. Locals voted on the proposals: very few people voted for no development, and equal numbers of votes were submitted for development on the Taylor Wimpey site, development on the Martin Grant Homes site, and development on both sites.
The group returned to both developers with the proposal for them to build around 50 houses each, as opposed to the 100 each they originally proposed. The community had a strong focus on preserving the woodland belt and creating a large area of green space, so worked with the developers to ensure this happened in parallel with the creation of the neighbourhood plan.
Taylor Wimpey redesigned their proposals twice as part of the process to meet the community’s needs. Due to working closely with the community, neither developer received any objections to their planning applications, allowing funds set aside for appeals to be used for green space development.
Without the community engaging with the developers during the neighbourhood plan development and consultation stages, it’s likely that the developments would not be so sensitively designed.
The Taylor Wimpey site includes a central boulevard leading to the church, with beautiful views. Martin Grant Homes worked with a landscape architect to create a substantial open space with board walks, bridges and a lake. The green space has served the community well, especially during the pandemic when it was a vital place to connect outdoors. “That was a real life-saver during Covid, linking the village more effectively to an area of ancient woodland adjacent,” says Malcolm Oliver, a volunteer working with Wing Parish Council.
The group worked closely with the developers to find creative solutions to serve the community’s needs. For example, the group requested bungalows for older residents, but the developers felt that these are commercially unpopular, and most people are unwilling to pay the premium. Instead, maisonettes were built, so that older people could live on the ground floor and younger people on the first floor – further building the sense of community.
Some people who grew up in the parish have now returned to live in the new developments. The village shops, once at risk of closure, are now thriving.
The Parish stressed the importance of making plans holistic – the Wing Parish neighbourhood plan considered jobs, environment, shopping facilities and transport. The new developments were used as a case study for the development industry. Wing Parish has shown the power of neighbourhood planning and collaboration in action. “If the neighbourhood planning process is done well, it gives you the opportunity to open the door and talk to [developers].”