The Bembridge neighbourhood plan group were able to bring forward affordable housing with the help of a housing association to help realise the aspirations of their neighbourhood plan.


The Bembridge neighbourhood plan group were able to bring forward affordable housing with the help of a housing association to help realise the aspirations of their neighbourhood plan.

Home to 4,000 people, Bembridge is a small and vibrant village. It is known as an affluent area, and so paradoxically, the affordable housing the community so desperately needed, was unheard of.

The community wanted to change this and ensure the future of Bembridge was placed firmly in the hands of the people who know it best, the residents themselves. They did this by introducing a neighbourhood plan.

The plan was made in 2014. Take a look at the full documentation on the plan here.

The Power of Neighbourhood Planning: working as one

The results of a housing needs survey were published in 2013. It became clear that the need for more affordable housing was very much a key factor because it would allow more people to own properties in the village.

The provision of small-scale sustainable developments to meet this local need therefore became integral to the neighbourhood development plan. Small-scale developments would give the people of Bembridge affordable housing options, ensuring larger scale developments and luxury flats, which wouldn’t serve the community, were kept at bay.

Since the development of the neighbourhood plan, 21 affordable homes have been secured and approved. Of the 21 dwellings, 13 are on Sycamore Drive – a small-scale development of affordable homes.

Two houses on Sycamore Drive

Sycamore Drive: Working with developers

In 2012, the site of the old primary school in Bembridge became vacant.

Questions were raised as to how this site would be developed; with an emphasis on ensuring it remained of benefit to the local community.

Initially, a planning application was submitted bidding for eight, four-bed luxury detached properties to be built. However, it did not meet the criteria determined from the findings of the housing needs survey, and was refused.

Lobbying from Bembridge Parish Council resulted in allocation of £216,663 of Section 106 funding via the Local Planning Authority. With this funding, Bembridge were able to ensure a small-scale affordable housing development, which would meet the needs of the community.

Until this time, affordable housing in the village did not exist.

How did it work?

Vectis Housing Association, a local independent business on the Isle of Wight, purchased the site. Their first action was to meet with Bembridge Parish Council. Supportive of the neighbourhood plan, Vectis Housing were clear that their approach to the development was to be open, transparent and accountable from day one.  They wanted the development to be termed a ‘Community Asset’, rather than a development that the local community may have felt resentful towards.

A successful drop-in session was held in early 2016 for residents to discover more about the scheme. It provided a great way for any neighbours of the site to share concerns and for the community to learn more about how the process would be carried out. This was invaluable as it gave people a chance to understand the process, ask questions, meet the developers and essentially ensure that the development was in line with what they had voted for during the neighbourhood planning referendum.

Another session was arranged for October 2016. Present at this session were local estate agents and the community team from Vectis Housing Association. It had a real community feel, with Bembridge Parish Council and the purchasers working with school children to name the new close.

The close, named by local children as Sycamore Drive, has 13 affordable dwellings. The key driver of Sycamore Drive is the way the community and the developers have worked together to ensure these dwellings are in line with the neighbourhood plan.

To ensure the affordable housing would first and foremost benefit the local community, those interested in the dwellings needed to meet a local connection criteria.

Key to the design of the development was creating housing that would ‘grow and adapt’ alongside the needs of the residents and the needs of the local area.

Residents were given the opportunity to feed into the design aspects of the dwellings, ensuring the properties would grow with residents needs.

A grand opening took place in July 2017.

A group of people at the Sycamore Drive meeting


From Bembridge Parish Council local residents:

“I didn’t live in Bembridge, I lived in Newport which is a 30 minute drive away and this is/was the problem. Younger people generally have to live in larger towns such as Sandown, Ryde and Newport because they can’t afford to purchase or rent properties in Bembridge due to the inflated market prices. Sycamore Drive has given people like me with a Bembridge connection the opportunity to move to the village in which I work.”

From ERMC Ltd, architects and designers:

“The result was a huge success, with many praising the balance between affordability and design, and with most of the dwellings occupied before the grand opening, it is already providing substantial benefit to the local community.”