The latest phase of the North Prospect regeneration in Plymouth has completed as the redevelopment scheme, the largest of its kind in the South West region, marks its 10 year anniversary.
Plymouth Community Homes (PCH) is working closely with Plymouth City Council (PCC) and Homes England to deliver this pivotal, five-phase programme, and this week, these organisations came together to celebrate the completion of the latest phase with the official opening of Briarwood Heights, a new development of 33 one-bed flats available for affordable rent by over 55s.
The launch marks a decade of regeneration successfully delivered in North Prospect as part of the overall project, which involves more than 1,100 comfortable, energy-efficient new homes created to replace dated properties.
Regenerating North Prospect was a key objective in transferring social housing stock out of PCC when Plymouth Community Homes was first created in 2009 and has been a major priority for both PCH and the council over the intervening years. A vision was developed in consultation with the community and the North Prospect Regeneration Forum. The scheme is being delivered thanks to partnership working with Homes England, developers Barratts, Kier Living (now Tillia Homes) and Vistry, and with funding provided through NatWest, Barclays, and the European Investment Bank through The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC).
Widespread community improvements have also been delivered, with more open green spaces, safer road and pedestrian networks, and a £4million new community hub called The Beacon offering a library, café, shops, business offices and community meeting spaces.
Over the course of all five phases, PCH will have created 491 homes for affordable rent, 195 homes for shared ownership, and 440 homes for open market sale. The regeneration was deliberately planned to deliver a variety of house types, sizes and tenures in order to ensure a sustainably mixed neighbourhood for the future.
During the last 10 years, work on the scheme has helped transform an area of Plymouth previously known for its high crime and low employment rates, helping to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour by 27% between 2009 and 2018 according to PCH and Devon & Cornwall Police statistics, and leading 94% of residents to say they now feel safe in their homes.
Phase 5, which was started ahead of Phase 4, completed this year, and saw the creation of Briarwood Heights, with 33 modern new apartments built for affordable rent by PCH residents aged 55 and over, including wheelchair-accessible homes. The apartments offer balconies with views over the area as well as a residents’ lounge, a buggy store for mobility scooters, and on-site parking.
The block has been built to high standards of environmental sustainability with solar panels and energy-efficient building methods. The name ‘Briarwood Heights’ was suggested by PCH resident Jan Kings, who said she was inspired by the trees and nature in the area.
Nick Jackson, Director of Business Services and Development at Plymouth Community Homes, said: “We are incredibly proud of the transformative work delivered in North Prospect over the last 10 years to regenerate the area for the benefit of the people who live and work here, and to celebrate the opening of Briarwood Heights as Phase 5 completes.
“As we mark this 10th anniversary milestone, it is important to recognise what has been achieved thanks to collaborative working with Plymouth City Council over the last decade. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the scheme to date, including our development partners Barratts, Kier (now Tillia), Vistry, and our funding partners NatWest, Barclays and the European Investment Bank through THFC, and to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of staff who have worked tirelessly to deliver this change.
“PCH is a major stakeholder in Plymouth, where around 11% of the population lives in a PCH home, and we consult regularly with residents about our proposed developments. We continue to work very much in partnership with organisations such as Homes England and our local authorities to get the best results for residents.”
Councillor Rebecca Smith, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Homes and Communities at PCC said: “The regeneration of North Prospect is a once-in-a-generation project and so to see the latest batch of new houses become homes is particularly rewarding.
“Like so many of this city’s great endeavours, this has been a team effort; a wonderful example of what can be achieved together through partnership working.
“I’d like to congratulate and thank Plymouth Community Homes, Homes England and most importantly, the local community, for all that has been accomplished.”
The neighbourhood was first created in 1920 when residents moved into newly built ‘Homes for Heroes’ developed by the Government after World War One, but a subsequent downturn in the area over the intervening years led to the estate earning a poor reputation, with soaring crime rates, low employment and very little investment.
A name change to North Prospect at the end of the 1960s failed to address these issues, and there was a significant shift towards the need for regeneration in the 1980s and 1990s when the housing stock began to show marked physical deterioration.
After the transfer to PCH in 2009, plans were put in place for a major regeneration of the area.
During the last 10 years, the scheme has seen award-winning collaborative working between PCH and PCC as old, damp and poorly constructed houses have been demolished to make way for new, energy-efficient homes for the future.
Phases 1, 2, 3 and 5 of this work have now been completed, and Phase 4 is underway, with completion due by 2024. PCH has ensured there has been no net-loss of the number of affordable homes available for rent in Plymouth.
Yesterday (Thurs 1 December), PCC and PCH came together with investment partners, stakeholders, community groups and staff past and present at a celebratory launch event held at The Beacon to commemorate the opening of Briarwood Heights as the latest phase completes, and mark the 10-year anniversary of a key project for Plymouth.
10 years of the North Prospect Regeneration
The history of North Prospect
The neighbourhood was created between the 1920s and 1950s as Governments of the time experimented with mass-produced housing methods for state-owned housing, including steel-framed and pre-cast concrete frame houses.
These homes marked Plymouth City Council’s first new build housing following the Housing Act of 1919 with the creation of ‘Homes for Heroes’ after World War One.
The new properties were an improvement on some of the overcrowded and inadequate living conditions of the past, and the homes were even described in the local paper at the time as ‘paradise for 12 shillings a week’.
But the estate initially known as Swilly had a lack of communal green spaces or play facilities, and in later years, the area suffered a downturn, which a rebrand as North Prospect in 1969 failed to address.
Further decline through the 1980s and 1990s led to major social problems with high crime, low employment, and over 75% of the properties available for social rent, meaning the area had low house values and very little private investment.
The houses themselves began to deteriorate, and it was evident much of the property would need to be demolished and rebuilt entirely.
When Plymouth Community Homes was formed in 2009, the city council transferred its social housing stock to the new housing association and PCH took over the lead on the regeneration, restoring some homes and redeveloping others entirely.
Facts about the regeneration
- The ambitious five-phase scheme involves demolishing 800 poorly constructed, energy inefficient, damp 3-bed homes, which offered an unhealthy and unsustainable environment.
- They are being replaced with more than 1,100 high quality, energy-efficient new homes offering a greater variety of house types, sizes and tenures, to create a sustainably mixed development.
- Phases 1 and 2 of the scheme completed in 2014 and 2017 respectively, with Phase 3 complete in February 2020, followed by Phase 5, Briarwood Heights, this year.
- Phase 4, the final phase, is due to complete in 2024.
- The regeneration has involved large numbers of PCH tenants needing to move out of North Prospect as work was undertaken, and in total, 741 households moved, both tenants and owners.
- PCH has sought to rehouse as many residents back into the area as possible. During the final 3 phases, more than 70% of residents were able to move back into new homes in the neighbourhood.
- The North Prospect regeneration scheme has won numerous awards over the years, including Best Regeneration Project Award from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) at the 2013 South West and Wales Awards; Regeneration Scheme of the year at Inside Housing’s Top 60 Developments in 2015; Domestic Refurbishment (Low Rise) at the INCA Awards 2016, and the Judge’s Special Award at the 2017 Abercrombie Awards.
- The scheme was also shortlisted as a Finalist for Best Project at the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence in 2022 for Phase 3, and Highly Commended as Best New Housing Development for Phase 3 at the 2021 Abercrombe Awards.
- Through its work with contractors, PCH has sought to maximise positive outcomes for local people by offering local employment and training opportunities.
- The developer for Phase 3, Kier Living (now Tilla) established the North Prospect Training Academy, which offered a six-week construction skills programme, including a mix of theory and learning.
- The academy was prioritised for those living in PL2 (North Prospect) postcodes and up to 20 people from the area were taken on as apprentices with an opportunity to apply for jobs at the end.
- Development partner Vistry hosted a Skills Academy on site, and a Social Value Co-ordinator has worked closely with Building Plymouth, local schools and colleges to promote opportunities for working in construction.
- More open space has been provided for community use, increasing the size and facilities at an existing green space in Cookworthy Green, based on local resident feedback.
- The overall regeneration had a positive impact on safety in the public realm to date, with PCH and Devon & Cornwall Police reporting a significant drop of 27% in crime and anti-social behaviour between 2009 and 2018
- 95% of residents say they feel safe in their new homes in surveys taken one year after moving into their new home.