A message of invitation from Vanessa Gregory
'With The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community we, the community in St Albans, co-created our draft design codes for use in central St Albans. Apart from our public sessions and workshops we used loads of photos people had taken to demonstrate what we liked and wanted to see more of in our city centre. It was exhilarating as were being proactive and empowered, not merely waiting to be ‘done to’.
Many times since 2012 I have dearly wished (and have often been asked if it were possible) that other communities had a similar opportunity to us. Now they have! With BIMBY (Beauty In My Backyard) communities up and down the country can ensure their views are taken into account, having been presented in a way that both planners and developers will find it hard to counter.
When we (Look! St Albans) were asked by The Prince’s Foundation for Building community to road test the BIMBY toolkit, using our experience, we were delighted to help.
So many communities have been driven mad by being seemingly ignored when new homes are proposed in their areas, asked only when planning applications have been submitted, when it is too late to have any meaningful influence. Ninety nine times out of a hundred these are identical homes found anywhere up and down the country. We, I suggest, don’t want identical, we want local character and homes that meet local needs. Identical homes and layouts found anywhere alienate local people and certainly don’t help those who move into the new homes to feel part of the community.
The BIMBY toolkit demystifies planning jargon, people like us without any planning experience can use it. Instead of using tons of negative energy objecting to proposals put forward by those who have no or limited knowledge of your area, BIMBY puts the community firmly in the driving seat. You don’t have to be a ‘professional’ to use the toolkit, you just need to know what YOU need and want to see in your local area.
Within every community is a wealth of experience, skills and local knowledge and from the start this is what BIMBY encourages you to tap into. With 3 simple stages comprising of 9 community activities and simple guidance throughout it really is a case of anyone can do it!
What is a game changer for me is the people who use the BIMBY toolkit are the right people to answer the questions posed. Many local people know the history of their area and have often seen changes first hand know what worked and what didn’t, but simply have never been asked in any meaningful way to plan for the future!
I was lucky enough to meet members of a community in Norwich recently who had used the toolkit and also some community members from Cambridge about to embark on the process. It was exciting to hear and see, just as we have felt, the feeling of local pride in and social belonging from the new buildings and developments they were overseeing.
Come along to our AGM Social evening and find out more about how you can have a positive influence on the way YOUR area develops. The message is simple, don’t get mad get BIMBY!'