In 2013 Bullwood Hall was a prison located within approximately 20 hectares of historic landscape that once formed the grounds to a country house. The site included a significant area of ancient woodland (the largest area of woodland in Essex) whilst access from the nearby village of Hockley was via a narrow single-track lane with cottages including listed buildings lining the approach to Bullwood Hall from High Road. Having acquired the site from Harrow Estates who had established the principle of residential development on the footprint of the main prison buildings, the Sanctuary Group appointed IDP to project manage a detailed planning application to turn the outline concept into a deliverable residential environment in the heart of the Essex Green Belt. From the pre-application meeting with Rochford’s planners in January 2017 to the committee resolution of granting planning permission on 19th April, the challenges facing the team led by IDP were significant.
Working with a historic landscape setting, a locally listed building, ancient woodland, significant level changes across the site and trying to develop a high-quality layout within the confines of Green Belt policy, required careful negotiation with the 2 Parish Councils involved and the Local Planning Authority to make sure a positive outcome would be achieved for one of Sanctuary’s flagship developments.
IDP’s team of Architects, Project Managers Landscape Architects and Planners managed the process to ensure that the team of consultants, across all required disciplines ranging from archaeology and ecology to transport, drainage and utility consultants, worked together to evolve the overall masterplan. IDP’s Planners acted as the main point of contact for the client and the conduit through which instructions were given to the project team. Pre-application Public Consultation was given a high priority to ensure that any issues arising could be addressed prior to the submission of the application.
The main public exhibition in Hockley Village and the presentation to Rayleigh Parish Council were extremely well received and helped in reducing the number of objections to the application to a handful.
Transforming the rigid and homogenous concept developed at the outline stage into a high-quality environment where a mix of housing could be assimilated into the landscaped setting surrounding the former prison complex, was our biggest challenge.
A key objective was to find a way to carefully restore the historic landscape and integrate it into the housing layout to maximise the views out across the Essex countryside.
Green Belt policy favoured concentrating the new development on the existing built footprint of the former prison buildings, and so formed a major constraint to achieving an attractive residential environment where houses and public open space could be carefully integrated. Working alongside Essex County Council’s principal urban designer, the project team reached an agreement with the Local Planning Authority that a much-improved layout could be achieved by adopting a more relaxed approach to developing outside of the areas of existing footprint.
The result is a layout that delivers on the brief of increasing the number of dwellings from 60 at outline stage to 72 in a much wider mix of sizes to match the client’s needs, whilst creating a much better integration of built form and public open space. In addition, the overall level of Section 106 contributions was reduced from that negotiated at the outline stage, representing a considerable financial benefit to the client.