A former council estate in Plymouth is part-way through a major regeneration project which is giving its residents a feeling of security and sense of pride about their new community
Formally known as ‘Swilly’ and renamed ‘North Prospect’ in 1969, the development is two miles north of Plymouth city centre and is the largest regeneration project in the South West.
Under the management of Plymouth Community Homes (PCH), the project involves demolishing 800 homes, building 1,110 new homes and refurbishing a further 300. Building commenced in 2011. The third of five building phases is now underway.
To help address concerns about the reputation of the former Swilly estate and to encourage confidence in the new development, PCH invited Secured by Design (SBD), the national police crime prevention initiative, to work with architects, developers and local authority planners to ‘design out crime’.
These planning meetings involving SBD’s specialist Designing Out Crime Officers started prior to the building work began and have meant that security has been embedded in to the layout, landscaping and physical security of all properties in North Prospect.
SBD’s advice on the built environment has included creating safer spaces through greatly increasing natural surveillance. Front garden hedges have been replaced by railings whilst high fences protect rear gardens. Properties have living rooms that overlook cars parked either in the street or within the curtilage of the building and gable end walls with windows provide visibility over pathways and public spaces.
The physical security of properties has included products that meet SBD’s Police Preferred Specification, such as external doors and accessible windows that are suitably robust to resist attack from a casual or opportunist burglar. Front doors have a quadruple locking system, door chains and spy holes as well as letterboxes with protective cowls to stop thieves using rods to ‘fish’ for vehicle keys or other valuables left inside.
Devon and Cornwall Police reported a fall in recorded crime in North Prospect by 62% between 2007-2016 in four key neighbourhood crime categories: residential burglary has fallen by 49%, criminal damage by 84%, vehicle offences 78% and violence against the person 14%.
PCH Programme Manager, James Savage, said regeneration goes beyond providing new and better homes to improve family lifestyle, health, education and security.
Savage added: “A case study we did with the Homes and Communities Agency reported that because families now have properly insulated homes, children would not have to do their homework wrapped up in a duvet on their bed and could use the kitchen table instead. It’s so easy to get lost in all the statistics around new homes, but children are achieving at school and health rates are improving.”
Paul Shepherd, Designing Out Crime Officer, who is embedded with Plymouth City Council, explained that long before a spade had even touched the ground, there were pre-planning meetings every week for many months to discuss and debate all building considerations including how to ‘design out crime’.
“It was fantastic to have this level of reassurance that the plans were being continually improved. This was important because it channelled all of us into working to ensure residents were going to be happy and safe in their new community,” he said.