P R O P O S I T I O N S F O R
B R I D P O R T
These propositions from Assemble Studio set out initial ideas for a different approach to the development of sites in Bridport. They are not site specific, but contain principles that could inform approaches to Greenfield sites – previously undeveloped areas of land, such as Vearse Farm on the edge of Bridport – but also more urban situations.
Our interest is in how we might adopt a different approach – one that enables more social and communal ways of living, which is kinder to the local and wider environment, which brings more local economic benefits and reflects specificity of place and culture, and which offers a level of variety and adaptability that can enable neighbourhoods and communities to meet future needs.
We must nurture and sustain the remarkable diversity and independent spirit that Bridport has, by supporting businesses, artists, small manufacturers and local industries to continue to work within the town, providing jobs and creating a vibrant, varied urban life. Bridport’s grander cultural and civic buildings are protected, but historic sites of industry in the town are not. Planned residential development would push this diversity to the fringes or out of town, replacing them with commercial uses that contribute less to Bridport’s vibrant civic life.
Building equity and resilience
Conventional approaches to greenfield development produce a limited public benefit. Local businesses struggle to capture a share of the business and jobs that a large development project entail, and communities experience little direct benefit, either in the form of new public infrastructure, shared spatial assets or affordable housing that meets local needs. Alternative, community-led approaches address these limitations by enabling locally based and locally-focussed organisations to create and retain control of valued local assets, including affordable housing and other social ventures. This approach has the potential to strengthen communities, building a more equitable, resilient and diverse society that redirects wealth back into the local economy. It also shifts the balance of power, ensuring the benefits of development are put into the hands of local people and businesses.
Homes for local people
Bridport’s Housing Needs Assessment makes clear the town ‘shares the ills of a National housing shortage where the prospect of being able to buy or even rent a home has become increasingly remote for many.’ Bridport doesn’t need more unaffordable open-market housing – it needs homes to rent or buy that are genuinely affordable for local people on local incomes. Being strategic about the areas where new neighbourhoods are built will retain the distinctiveness and character of local settlements, and resist wasteful sprawl.
Public resistance to building up to 1,000 homes rightly focuses on the negative impact of large-scale, low-quality development. But the environment is already being degraded – industry and agriculture contaminate soil and water, while construction, transport and housing pollutes the air and causes environmental harm. Variety and resilience is a priority in local ecosystems, as it is within the local community – increasing the coverage of local forests and mixed woodlands, improving the stewardship of all landscapes, regenerating local agricultural land by introducing new practices and allowing more fields to rewild or recover their character and diversity as heaths and meadows.
Green renewal of local industry
Hemp and flax have been cultivated around Bridport for over 800 years, reaching a peak during the 18th Century. But this relationship has waned – rope and net businesses remain, but the availability of synthetic fibres has weakened demand for traditional hemp and flax. Yet the use of these natural materials in construction is growing around UK and the rest of the world, and there is huge potential for reviving the historic cultural and productive links between the town, these fibres and their use. Planting of hemp and flax and investment in processing capacity will enable the production of high-quality, ecological components for use in construction.