It’s not a government initiative, it’s been developed by the Prince’s Trust with a bunch of redoubtable partners including the National Trust, The Federation of Master Builders and an organisation called ResPublica who say their work is “framed and directed by 3 key programmes: Society, Prosperity and Virtue”. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that last one.
But anyway, the BIMBY Toolkit https://www.bimby.org.uk/ says it’s offering communities the chance to positively influence the planning process. I think the Prince of Wales himself may have had a hand in this. It has that sort of flavour. Presumably there’s an impulse to ensure that folks living on densely packed housing estates in Rotheram (or anywhere else) have the chance to enjoy the same idyllic surroundings supplied by Highgrove. But I’m being snippy now, aren’t I?
Haven’t got long, but if I had to try to distill it, I’d say the idea seems to be to flip NIMBYs (development objectors with a ‘Not In My Back Yard’ mentality) into BIMBYs (development collaborators who can see ‘Beauty In My Back Yard’ once they’ve had a chance to involve themselves in the design process.) Given the scale of the current housing crisis, I guess it might be worth a punt.
Well hats off to the web developers at least who’ve come up with an engaging, simple to use interface – it’s so friendly and calm I’m reminded of the atmosphere at every Community Council meeting I’ve ever attended (NOT). I got hooked – and that’s what web designers aim for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jXM4NymIcA I got so into putting together my own BIMBY Housing Manual enabling me to directly influence the quality and beauty of new housing in my area, that I completely forgot a scheduled therapy session.
But seriously, is this going to result in better design? Will it be able to take all that deep-seated love of the old, the established, the bricks-and-mortar history of a place, that powerful urge to protect nature, wild places, the unspoiled urban green space and flip it to produce wholehearted support for housing, schools and roads that come right up to your back garden and ruin the view forever?
The issues are always going to be the same, aren’t they, no matter how slick the web platform? Of course local people must be consulted on what they want to see built in their neighbourhoods, towns and villages – but how much do they understand about design constraints? About engineering? About construction? And won’t the twitching NIMBY lurking deep within every single one of us simply find ways to assert him or herself and push for layout changes born of thinly disguised personal interest? I think it’s a distinct possibility.
Come on now, how much influence will communities really have? How much do they ever have, despite raft after raft of empowering legislation aimed at delivering bottom-up decision-making? Developers are adept at dealing with the hurdles that can throw up. They have to be. So will freshly enthused BIMBYs simply be manipulated out of their influence by big money and experienced game-players? I know what I think.
Will multiple redesign efforts make development more expensive? Well it won’t make it cheaper will it? And will that mean that what BIMBYs gain with one hand, they let slip through the fingers of the other because developers simply don’t have bottomless pockets?
Right. I’m sorry to have thrown out a lot more questions than answers but this is a blog and not an extract from a White Paper. Anyway I’ve just about finished my outline plan for a satellite development comprising 1000 self-build plots, a wooden school and a solar-taxi park and ride scheme. Yep, everything’s good, apart from a touch of empowerment euphoria. Feel a bit over-wound. Time to click on ‘Getting Your BIMBY Manual Adopted’ and I’ll see you all at my Leadership Group. (BTW I’m the Leader).