Vision for Kennett Garden Village Gets Off the Ground in Community Planning Weekend

Tue 08 Nov 2016


On Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November the Palace Green Homes design team and Kennett Community Land Trust met with a wide range of members of the local community in Kennett Primary School for two full days of participatory community planning to create a vision for the proposed Kennett Garden Village.


People from the local community share their problems, dreams and solutions for Kennett in a hands-on planning session

Both days began with a simple exercise of “Problems, Dreams and Solutions”.

Members of the community were invited to collate extensive lists of what they see as the existing problems in Kennett, what their dreams for Kennett were and practical solutions for how this could be achieved. A recurring theme within the ‘Problems’ section was traffic. Kennett suffers from a large number of HGVs driving through the village. Dreams included a new village centre, green spaces, a duck pond, better traffic management, affordable homes, a shop or café, better station facilities, including parking, and better employment opportunities and community amenities.

Members of the community then split out into several different working groups, facilitated by professionals, to map out and strategise on specific topics. Topics included traffic management, community facilities, green connections and ecology, landscaping principles, design principles, the bigger picture, infrastructure and links between Kennett and Kentford.

A working group of local people and experts strategising how a Garden Village development might take place in Kennett

The local knowledge and experience of members of the community alongside the expertise of architects, highways professionals, place-makers, developers and other skilled professionals made break out working sessions extremely effective in developing the plans and vision for Kennett Garden Village.

Groups then fed back their findings and ideas to the rest of the room.

Local people feedback their ideas and vision for the future of Kennett Garden Village

Saturday began with a report back session of the young people’s workshop held the previous day with children from Kennett Primary School. Some real blue-sky thinking from the children included a trampoline park and stables but also pulled out lots of the key themes that were being identified by the adults.

A child's drawing of their 'dream Kennett', including stables and green spaces

The children wanted to be able to walk along the main road and feel safe, to be able to get to school and their friends’ houses without being worried about HGVs and cars speeding past. They also felt they needed more school buildings and things to do in the village. Their overall vision was also surprisingly similar to the adults; lots of green spaces, a focus on ecology and wildlife areas were featured highly on their lists.

Some members of the community even braved the cold weather and took a walking tour around the village.

The walking tour stop to discuss strategies to tackle HGVs in Kennett

This was a great opportunity to study the possibilities for traffic control with technical consultants. Several possibilities were discussed and, between the professional opinion of the experts and the second-to-none knowledge of the locals, strategies began to form. The group also assessed the vernacular and general feel of the village. People feel that it is important that the new development and existing settlement integrate well and do not feel like two separate communities, cut off by the busy road. One way to do this is to take design cues for the new development from the existing area so as the group walked they were picking out features and materials that identify Kennett which could be incorporated into designing new houses.

The group also walked down to the beautiful church that sits slightly away from the main thoroughfare of the village.

The church is a great existing community asset but local people felt it could be improved and used more so some discussion was given to how this could be achieved. A quick and simple solution that the group came up with was the installation of a composting toilet as the church currently has no facilities. There was also talk later in the afternoon of organising a lantern procession from the school to the church to tie in with Christmas celebrations. As well as this, four members of the local community decided to establish a Ramblers Society and a village Facebook page is underway to keep everyone in contact. It was great to see the Community Planning Weekend already start to bring the community together, to act as a forum for people to meet their neighbours and to plan community activities making the most of their village’s assets.

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