Bids open for project shaping Dunton garden village

Artists are being invited to submit bids for the design of a garden village development south of Brentwood.

Working in close partnership with Brentwood Borough Council, the Essex Cultural Diversity Project (ECDP) is inviting proposals for a new artist commission to shape the development of a new garden village on land at Dunton Hills, a site that sits within the Brentwood borough but also very close to Basildon and areas of Thurrock.

The land, bordered by the A127 to the north and the A128 to the west, has been earmarked in Brentwood’s local development plan for 2,700 new homes up to 2033 (the current Local Plan timescale), and ultimately for 4,000.

Worth £10,000, this is the first commission in what is to be an initial two-year partnership between ECDP and Brentwood Borough Council, focused on Dunton Hills Garden Village with a overarching vision to shape the designs around the “protection of the local natural environments” as well as ensuring “education and community facilities and amenities are central and well-integrated, creating a place that becomes a blueprint for healthy and sustainable living”.

Another commission opportunity, with a new brief and open call to artists, will go out at some stage in 2021-22. These commissions will be important in terms of reflecting on the garden village concept as it develops, and in engaging local communities.

Dunton Hills Garden Village is being visualised with three distinct neighbourhoods – a village centre to include shops, services, cafés, healthcare provision, community facilities, employment and a mobility hub and two smaller neighbourhood hubs over around 256 hectares.

While actual development is still a few years away, what happens at this stage will set the context. A draft framework masterplan document has recently been prepared in a partnership between the main developer CEG and the council, as well as with other stakeholders including Homes England and Essex County Council.

ECDP said it is interested in exploring the concept of diversity in relation to the garden village as it develops. It said it is important that as well as considering housing, facilities and environment, that a “strong sense of building a diverse and resilient local community is considered throughout”.

The project has generated tensions between Brentwood Borough Council and Basildon Council, which says that due  to its positioning it will end up picking up the tab for large amounts of the necessary infrastructure.

A statement associated with the commission brief said: “Although ECDP and Brentwood Borough Council do not expect the commission to form a core or statutory part of the community engagement and consultation process, it should seek to encourage community interest and explore some of the key issues. The experience of delivering the commission may highlight new opportunities or creative ways of getting communities involved.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter