Fairfield Park

Stotfold, Bedfordshire

Design process

Fairfield Park is the result of nearly 20 years’ work by the public and private sectors. The first Mid Bedfordshire Local Plan (1993) included a commitment to safeguard the listed hospital building. This was adopted by the district council in 1996, and in 1997 planning applications were submitted for re-use of the listed buildings with residential development in the hospital grounds.

These were called in by the Secretary of State and, following a public inquiry in 1998, planning permission was refused for the new housing. It was acknowledged that some development was necessary to secure the long-term future of the listed buildings, but that any new building should be limited to that needed for this purpose and that the setting of the listed building and the surrounding countryside should be safeguarded. The Secretary of State defined inner and outer envelopes between which development would be acceptable.

Following public consultation in 2000 a revised district council planning and development brief was adopted and another planning application was submitted in July 2000; outline permission was granted in February 2002.

Central Bedfordshire Council, concerned about the poor quality of many recent housing developments, appointed a senior urban designer at Tetlow King who worked closely over 18 months with the team commissioned by the council to draw up a masterplan and design code for the development.

Successful implementation of the design code was due both to the user friendly nature of the guidance – in the architect’s words: ‘we wanted to produce a largely graphic document as opposed to a legal tract’ – and to the continuity ensured by the local authority’s urban designer.  She noted that she had ‘to make a big effort to drive the quality up’ by insisting that the developers adhered to the design code.

The design code ‘aims to produce a unique development that respects the setting of the former Victorian hospital and strives for quality in the design of the built environment. The design philosophy reflects elements of Victorian architecture such as stone mullions, double storey bay windows, decorative stone detailing, leaded glass, wooden sash windows, grey slate roof tiles, iron railings, stone capped walls, traditional chimney pots and box hedging’.

The original outline planning permission provided for 752 houses and apartments at Fairfield Park with 101 apartments in Fairfield Hall. Because development progressed at a higher density level, the original number of houses was built on a smaller area and it was therefore possible to build more homes on the land identified for development. In 2006, Central Bedfordshire Council gave outline planning permission for more homes to be built. The number of apartments in Fairfield Hall also increased, bringing the total number of homes to 1,200.