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North Prospect – a safer community

One of the country’s biggest residential redevelopments – and the largest and longest running in the South West – is being built incorporating Secured by Design police crime prevention techniques and measures to help reduce crime and build a safer community.

North Prospect, two miles north of Plymouth city centre, has involved demolishing almost 800 poor quality homes, building 1,128 new homes and refurbishing a further 288 existing homes.

Under the management of Plymouth Community Homes (PCH), which took on Plymouth City Council’s 14,000 housing stock in 2009, North Prospect was prioritised for improvement with building commencing in 2011.

With three phases built already, the penultimate phase is due to complete within the next few months and the whole site by mid-2024.


North Prospect 01WEB
The development replaces a council estate, originally known as Swilly, of mostly three-bed, semi-detached homes, built in the 1920s as ‘homes for heroes’ following World War I. It had all the outward trappings of a garden suburb with large rear gardens for growing vegetables and fruit and neat front gardens bordered with picket fences or hedges. The pavements allowed for mums with prams to pass each other and the narrow streets were home to an occasional milk float or coal cart.

However, during the 1960s the homes became beset with structural cracking, wall tie failure and extensive and untreatable damp. They became difficult to live in and expensive to keep warm.

The bombing that targeted Plymouth’s dockyards during World War II led to families who had been feuding in their original streets being rehoused together on Swilly, which became known for criminal and anti-social behaviour.   

Today, all the homes built and refurbished on North Prospect are designed for modern living with a balanced mix of house types and tenure – affordable rent, shared ownership and just over 40% for private sale – with new residents living alongside those who have remained. This compares with a 76% of social rent previously. The homes are energy efficient resulting in lower fuel costs and are easier and cheaper to maintain.

To encourage confidence in the development, PCH invited specialist Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs) from Devon & Cornwall Police to work with architects, developers and local authority planners to design out crime. The DOCOs have recommended products that meet the Secured by Design (SBD) Police Preferred Specification, such as external doors and accessible windows that are sufficiently robust to resist attack from opportunist burglars.

Front doors have quadruple locking systems, door chains and spy holes as well as letter plates with internal protective cowls to prevent thieves using rods to ‘fish’ for keys left within reach. Properties have been fitted with an external light and rear garden gates have two bolts and a separate key-lock.

In addition, SBD’s advice embraced the layout and landscaping, such as measures to increase natural surveillance and create defensible space. Front garden hedges have been replaced by railings whilst high fences protect rear gardens. Properties have living rooms that overlook vehicles parked either in the street or within the curtilage of the building.

Pete Callaghan, North Prospect Neighbourhood Beat Manager, Devon & Cornwall Police, used to be a patrol officer on North Prospect just prior to the start of the regeneration programme when demand on police was substantial with daily neighbourhood disputes, criminal damage and assaults. A burnt-out car or an abandoned mattress in the road weren’t unusual.

PC Callaghan said the regeneration has led to a more diverse community and a narrowing of the cultural divide. He reports: “There has been a dramatic reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour. For example, the park within the development, which had been a gathering point for youths and anti-social behaviour, is now a place for children and families.”

He went on to describe North Prospect as an ‘undoubtable success’.

He concluded: “It is a welcoming, clean, and thriving neighbourhood. Residents now have an expectation of what is acceptable and what is not. They will not tolerate criminality or anti-social behaviour and we are soon made aware of incidents.”

Developers around the UK can achieve SBD awards for incorporating crime prevention measures and techniques into their developments in all kinds of building sectors, such as residential, education, health, transport, commercial, retail, sport and leisure. These awards are gained by working with the aforementioned DOCOs, who advise architects, developers and local authority planners long before construction begins – and continue to provide advice and guidance until the development is complete. To find out more, visit