The multiple benefits of neighbourhood planning and community engagement are well known to many, yet sometimes the groups within a community who would benefit most from things such as better transport links, cheaper housing or a more integrated community, are the groups least likely to be involved in the consultation and planning process.
This can be a problem, especially considering input and involvement of under-represented and harder to reach groups within a community is key for not only creating a more effective neighbourhood plan, but for also resulting in places that are relevant and important to everyone.
So how do you engage with a whole community? The answer lies in spending time in the consultative stages to make sure everyone feels involved and if needs be being prepared to do this in a series of different and creative ways. With centenary celebrations of Octavia Hill just passed it seems fitting to showcase a selection of projects where imaginative methods have resulted in wider community engagement, reinforcing the National Trust’s desire to protect places for ever, for everyone.
Love Easton: Situated in Bristol, Easton is a community comprising of several different ethnic groups. Although each group was active within their specific community, there was little link-up between groups. The challenge for the Love Easton Urban Design Task Group was to engage with all residents in Easton, involving them in discussions and design of the neighbourhood plan. Through a series of popular ‘food fuddles’, an evening where residents would bring a dish from their country of origin, it became clear that food was the way to include the harder to reach groups in Easton in discussion. This resulted in further involvement in the consultation process as well as linking up different ethnic groups within Easton. From this the idea for a ‘Love Easton Café’ was born, with the intention of creating an integrated community hub where evenings, meeting and events could be held and sparking the beginning of a more inclusive approach to neighbourhood planning in East Bristol. Love Easton Website
Clay Futures Community Engagement: recognizing people’s trepidation towards ‘public consultation’ and neighbourhood planning, ClayFutures used innovative public engagement techniques when approaching new plans for an Eco-Town in Cornwall. A community fete was organized in each parish along with a variety of creative art installations themed around subjects such as ‘homes’, ‘journeys’, ‘services and ‘a sense of community’. The events attracted a good proportion of hard-to-reach groups between the ages of 15-24 and encouraged them to consider the extent to which the neighbourhood plan could meet their own aspirations and desires. Sensory Trust @sensorytrust
Creative Spaces: Trevarna House near St Austell is a residential home for elderly people suffering from dementia. Although the house is surrounded by local amenities such as a library, park, school and shops there is little integration or cohesion between dementia residents and the rest of the community. Using outdoor activities to create memory triggers residents are able to re-connect with their community as well as demonstrate to others their knowledge of the place and its local history. The success of using the outdoor environment in breaking down social barriers within the community has resulted in the creation of a garden at Trevarna House, which is now also used for community events and activities, further integrating dementia patients in a wider community context. Creative Spaces @sensorytrust
HVX: A neighbourhood planning group in Hoylake, Merseyside were keen to engage with young members of the community at the beginning stages and throughout their project. The result was the creation of HVX, a group where local teenagers could talk about issues within the community. The success of the group lied in teenagers’ input being taken seriously. Issues raised were fed back to the police, councilors and members of Hoylake Village Life community group. A Hoylake community cinema has also proved extremely popular with all age groups and helped boost Hoylake’s image across the region. Hoylake Village Life @HoylakeVillage
Blog by Chloe Hampson, Campaigns and Research intern.