1A) Influence

At the scale of the neighbourhood, a sense of control can be achieved through community, tenants’ and residents’ groups, local councillors, neighbourhood watch groups, parish councils, community land trusts, neighbourhood plan groups and civic societies.

It can also include civil society groups such as churches and other places of worship, youth clubs, schools, sports clubs and allotment societies – any organisation that allows local communities to work together to improve the quality of our area and address local problems.

Research for the Quality of Life Foundation by Social Life and Kaizen Partnership has found that it is primarily through our local communities that we experience our quality of life. Furthermore, community ties have strengthened during lockdown, as we have got to know more of our neighbours and worked together to set up local support groups. There is real potential to build on these community links post lockdown.

Control and the neighbourhood

Neighbourhood engagement can take many forms. It is common for community groups to be consulted on issues such as policing, planning and other local government functions.

Sometimes these groups are given a degree of delegated decision-making or
a local discretionary budget. This can be expanded into participatory budgeting, where a proportion of the council’s budget is allocated by the community either through voting or a community council.

Community groups can also own or manage property. The 2011 Localism Act gives communities the right to bid to run local services and to take over empty public buildings. The Localism Act also allows communities to create their own Neighbourhood Plans that can be adopted as part of the planning system.

In some neighbourhoods, communities have taken on functions like looking after public spaces, using maintenance budgets and employing a local workforce. Communities can also own and run local energy companies generating renewable power and selling it to local people. They can even become developers, creating housing and workspace. All of these activities are linked to increased feelings of wellbeing locally.

Control and Development

It is particularly important to involve local communities when development and other physical works are planned. It is disheartening that research highlighted in the literature review suggests that residents who have recently been involved in consultation are the least likely to trust developers.

In 1969 Sherry Arnstein suggested a ladder of engagement to represent levels of community engagement which can apply to planning and many activities. The original ladder had eight rungs and ranged from ‘manipulation’ to ‘citizen control’. Over the years it has been modified and the version below is the most commonly used. The level of engagement will depend on what is planned and how it affects

the community in question. People living near to a proposal should, at the very least, expect to be ‘consulted’ or ‘involved’. On the other hand, where communities are directly affected, such as the redevelopment of their estates or low traffic neighbourhoods, the community should be treated as clients through ‘involvement’, ‘co-creation’ and ‘empowerment’.

What You Can Do

Communities

A good start is to review or audit all of the activity already taking place locally, which is often more than you would think. Bringing these groups together for a structured visioning event can be useful in setting priorities and opening-up a dialogue with the.

Developers and Designers

A good start is to review or audit all of the activity already taking place locally, which is often more than you would think. Bringing these groups together for a structured visioning event can be useful in setting priorities and opening-up a dialogue with the.

Councils

A good start is to review or audit all of the activity already taking place locally, which is often more than you would think. Bringing these groups together for a structured visioning event can be useful in setting priorities and opening-up a dialogue with the.

Case study

1A) Old Trafford, Manchester

Commissioned in 2008, the Old Trafford masterplan sought to address the poor physical layout and wider integration of the area, while ensuring that the existing settled community were involved in the redevelopment process and were not displaced from their homes.

Old Trafford has a population of around 13,000 residents, and cultural diversity has been a feature of the area for over a century. The council appointed URBED to design the masterplan, with community engagement being key to the process.

A series of ‘Design for Change’ workshops in May and June 2008 enabled local residents, businesses and community groups to contribute to the reshaping of their area, with plasticine models created to demonstrate ideas for change.

The local community were invited on a bus tour to view other development schemes and comment on their preferences and concerns. A series of sessions targeting young people were also accommodated.

The masterplan considered the future of nine tower blocks and concluded that four should be removed and five refurbished. This involved the demolition of 386 social housing units, to be replaced with a higher number of new socially rented and affordable dwellings. Overall, the plan included 1,358 new homes, meaning a net gain of 972 units, and some new market sales housing.

A new Church and Refectory have also been built, and a mixed-use development called Limelight was completed in 2017. Extensive public consultation involving over 2,000 local people, together with the formation of resident-led design teams, saw many aspects of the Limelight project shaped by the local population.

Limelight hosts a wide range of facilities including assisted living, a library, a nursery, a health centre, a hair and beauty hub, a café, fitness classes and regular community events for all ages.

Images courtesy of URBED, Carbon Co-op, The Glass-House, Academy of Urbanism, Limelight