So near but yet so far…pre-application community involvement (part 2)

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Journal | No Comments

Community engagement works! Done well it can add “significant creative contributions to the design process” but it is often cursory, too late and simply not open to learning anything or changing anything. It does not have to be like that and in this second of two case studies (see our previous journal post for the first) we set out why.

80 houses on the edge of the small town of Modbury

Context: The site on the western edge of Modbury in Devon was formally allocated by the South Hams Local Plan for around 80 houses and some employment provision. The developer was Bloor Homes, who share our commitment to high quality, locally responsive developments. The allocated numbers of houses, together with the employment was a large addition for this small market town.

Process in Summary: Our work with Bloor homes has shown that thorough community involvement in the design process should begin as early as possible, which we did, before even the design team was in place. We started with the design programme and used that as a basis to plan the engagement approach. We then worked together with key local representatives from Modbury to agree the detail on how, who and when to engage with the local community. Its vital to harness local knowledge and networks to deliver genuine engagement and involvement in the design process.

We started with a site and wider town visit with Town Councillors. This generated a huge amount of key local information: access to the Town Newsletter, a copy of the Town Design Statement, suggested venues for events, a bit of history of the site and much more (and some useful local key knowledge and gossip!).

We then planned for and delivered a first open drop-in event over two days in a hall just 100 metres or so from the site. Publicity via the Newsletter and local networking links were crucial in getting us over 170 people coming along, many of whom stopped for up to an hour. No plans were shown; this was all about us hearing local issues, local ideas and local aspirations and testing key design options and principles.

We also held two design workshops, attended by 30 or so people in total. The task for local people, working in groups, was to sketch out how they thought the site might best be developed for the basic mix of housing, employment and open space. That generated loads of debate, helped (no more than that) by planning and design team members. Combining all the results produced what is best called a Concept Plan.

With that plan and the overall results, we now had a ‘Community Brief’. We then held small meetings, for example with neighbours and the adjacent primary school, and further meetings with the Town Council with and the Chamber of Commerce.

The next stage was to hold a second drop-in because, by now, some plans had been produced; quite detailed but still open to change.  The second drop-in, also very local and again over two full days, attracted over 220 people. This event was more about responses to the plans, so everybody was given a response form. As before, most people stayed a long time and we got a lot of response forms to analyse! Many people commented on how clear it was that the concept plan and early information had informed the emerging design.

Final changes were made and the application was submitted, accompanied by our full Report of Consultation. This report proved crucial as demonstrated that we had used a variety of methods to engage people and to inform the final submitted design, which, as the diagrams below show, was informed by the process of community engagement. The report also highlighted how tricky local issues, concerns and aspirations had been addressed, integrated and indeed, in some instances not integrated. The development is now on site.

 

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