27 Feb 2013
Submitted by Sophia de Sousa
Empty homes in Liverpool. Image by Craig A Rodway, used under Creative Commons.
It’s about time that we looked at more creative, small-scale interventions to improve neighbourhoods and bring our failing streets, towns and city centres back to life.
This approach is not new. A similar initiative was introduced through Baltimore’s homesteading project in 1975, when 104 homes in the blighted Otterbein area were raffled by the city for $1. The winners were sold the houses for $1 and given $30,000 in financing in return for committing to returning these 18th century row (terrace) houses to their original glory and to living in them for at least seven years. The city on its part committed to invest in improved infrastructure, roads and future development.
It worked. Homeowners invested in their houses, transforming rat-infested, blighted houses into functional and indeed elegant homes and the city invested in infrastructure provided vital protection and support in the early years of the project. Forty years on, this is now a sought after area, not only for the quality of the streets and homes themselves, but due to its position near the also regenerated harbour with its many shops, restaurants and access to city life.
What was so clever about the initiative, and what holds such potential in Stoke and Liverpool, is that the city invested in local people to help transform the neighbourhood while making complementary tactical investment in infrastructure. The raffle brought diversity to the neighbourhood by bringing together a broad spectrum of people with different backgrounds, but a shared commitment to building a home for their own families and to bringing the place back to life.
The test for both Liverpool and Stoke councils will be how they work with the new homeowners and other local stakeholders to create homes, streets and neighbourhoods that people are proud to call their own.
At the recent Glass-House Debate in Liverpool, Does engaging local people in placemaking make good business sense? both the panel and audience challenged the current reliance on private sector investment conditioned by land and property values. All agreed that this development model was a tool in the placemaking box, but that we should be a bit more creative about diversifying how we bring places back to life, and who is doing it. There was also a very clear message that we should be building all homes as if we were building them for someone we love.
While the “dollar row houses” were a rare financial investment opportunity for the residents involved, it required a level of commitment in time as well as money. It simply wasn’t possible to do the place up, sell it and make a quick profit. They had to work to make it a place they wanted to live in.
If policy makers, officials and communities alike want to find solutions to the housing crisis then we all need to step up to the challenge of finding creative ways to invest in places. We’ll watch what happens in Stoke and Liverpool with hope and expectation. What can we learn from this approach? And will they encourage other councils, particularly those with large portfolios of empty properties, to invest in similar and other innovative ways to reinvigorate the places in which we live, work and play?
28 Mar 2012
Submitted by Sophia de Sousa
Yesterday, the final version of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was released. I would like to draw attention to three very simple points that Minister Greg Clark makes in his foreword to the document:
1. Our standards of design can be so much higher.
2. Planning must be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the way we live our lives.
3. This should be a collective exercise.
Community led design aims to do all of this, and the support that The Glass-House has given communities leading built environment projects over the past decade has been founded on these principles. We firmly believe that a participatory design process that places local people at the heart of changes to their neighbourhoods can lead to neighbourhoods that are more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. With the right support, community led design and planning can lead to more creative and better informed solutions to local problems, and to places that are both functional and delightful.
However, let us be under no illusion that this is a quick simple process. In order to achieve great placemaking, the emerging neighbourhood plans will have to grapple with urban design principles and planning legislation, feeding them into an inclusive and participatory design and planning process. They will need to consider the social, economic and environmental impact of their plans in the short and long term. Their community will need to include those who live, work, study and play in the area. It will need to consider and include local residents, businesses and government, as well as those who manage, maintain and service the area. Each neighbourhood plan will have to fully understand and respond to issues around land ownership and to the local (social, historical, economic, environmental etc.) context. It must also consider how the neighbourhood links to and complements the neighbourhoods around it. Neighbourhood plans must begin with a thorough understanding of place, a collective vision for change and an informed and aspirational brief.
So Minister Clark, we agree with your declaration of the importance of design quality, achieved through a creative and collaborative process, as a means of improving quality of life. We hope that the application of this new National Planning Policy Framework, and in particular the presumption in favour of sustainable development, creates the space for inspired and inspiring design and planning by, with and for communities. And we hope that adequate time, resources and practical support will be made available to help make this happen.*
Read the whole National Planning Policy Framework document here
*The Department for Communities and Local Government made a commitment to providing up to £50 million until March 2015 to help make neighbourhood planning a success. As one of the organisations delivering the 'Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning' programme this year we look forward to hearing more about how government intends to carry forward this commitment and to exploring how The Glass-House can work with DCLG and other partners to continue to support community led design and planning within our new National Planning Policy Framework.
23 Mar 2012
Submitted by Louise Dredge
Our final Glass-House Debate of the 2011/2012 series was held earlier this week with our partner Design Council Cabe providing the venue for a discussion on the topic ‘Community Led Design: what is it and does it work?’. With four dynamic and diverse speakers and an engaged audience the evening took us through the many issues and perspectives involved in any community led process.
Dave Smith of London CITIZENS and East London Community Land Trust (ELCLT) outlined his concept of community led design which he summarised as creation (not placation), ownership and management. The priority of ELCLT is to provide affordable housing the residents of East London, a massive challenge in the context of a major global city. Agreeing with the difficulties faced by the ELCLT, property developer David Roberts of Igloo Regeneration injected what he declared was a “dose of realism” to proceedings, with the hypothesis that community led design is not viable. Roberts qualified this with an addendum that it cannot be a reality on publicly owned land in London because this is prime land that will always sell quickly (where there is a high return on investment with no long term approach).
Should we be despondent? A slide from Dave Smith's presentation.
Johanna Gibbons, a landscape architect who has long practiced deliberative planning in her work as part of the firm J & L Gibbons, gave numerous examples of green infrastructure projects she has been involved in where communities and their health and wellbeing have been at the heart of the whole process. As a key member of Southwark Council’s Planning Department, Alistair Huggett discussed some of the creative engagement techniques employed by planners, while acknowledging that their approach is largely community responsive design, as opposed to community led design.
Alistair Huggett, Framework & Implementation Manager with Southwark Council
Chair and Glass-House Chief Executive Sophia de Sousa was keen to explore the business case for community led design, questioning developer David Roberts and a developer audience member about why it makes good business sense for them to engage with communities in the design and planning process. David Roberts asserted that working with the community generates more value. Igloo Regeneration, according to David Roberts, takes a long term view of their investments and engaging with the community deals issues such as security concerns and identifies the right kind of development to carry out in the first place to ensure a sustainable, viable place emerges from the process.
Thoughts from audience members
The advent of Localism could not help but pervade the entire discussion with one audience member enquiring as to what each speaker hoped or desired from the Localism Act. Unsurprisingly, the issue of funding was raised as a key barrier to real community generated and community led processes. Johanna Gibbons pointed out that while new planning policy demands demonstrable community engagement there is no zone of funding allocated for this to occur, with Alistair giving the example of his own borough, where residents of Camberwell aspire to develop a neighbourhood plan but there are no funds available to support this. David Roberts also cautioned that community led design doesn’t fit the legal processes that we have at present in the UK.
Overall, the theory of Localism was welcomed but as one audience member affirmed, we will need a massive cultural change among local authorities, developers and communities that may take twenty years or more to occur. The following advice seems appropriate:
“As an organizer I start where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be — it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be.”
(From the book ‘Rules for Radicals’ by Saul Alinsky as quoted by Dave Smith)
Accepting our present reality, how can we collectively transform our future?
14 Feb 2012
Submitted by Rebecca Maguire
Great news! The Glass-House and partners - the Open University and Architecture Centre Network - have been successful in gaining another grant of £40,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Counci (AHRC) to carry out a piece of action research into The Value of Community Led Design.
This piece of research will use creative and collaborative methods to collect and share the many examples of good practice, aiming to articulate the benefits of community-led design for dissemination to the wider public. The research will also explore and assess ways to measure the impact of community-led design and understand the barriers to wider acceptability of community-led design, and how these can be overcome.
As supporters of the Glass-House will know - community led design goes beyond the one-dimensional process of consultation, helping involve people in decision-making throughout the design process, from visioning to implementation. We contend that there are many benefits from this approach, from improving civic participation and ensuring more democratic outcomes, to creating a strong sense of community and strengthening people’s attachment to their place and to each other, to producing more sustainable solutions.
However, 50 years after the first community-led design initiatives (and although the practice of professionals and organisations involved has matured and spread) community-led design is still far from being mainstream in design and planning practice.
Grappling with this problem is of special relevance at this particular time, with the emerging Localism agenda and the National Planning Policy Framework, which acknowledges an increased need for early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with communities.
Participants during our 'Design by Consensus' workshop at the recent Building Community Planning Camp
At the recent Building Community* Planning Camp at Eden Project in Cornwall, with a large group of neighbourhood groups from across England working on neighbourhood plans, a demand was expressed to be able to share and understand what was going on across the country and learn from one another – this piece of work should be a significant step towards achieving this request!
The project is funded under the Connected Communities strand connecting all research councils. We are thrilled to be part of this wider and holistic network of creative industries, communities and academics working alongside one another.
* Building Community is the 1-year Department of Communities and Local Government funded project that The Glass-House has been delivering on this year (with partners Eden Project, communityplanning.net and Locality) to support communities to take a more active role in place-shaping and the development of plans at a local level to ensure they reflect local needs and aspirations.
10 May 2011
Submitted by Hannah Gibbs
The Glass-House was delighted to hear this morning that Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT) have been successful in their bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Along with Daisy Froud of AOC Participation (whom we approached to be the Glass-House independent Enabler for this project) we worked with the HPWRT Board of Trustees earlier this year to help them develop the design brief and community engagement strategy for the restoration of Hastings Pier. We also helped the group to understand and prepare for the appointment of an architect to the project. A member of the Trust said: “We got the money from HLF and a part of that is the great impression we gave over the architecture and workshops that you did. They were very impressed with your document so thank you very much”.
We are so pleased to hear the news and know that all of the Trustees have been working tirelessly to raise funds, campaign for the restoration of the pier and work with local people, businesses and organisations to involve them in the project. The Glass-House is really pleased to have been able to support the Trust in achieving some of their goals and wish them all the best in the next stage of the pier regeneration project.
The Trustees celebrating on the beach
Further information on the Trust’s successful bid can be found here, where you can also find out how to support the pier restoration project.
Click here to read a case study on our work with Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust.
14 Apr 2011
Submitted by Sophia de Sousa
The Glass-House is thrilled that the Building Community Consortium is one of four groups selected by the Department for Communities and Local Government to deliver free advice and support for communities through their Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning programme. The Consortium will be led by Locality working with core strategic partners, The Glass-House Community Led Design, the Eden Project and communityplanning.net. and will draw on a broader consortium of highly skilled and experienced organisations and individuals to deliver practical advice and support to communities.
We are also delighted that DCLG has singled out the work we did with Granville New Homes in South Kilburn as an example of the type of support they want communities to receive through this programme.
21 Oct 2010
Submitted by Sophia de Sousa
The Glass-House Community Led Design was shocked and saddened to see that DCMS had withdrawn funding from CABE. This sends a worrying message to those of us working to support quality placemaking as an essential part of building confident, cohesive and sustainable communities. We can only hope that the withdrawal of funding from CABE will be tempered by new and creative ways for Central Government to support a quality public realm and the improvement of our streets, buildings, spaces, housing and neighbourhoods for the benefit of communities throughout the UK.
Over the past 10 years, CABE has been an important champion for design quality and has worked hard to raise awareness of the role of the built environment in our quality of life. As in any relationship, ours with CABE has not been without its differences in opinion and approach, but we send them today a heartfelt message of support, respect and gratitude for their invaluable contribution to the way we all look at, talk about and carry out changes to our public realm. We also thank CABE for their work with The Glass-House to promote and support community led design.
Whatever the future and legacy of CABE may be, we must all continue to champion good design and to build on our joint work to help communities create places that work, nurture, inspire and delight.
Sophia de Sousa
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