Neighbourhood Planning, Donna Turnbull from Voluntary Action Camden, June 2013


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Donna Turnbull's presentation about neighbourhood planning in two areas of London. Given at the National Association for Neighbourhood Management's event "What's in the Plan Stan?" in Barnfield, London, on 18 June 2013.

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  • Approach to new policy developments hands on / proactive. Not just about briefings. Like to think we can influence the way policy is interpreted into reality in the borough!Speakersinvolved in seminar included: the now council leader on Big Society in Camden context; Director of VAC on public services / neighbourhoods; planning officers on rights to bid / buy etc and neighbourhood planning; independent planner on neighbourhood planning / community led planning.NP appeared to be new ‘right’ that people could relate most to and seemed least complicated / most potential to be productive. Resulted in requests for support to start planning projects. Generally seen as a vehicle to achieve various ambitions, most specifically stronger sense of community. Not just about a neighbourhood plan. Bloomsbury Assoc. and ST Community Assoc. saw opportunities through process and keen to try out.As well as usual CVS type skills had additional knowledge and expertise. Urban design and community led regen background – neighbourhood projects. Independent planning expertise offered by experienced community planner – volunteering with VAC .
  • There’s a forum to develop, as well as a planning process. From basic governance to growing a platform for range of transformative neighbourhood initiatives. The ‘plan’ is a small part of what can be achieved by collaboration and developing ‘assets’ in a neighbourhood – and may not even be the main outcome.Most importantly ‘working with difference’: engaging and including all the people in the neighbourhood, not just ‘people like us’. Strength and scope of what NP process can achieve is directlyrelated to this. Iron out conflict early and hopefully it won’t come back to bite you later.Neighbourhood is full of assets – people are a good starting point. There are also buildings, land, services…….. What’s out there that can be better used or developed to benefit the neighbourhood and community? Many of the social and economic objectives residents have that are ‘additional’ to planning (i.e. the NP) could also be achieved through developing assets and strategies for planning gain / CIL.Connections with other civil society organisations, local authority, service providers etc – access to other support, brokering relationships and collaborations, maximising opportunity e.g. joining up with related projects. One of strengths of the Somers Town project is it that it isn’t just about creating new things – uses what’s already there to maximum effect.
  • Getting started the focus was on the above: Bloomsbury Association and Somers TownCommunityAssociation provided broad based ‘hubs’ at neighbourhood level.Approached as a community development project – probably still about 70% CD work and 30% planning. Experience of community led planning is essential. People / communities will inevitably marry social and economic issues with the ‘planning’ and this will enrich the process. A mixed forum with organisations as well as residents can help to deliver on the ‘extra’ bits, achieve some quick wins and keep up the momentum. Independent technical (planning) aid also essential. Neighbourhood planning has to be collaborative (with LPA). But community do have to lead. Planning system traditionally set up for objection, being defensive, not proactive planning – it is a change in working culture for residents, civil society organisations and the public sector.Openness, flexibility – all important (especially at the beginning). Approached as an exploration not a series of boxes to tick. Commitment to involving people requires a willingness to adapt and change, so as more people get involved things do change. And sometimes it can be extremely challenging. But ironing out any conflict and negotiating to reach consensus early on is better than having to make rash compromises later e.g. you don’t want to be erasing policies from your plan because the mandatory last minute consultations suggest they will never get through a referendum.
  • Very mixed area with large Bangladeshi and Somali populations. High numbers of young people.Presents range of resources: access to skills, knowledge, networks, space, stuff ……. And some conflict too! Managing building development e.g. codes of construction, benefits through job creation etc is as important here as what is actually developed. Strangely people haven’t been deterred by past experience and there is a will to exert influence in areas where they can make a difference rather than focussing all energy on ‘trying to stop the inevitable’ (HS2 / infrastructure of national relevanceetc). Early death – 10 yr difference in life expectancy between Somers Town and wealthier Hampstead in north of borough. Addressing youth unemployment is a priority. High levels of ‘fear of ‘ rather than actual crime – drugs and alcohol and associated antisocial behaviours are the biggest problem.Crick has set a new precedent with planning gain through their 106 agreement. Local people see as benchmark to build on.
  • Fed up being the ‘bit between the stations,’ other plans only including parts of Somers Town. Change image so not seen as just the bad lands between the stations.Planning priorities: process important –bringing community together, maximising resources, influencing and benefitting from development, solving long standing problems like poor health and unemployment.
  • Older population still in LA housing, Bangladeshi families, ‘hidden communities’ e.g. housing for people with long term health problems who don’t get out.2. Ex LA flat sold for 900k recently. Whole blocks of housing refurbished and marketed in Hong Kong etc. On the other hand there are people defecating in the street at 4am and dealing / taking drugs in alleyways and courtyards.3. Community centre closed down 20 years ago. Use Grade 1 listed Hawksmoor church for workshops and hotels donate rooms for meetings. This is a problem in terms of accessibility, but there are also benefits of the business involvement.4. BID involved in the forum.5. Development pressures from London, national infrastructure projects like Somers Town, but here are still opportunities for community to influence. Starting point for NP was to revitalise Museum Street as pedestrian route from BM to Covent Garden, and retain small independent businesses (some owned by residents) and character – address impact of encroaching Costas and Starbucks, and bland BID rebranding – InMidtown.
  • This is the route to Covent Garden people rarely use but takes minutes to walk. Big development site that could have huge impact on public realm. Old post office site now appears to be owned by Aviva. Have approached forum for initial ‘temperature check’ on local community views.
  • Held initial events in the 2 neighbourhoods to explore peoples’ ideas about what comprised ‘neighbourhood’ , and draft some boundaries and a first try forum to kick off with. Further down the line Somers Town have pretty much stuck with what they saw as their ‘natural neighbourhood’, but in Bloomsbury other influences (internal like capacity in small area, and external like ambitions of neighbouring forums) have resulted in a complete rethink.
  • Orange cards are forum members (residents by street or estate, associations and groups, businesses, institutions, councillors,other stakeholders).Blue cards are advice or expertise that could be co-opted (police, planning officers, housing providers etcetc).In Bloomsbury about 80 people took part in initial event and follow up. This was added to with targeted door to door surveys and stamp addressed postcards.In Somers Town the initial event was structured as 3 targeted workshops (older people, parents using Under 5’s project, young people) and an open public session. This was followed with postcards, leafleting and surveys.Following the activities results were analysed and options were developed. In both of the neighbourhoods people reached consensus through the workshops and follow up activities, and the current forum structures and constitutions have developed accordingly. All the work is documented and provides good evidence and rationale for explaining decisions that have been made as new people get involved.
  • The Somers Town forum hold open monthly meetings , regular ‘working group’ activities, and bigger planning events as needed. Meetings are the least productive way to take the project forward . Working groups are set up to develop ideas and projects based on priorities that are identified. For example a governance group developed the constitution and forum applications. This has now run its course. Other groups are: planning and development looking at key development sites / policies; health developing sports, exercise and environmental projects; employment and economy exploring the local street market as a potential community enterprise and asset and creating employment opportunities; community safety where residents are setting up neighbourhood watch schemes. Most recently a group of residents have decided to set up an arts and culture group.This could be the photocopiers in local schools , a housing association’s widely circulated newsletter, a local youth centre’s outreach workers, a fast typing forum member taking minutes, catering, leaflet distribution, advertising, space to meet, transport….. Also on project delivery level as well as servicing forum e.g. training places for young people, enterprise initiatives, neighbourhood watch.To date probably 5% of population have ‘engaged ‘ in some way over duration of project. Meetings are the worst type of activity – workshop type activities much better at promoting constructive debate and consensus.
  • Time, money, other useful stuff - skills and resources are ‘collected’ all the time and in different ways. So are priorities and ideas.
  • Cards are from previous activities and people ‘vote’ with dots and / or add new likes, dislikes and ideas.
  • Planning for real type activity enables deliberation, allows anonymity and promotes plenty of lively discussion. Ideas start to develop and groups form to take them forward.
  • 1. Volunteer planner and LA planners put together; get various experts in to lead discussion (CIL, cost / value in development); PAL general overview of planning framework. 2. Plans in 9 areas subject to development and change e.g. St Giles and Holborn plan overlaps edge of Bloomsbury Village neighbourhood, Euston and Kings Cross plans overlap Somers Town boundaries. Useful before LA employed an NP officer, and for broader knowledge of planning context in these areas.3. CIP is about selling / redeveloping assets e.g paying for new schools. Neighbourhood Forums have to be central to this process so have been working closely with borough planners to change not just the way they ‘consult’ but also aim to influence the approach to asset management / development (and integrate with NP process).
  • Money, space, introductions…. But not always ‘politically’ favourable when dealing with LA.2. No civil society organisations as in Somers Town which is a disadvantage, but do have quite a lot of useful skills – planning, legal, finance etc. But can be inconsistent e.g. took forever to write a constitution because of ‘knowledge’!3. In Somers Town there are different people driving areas of work, in Bloomsbury there’s one person driving the project, and extremely difficult to get others to take on responsibilities. Not just time, confidence (some older people)4. At first this was an advantage, very coherent, easy to access and include whole community etc. But then neighbouring areas started setting up Forums and the Bloomsbury Village Forum started getting pressured. Went back to drawing board and increased size as coherently as possible – through demand, but also through feeling vulnerable. Now getting back on track – still determined / good resilience!
  • This is a project that keeps growing new legs: there is energy and enthusiasm as well as ‘expertise’ to move ideas forward. Moving in to realms of asset development – land, buildings, market etc. On latter have set up seminar – tomorrow - on development processes / cost and value. Relooking at public ownership….??Collaborate with planners, have done from the start, but also have relationships with property services, housing, social care, leader, cabinet members etc. Also applies to Bloomsbury, but there isn’t the same political buy in at ward level.Lack of funding for NP is a problem generally. But most noticeable to this project when it comes to frustration of not being able to communicate to the extent needed. Ideally a selection of means would be used to communicate with residents.Friction between people in different types of housing e.g. council versus housing association. Representation through tenants and residents associations. Project has presented challenges to that ‘power’ and some individuals clearly feel their status is threatened by other residents ( 2 new TRAs have emerged since this project started). Also there are ’gatekeepers’ who can be challenging to work with / get past.5. Designated in Dec 2012 and remains to be seen whether this compliments the NP process or not. In theory used wisely and made to work hard it could enable the community to solve some long standing problems. On the other hand it could be really divisive, or just another grant pot with no long term impact. It is taking a long time to get off the ground – resident steering group is not very representative, seems to have re engaged some of the people who were antagonistic at the start of the neighbourhood planning process. This has deterred others from getting involved. Have dipped toes in to the meetings and decided to focus on the neighbourhood planning. The NP has already achieved jobs, training, whole community working together on a scale that hasn’t happened there before. People can see longer term opportunity.
  • Neighbourhood Planning, Donna Turnbull from Voluntary Action Camden, June 2013

    1. 1. Camden Blueprint: neighbourhood planning Donna Turnbull, Voluntary Action Camden, June 2013.
    2. 2. Beginnings • Voluntary Action Camden (VAC) remit to support local groups to ‘activate’ new policy developments. • Localism seminar March 2011. • Neighbourhood planning captures imagination of participants. • Regeneration / built environment knowledge and skills. Including community-led planning expertise.
    3. 3. Voluntary sector support • Relevance of council for voluntary service (CVS) type skills to setting up new projects and partnerships. • Community development work. • Enterprise and asset development. • Networks, relationships, local knowledge.
    4. 4. Basic ingredients • Community / neighbourhood groups with broad constituency and willingness to share power. • Community development work, and up to date knowledge of local planning context. • Building confidence, trust and working relationships to enable the shift from being consulted into leading. • Keeping doors open: plan boundaries; neighbourhood planning forum; working groups…….
    5. 5. Somers Town • Population of approximately 7,000. • Social housing, community groups and facilities, big businesses and institutions. • Lifetimes of living with building development. • Poor health, no jobs, fear of crime. • Development sites include Francis Crick Institute behind British Library and High Speed 2 at Euston.
    6. 6. Somers Town neighbourhood
    7. 7. Bloomsbury Village • Neighbourhood of approx. 2000 residents, small businesses, students and tourists. • Vast gap between rich and poor, pockets of extreme social exclusion, crime and high levels of fear related to night time economy. • No dedicated community facilities. • Overlap with Business Improvement District. • Big development sites on southern boundary and close proximity to Tottenham Court Road Crossrail.
    8. 8. Museum Street (north)
    9. 9. Museum Street (south)
    10. 10. Where is your Neighbourhood?
    11. 11. First Try Forum?
    12. 12. Planning process • Events, surveys, workshops, walks, film ……. different ways to get people involved and share ideas. • Working groups developing ideas into projects. • Mobilising resources. • Continually building involvement and consensus.
    13. 13. What have you got and what do you want?
    14. 14. Good, bad and most wanted.
    15. 15. Planning days
    16. 16. Planning context • Planning Framework: Local Plan Site Allocations ‘bite sized briefings’; seminars; training. • Working with planning officers leading on Camden’s Place Shaping Plans. • Camden’s Community Investment Programme.
    17. 17. Bloomsbury pros and cons • Business and social networks with resources and clout. • Built environment / other professional skills and knowledge within community. • Too few ‘leaders’. • Small neighbourhood area.
    18. 18. Somers Town pros and cons • Civil society organisations, businesses and institutions with range of skills and knowledge to support multifaceted project. • Good working relationship with local authority, not just the planning officers. • Publicising and communicating in community with low levels of internet use, but not having the resources for texting, frequent leafleting, door knocking etc. • Community politics. • BIG LOCAL ?!
    19. 19.