And so we reached day five. After a busy and intensive week, we are reaching the conclusion of the Design Enquiry. It feels like a very long time ago indeed that we all boarded the coach to visit the site on Monday. This really is only ‘the end of the beginning’ so to speak and through the course of Saturday it was the intention of our team to help attendees identify the way forward and how they can contribute to the process from here on in.
Having had a fantastic and consistent level of attendance I might have expected that on a sunny Saturday morning, at the end of a tiring week, people might have fancied a break or had other things to do. But, as has been the case all week, the full group arrived early and with enviable levels of energy and continued interest. And so we commenced Day 5.
So what happened in the final session?
The day began with a review of week’s activities culminating in reflections on the four scenarios / options from Thursday. The group was asked to provide one word that captured their feelings about the week and this included the following. Comments included; stimulating, creative, intensive, complex, idealistic, committed, partial, incomplete, good-start, and useful. This hinted at the theme which had emerged throughout the process with people wanting information which at present does not exist and wanting to be involved in the project as this information and design thinking moves forward.
People were then invited to revisit the 4 options / scenarios created and presented on Thursday. Working in small groups people were asked to use post-it-notes to pin up their positive and negative thoughts on these options. Whilst these 4 options were not the key output from the week – the intention was not to arrive at a single masterplan – they did form the basis of the main ‘spatial planning’ output for the site. As such, it was important that everyone had an opportunity to feedback on these ideas following the design review panel’s comments on Thursday night. All of this detailed information will be included in the report of the event.
And so ideas turned to how all of this good work so far could be continued and fed-into the planning process for the site. The group were invited to have a quiet moments thinking time considering their priorities for action and the way ahead. The group’s ideas were then collected around the group to generate a detailed log of comments. People’s views were wide-ranging but themes included the following; this must not be the end of the process. The Design Enquiry ‘team’ needs to reconvene at key moments in the future and continue to be involved. That missing information needs to be collected as appropriate and gaps in information filled. Key issues for example levels of affordable housing need to be reviewed with the two Councils. The planning document(s) for the two Councils need to be aligned. People’s appetite to keep involved and to see the vision through to implementation was evident for all to see.
Throwing the Doors Open!
At 12noon with the final session concluded the doors to the community centre were thrown open and a steady stream of local residents arrived to review the week’s activities. This was all quite informal with the consultants, Council representatives, and – Importantly – many members of the Design Enquiry team, on hand to answer questions and explain what had gone on. ‘So what’s the answer?’ – One lady asked me polity, but firmly. It soon became apparent that it was not possible to explain in just a few moments the approach and outcomes through the week and I found myself touring the room with people and spending significant amounts of time with individuals and small groups showing them the outputs from each day and the week.
That there was ‘No one answer’ took some time to grasp. But when people understood the process that had been worked through, they were comforted that the outcome of the weeks work would support more detailed work in respect of briefing for development on the site. The most refreshing thing for me was that so many of the Design Enquiry team stayed on to describe the work that had gone on and the four options that emerged on Thursday. To hear the group describing the drawings and the thinking behind these demonstrated the value of the weeks’ activities and the ability of the group. This was a highlight for me.
This blog has been wholly written and provided by Taylor Young. Some members of the workshop have asked for their own ‘papers and web links’ to be added. We have agreed to include all such notes within our report. These will be disseminated in coming weeks and be available alongside all other information provided during the week. We hope the blog has provided a helpful and informative narrative on the workshop and has helped give people a flavour of what has been happening. We are always keen to receive feedback on our work and if anyone has comments on the blog then please get in touch.
Our next step is to write up our report based on all the information received throughout the week. This is a big job. When we have worked through this the report will be issued to the two Councils and to the Design Enquiry group to agree as an accurate record. There will then be a public meeting and presentation.
But for now, we have reached the end of an exhausting week. We are grateful to the energy, interest and enthusiasm of all those who attended. Its only when you run and participate in events like this that you are reminded just how demanding they can be and how much progress can be made with the right level of inputs from all. Certainly there are learning points for our team and the feedback forms from the event, once analysed will no doubt help us to improve. But from my own personal perspective and from speaking to people on the final day, I feel this was a successful process. A process which offers a direct and tangible example, of how localism and positive planning, can be delivered in an innovative way.
Until we meet again… Thank you and good afternoon!