Early engagement of future and existing residents
The conversation between people who will live in the new settlements and those involved in building them should start well before the first brick is laid.
Be clear about when residents are being informed, consulted or are participating in decision making.
See: Walker Riverside
Where there are even small numbers of residents living in an area they should play a meaningful role in developing plans for a place.
Where there is a legacy of tension between existing residents and a local authority over housing issues, it is important to take time to address these problems.
Meaningful communication between development partners and local residents can dramatically reduce the frustrations people might feel when living near to developments.
Questions to consider:
- What methods will you use to understand the aspirations and concerns of people who are not yet living in the area?
- When will you start engaging with existing residents and how will you deal with their concerns?
- What sort of decisions will you involve new and existing residents in?
- What methods will you choose to find out the range of views from the community you are working with?
- How will you handle the consultation, feedback, decision making and action to steer the community towards greater sustainability and cohesion?
- What opportunities will there be for existing residents to take part in the life of the new community?
- Are there plans to welcome new residents to the area and provide them with information?
- Has a strategy for long-term engagement been considered?
While there are some obvious difficulties in finding a way into a conversation with a community that doesn't yet exist, it is not an impossible situation. Starting to build a community from scratch offers a unique opportunity to achieve real community planning and there are ways of approaching this that can pay off in the long term.
This process is no less difficult in places where growth is planned alongside an existing population. In fact, the difficulties are greater in some ways because there are two distinct groups to understand and to bring together in creating and moving towards a future vision for the place, in addition to listening to the variety of views across various groups. The feelings, views and aspirations of people already living there and of those moving to the area are likely to be very different, not least because those who move into the area are more likely to be making an active choice to live in the new community, which may not be the case for existing residents.
The experiences of people in the early stages matter hugely to the long-term life of a place. A poor reputation can last many years after the place has been built and can be very difficult to shake off. For this reason it is essential that those involved in planning for and building new settlements make a significant effort to engage with future residents before they have arrived, with those residents who are first to arrive to live in the place and with those who already live in the wider area.
- The Role of Citizens in the Planning Process, UN Habitat (2006)
- Everybody needs good neighbours?, Involve (2008)
- Mixed Communities: Success and sustainability, JRF (2006)
- Community Cohesion, A report for the independent review team, Home Office (2001)