Choose your own path
Mike Fox of Nash Partnership looks at how community-led regeneration in Bristol is being championed at CIH’s #SouthWest2019 housing conference.
Working on the UK’s largest community-led project – Southmead Regeneration Project in Bristol - which aims to change the face of Southmead town centre and an under-used square at the heart of the community has been challenging, fascinating and informative.
Nash Partnership was tasked with developing the masterplan for central Southmead and is now leading on the first phase of this project – Glencoyne Square. Working closely with Southmead Development Trust, Bristol City Council, United Communities Housing Association and partnering with Streets Reimaged, we helped develop the masterplan with extensive community consultation and engagement.
Although I’ve worked in planning for many years, I have never experienced a selection process quite like this one. Following an initial exhibition, the four design teams competing were subjected to a ‘speed dating’ question round from local groups, followed by an interview by the Trust and the community, who then chose their preferred team. This enabled us to build up a rapport and relationship with the partners involved in making this happen, as well as the residents and wider community, from day one.
Through 1-1 conversations, workshops and exhibitions, we have been able to offer a range of innovative options to allow the community to embrace new ideas. This included exploring different densities and styles of housing, locations for different uses, a variety of open space types and alternative parking arrangements. We then refined their preferences to shape the masterplan as a place that works for them. This is something we have done successfully with other schemes across the South West too, with housing providers and councils from Gloucestershire and Somerset, to Bristol.
At this year’s #SouthWest2019 housing conference run by CIH in Bristol, I will be joined by Southmead Development Trust’s regeneration team leader Lindy Morgan. We’re taking the audience through a ‘community-led adventure’; a series of options (although not quite Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch!) where they can choose to determine which path they take to reach the finale of this regeneration project.
We hope the audience take away learnings, similar to my own, of the value and methods of engagement, how the process works, understanding the complexities of working so closely with a community and their needs, and how tricky it has been to get funding on the scale required from central government if we are to make headway into solving the housing crisis.
Although in real terms we haven’t yet reached the final outcome of this particular story, as plans will not be submitted until later this year, we have worked hard to engage this diverse community. We have presented them with as many options as possible too – within reason and within planning constraints of course – to develop a true community-led regeneration project that will benefit the community in years to come.
- Mike Fox is associate planning director at Nash Partnership, an architecture, urban design, planning and regeneration consultancy, with offices in Bath and Bristol. Nash Partnership will be also be exhibiting at #SouthWest2019 on Stand 24.