Kilwinning’s Future: growing community projects

3 December 2019 | blog, charrette, small towns, working with communities


In January 2019, North Ayrshire Council commissioned a team led by Willie Miller Urban Design with Nick Wright Planning and Icecream Architecture to provide the expertise and organisation to facilitate and deliver the Kilwinning Charrette.

The purpose of the charrette was to develop a useful output for a range of community interests and maximise the impact that community groups could have in influencing the future Kilwinning. A likely result from the charrette was the potential influence that the community planning partnership could have on future participatory budget events. Also, future decisions could have a focus on the delivery of collaborative place-based actions which tackle social justice, poverty and health inequalities.


The Kilwinning project commenced in early 2019 and ran through different phases of engagement with the community and stakeholders until September. The stages of the programme were as follows:

Stage 1 – Research

Stage 2 – Getting involved

Stage 3 – Visions and projects

Stage 4 – Priorities and action

Stage 5 – Developing the plan

Stage 6 – Reporting


The Communications Strategy outlines how the project team communicated with the community during the project by a variety of methods that ensured all have an opportunity to contribute. The strategy encompasses outward communications from the project team and inbound views and ideas from the public about the project. Also outlined are the anticipated major stages or campaigns of public discussion.


Charrette Events Part 1

The team’s engagement process started in early May with the launch of the website and a series of on-street engagements which delivered numerous ideas and a strong starting point for the charrette process.  Other than general information and communication updates on the blog, the website comprised:

  • an online map of good and bad points
  • an ideas submission form
  • opportunities to vote on priorities

For on-street engagement, we created a fishing game to capture people’s attention and interest. We used a cargo bike as a prop and asked people to try their hand at catching a ‘fish’. On the underside of the fish was a direction to share one of the following:

  • what was good about life in Kilwinning today
  • what was less good about living in Kilwinning today
  • how they would describe Kilwinning in three words
  • an idea for Kilwinning’s future


Their response was recorded on a speech-bubble board and photographed. If someone didn’t want to participate in the fishing game, the team instigated a conversation covering the same tasks as above.

This process prepared the way for the public drop-in and workshop event at Kilwinning College on 23 May 2019. We received over 400 ideas and comments during the initial consultation period. Many of these were displayed in the College and arranged into nine themes.


The Kilwinning College drop-in was a useful event despite poor attendance. The team presented the nine themes, the mapping of the town showing community facilities, walking, cycling and open space facilities. We asked people ‘What would be transformational for Kilwinning?’ – comments were left on post-its.


We held the second event in the Erskine Hall on Saturday 25 May 2019 which yielded some useful ideas. The next event was a session with the Youth Forum on 5 June. It was our second visit to the Forum, this time to come up with themes and ideas.



Between Thursday 20 June 2019 and Monday 15 July 2019, a public vote was conducted as part of the Kilwinning’s Future project. The vote ascertained the strength of feeling on:

  1. Of thee ten draft priority themes, which are essential to people in Kilwinning
  2. What level of interest exists in the establishment of a Community
  3. Development Trust for Kilwinning.

The process asked people to cast votes on the ten different draft priorities that are important to them, and the reasons why. The ten different priorities (noted below) were nested under the three broader headings of Things to do, Collaboration and Support, and Sustainability.

Things to do:
Places to meet and more ideas for young people to do in the town~
Calm environments – using the outdoors more
Making better use of the Abbey

Collaboration and Support:
Creating projects or undertaking initiatives that support people’s individual wellbeing needs
Enterprise – support for people to start new businesses
Community Support – spaces and opportunities to come together across the town
Community Partnership – Encouraging more collaboration between organisations and groups

Lifestyles – for example, starting a community-owned shop in the town centre
Eco-friendly – generating more renewable energy across the town
Community transport – bus services connecting every community to the town centre, or car-sharing schemes

Would you support the establishment of a Community Development Trust?  One idea was to help deliver some of the priorities for Kilwinning’s Future by establishing a Community Development Trust (CDT). We outlined what a Development Trust is. We sought to identify the potential support for a CDT.

To encourage people to cast their votes, we set up several engagement activities:

  1. Public drop-in events 
  2. Attendance at Kilwinning Community Council meeting
  3. Emailing Kilwinning’s Future project mailing list
  4. Production and distribution of a ‘Voting Guide for Schools’ (including classroom tally sheet) to schools in Kilwinning
  5. The distribution of posters and paper voting forms around town.
  6. Thirteen posts on the Kilwinning’s Future Facebook page (four posts were promotionally boosted to reach a greater audience), and over twenty posts on other pages and groups
  7. A news article in Irvine Times 
  8. On-street and pop-up voting activities with members of the general public


In total, there were 341 individual voting responses, 60% conducted online, and 40% returned on paper.


In total 1,359 votes were cast, meaning that for most there was more than one draft priority that was important to them. All ten draft priorities achieved the support of at least one in four respondents, showing strength in support across the different people and communities that make up the town as a whole.

The Way Forward:

On the face of it, 36 projects in ten themes is a reasonable collection of proposals for Kilwinning. The themes cover a wide range of projects, some of which are hugely ambitious, while others are small and relatively easy to achieve.

The charrette prioritising process had substantial inputs from young people and perhaps less input from adults. The theme of Young People (places to meet, attractions and organised activities) was unsurprisingly the most popular.  The themes chosen by the Youth Forum did not specifically mention employment, career development, poverty, health or care for the elderly or others in need. However, there are oblique references to these in some of the projects. The current Locality Partnership priorities of Employability, Traffic and Parking, and Housing and Community were partly referenced while Traffic, Parking and Housing did not feature strongly as projects.

High-value capital projects for young people will be challenging to implement – for example, a swimming pool and an indoor leisure centre. The reality is that these facilities are available and easily accessible within a short trip by public transport. Private operators might provide other ambitious projects for young people such as Forest-Based Adventure, Go-Karts and Trampoline Park in partnership with the Council. Still, itis unlikely that the Council could undertake these alone. At the other end of the scale, some lower value projects, particularly environmental projects or a BMX Skills or Pump Track could be funded and implemented relatively quickly and cheaply as a stalled space on some former industrial ground or greenspace. These include better green space use, better walking routes, tree planting and signposting. However, projects like these require to be looked after and can be a heavy maintenance burden – otherwise, the benefits can disappear very quickly.

Between these two categories of project lie numerous complicated projects that may be well-intentioned but are ill-defined (support for new ideas, healthy food options). Others rely heavily on other organisations (renewable energy, solar farm, heritage centre) or require organisational change more than capital resources (engage with villages, partnership working and focus on the town centre). None of these is particularly easy to implement but nevertheless this is a positive challenge for North Ayrshire Council, the various partnerships in the town and the communities who aspire to more then just simplistic projects with dubious benefits.