Working with the community in Hillpark, Stirling

5 September 2001 | blog, neighbourhood, working with communities

Hillpark Recreation Area
Together with lead consultants Drew Mackie Associates, we have been commissioned by Stirling Council to carry out a consultation, working with the community in Hillpark, to establish the community requirement for open space and built development and the most appropriate uses to which secured funding should be directed.

The study will also establish whether there is a community justification to pursue future funding avenues, establish what these funding sources might be and inform the impending Local Plan review of the specific design and landscape works required to improve the area.

Some early thoughts on consultation

Community involvement and expectations

Every community involvement process carries with it the risk of raising local expectations that may not be met. In such projects we try to:

ensure that the capability of the agencies to deliver is explored as part of the study
give the community a realistic appraisal of the likelihood of proposals to succeed, timescales, degree of community effort needed etc. The object is to raise horizons, not false expectations.

Community involvement and partnership working

The status and practice of community involvement has changed markedly over the last five years. What used to be a process that was innovative and unusual has now become commonplace and mandatory. This has both benefits and disbenefits. Often such involvement is looked on as a “tick the box” activity. It’s got to be done to get the programme money or to demonstrate partnership working. Indeed the proliferation of formal partnerships has led to a vast increase in the number of “involvement streams” in any area. The problem is that the same members of the community are saying the same things to many different agencies and partnerships but often nothing happens and there is no vehicle for bringing these streams together. See Dancing while standing still.

Involvement in particular projects such as this study, requires a great deal of thought as to what has already happened, what can be delivered and how the exercise can avoid repeating previous processes.

Community involvement in environmental design

Involving communities in environmental planning and design carries its own set of issues to be addressed. Environmental concepts such as sustainability are often difficult to portray to communities and there is a need to develop a common language so that professionals and communities can hold meaningful conversations on this subject. We have developed a model of sustainability that might be useful in this context. This is being used on a number of projects to allow communities and professionals to collaborate.

Design aspects are also a special area where the use of strong visual materials is necessary to allow the debate on how the physical environment might develop and change. In other work in Huddersfield, team members are developing various ways in which the physical future of an area can be explored so that agencies and communities have a shared picture of the future.

Hillpark Photogallery