Social & Community Infrastructure
With significant housing growth planned for the county, we need to make sure the right kind of social and community amenities are in place. These include community halls and outdoor space; community development support for community groups; small scale funding to fund local projects; activities for children and young people; and opportunities for community leadership and volunteering.
Why is this important? If done well, new communities will feel positively about their community and the town or village of which they are a part. If community spirit and neighbourliness thrive, community organisations can ‘take root’ as the population grows. Areas with higher levels of community activity are more likely to experience higher levels of resident satisfaction and fewer problems such as antisocial behaviour or social isolation.
Without this support, a sense of community-belonging and neighbourliness is less likely to develop. Resident satisfaction levels may be lower, more people may become socially isolated and problems such as anti-social behaviour are less likely to be gripped at an early stage.
Most planning authorities build community amenities in the planning process. But there is a lot of debate about what is necessary, how much it should cost and where the funding should come from.
Placemaking Conference Report
Community First Oxfordshire and the Diocese of Oxford held a ‘Placemaking’ conference on 8 November 2016 at Oxford Abingdon Hotel.
Thousands of new homes will be built in Oxfordshire over the next years, often in large developments. The challenge is how to turn these developments into thriving, active and successful communities where people have a positive sense of belonging. Lord Matthew Taylor, former chair of the National Housing Federation and the Rural Coalition and a leading proponent of ‘Garden Villages’, was the keynote speaker. 130 delegates attended from communities and organisations across the County. These included District, County and Parish Councils, voluntary and community groups, churches and housing associations.
Other speakers included: Tom McCulloch, Director of Community Development at Community First Oxfordshire; Paul Silver, CEO of Dorchester Living; Martin Gorick, chair of the Diocese of Oxford New Communities Group; and Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Executive Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services at Oxford City Council. Alison Webster from the Diocese of Oxford chaired the event.
Full Report on the conference:
Placemaking – A Best Practice Model
In 2015, Cherwell District Council commissioned Community First Oxfordshire to research a community development approach which could help ‘create self-sustaining socially active communities, where residents participate in a range of social and recreational activities at neighbourhood facilities, but also have a positive sense of belonging to the wider community’.
Subsequently, in 2016, CFO was commissioned by South and Vale District Councils and Sovereign Housing Association to set out best practice recommendations for building vibrant, sustainable communities on major new housing developments.
Community Development and Placemaking – a Best Practice Model summarises the findings of these two research studies. Both studies (1) researched best practice in place-making and community development and (2) tested its conclusions with a wide range of stakeholders (residents, town, parish and district councillors, Local Authority officers and VCSE organisations).
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building thriving, socially cohesive and self-sustaining communities. Different locations will have different development pressures and challenges.
However, CFO believes that a place-making approach based on the principles and recommendations set out in the report offers the best chance for new communities to flourish. These recommendations are underpinned by evidence and supported by those we have consulted. They build on the good practice already underway in Oxfordshire. At their heart, they aim to engage communities as fully as possible in the planning and development of new neighbourhoods.
We have developed a six-step approach:
We cannot build thousands of new homes on the edges of towns and village and expect thriving communities to just emerge. These places need to be supported and nurtured.
To this end, CFO is working on a Placemaking Charter for Oxfordshire.
Please tell us what you think – we want residents, developers, planners and others to come together in a spirit of genuine collaboration to create thriving, healthy and socially active communities, designed and led by the unique characteristics of people and place. This also means maximising contributions from developers in order to provide vital, on the ground community development support.