Events and shared interest groups

Community events, such as fun days and festivals, can help local residents to meet each other in a relaxed atmosphere. Similarly, shared interest groups can offer an opportunity for residents to meet their neighbours, potentially from a range of backgrounds and age groups, who share an interest in a specific activity or issue.

Cyclist cycling on footbridgeEvents and festivals play an important role in many towns and cities across the country, offering local people a chance to come together in a shared activity. New communities may wish to hold this sort of event which will give residents, including those who have newly arrived, a chance to meet their neighbours. It could also be an occasion to invite future residents to, particularly where people have bought properties off-plan or where social housing allocations have been made but residents have not yet moved into their new homes. This approach has been successfully adopted in Castle Vale.

Shared interest groups tend to develop organically. However, their creation by residents can be encouraged by providing community facilities for groups to use for meetings, and having dedicated resources for community development work. A strong vision for the development throughout its planning, design and construction may be important in attracting new residents who share values around a particular element of their lifestyles.

Many previous 'new towns' in the UK made community development work a priority and had dedicated community development workers. The first types of resident-generated organisations to form were residents' associations. In future communities this kind of support could be organised through a neighbourhood managementGlossary: is a process of coordinating public service delivery at a local level scheme, or a stewardship organisation. Service providers and other agencies might find these organisations particularly helpful where they wish to identify local people who may wish to be involved in their decision-making processes.

As new organisations and groups are created it will be important for them to avoid developing and operating in isolation from each other. Healthy communities have many organisations with active individuals who can act as a bridge between different groups, ensuring that connections can be made where they can support each other's work. If these networks across organisations do not develop the engagement between service providers and different sections of the community might not be as effective. It will be important to have community development workers, neighbourhood managers or an institution like a local school which can act a catalyst for bringing different community groups into contact with each other. In the recently developed community of Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, one of the local schools has found its key role as helping to develop a sense of community. The school's staff reported that students have found it difficult to learn when they did not feel settled.

Further Reading

Transferable Lessons from the New Towns, CLG (2006)