Early engagement of future and existing residents

The conversation between people who will live in the new settlements and those involved in building them should start well before the first brick is laid.

Lessons Learned

Be clear about when residents are being informed, consulted or are participating in decision making.

See: Walker Riverside

Where there are even small numbers of residents living in an area they should play a meaningful role in developing plans for a place.

See: Manchester

Where there is a legacy of tension between existing residents and a local authority over housing issues, it is important to take time to address these problems.

See: Camden

Meaningful communication between development partners and local residents can dramatically reduce the frustrations people might feel when living near to developments.

See: Dings

Early engagement helps to foster a culture in which people expect to be involved in shaping their neighbourhood so that sharing their views and aspirations becomes a way of life. While this is difficult to achieve, it is essential for getting a new community off to a good start. It can help bring new and existing residents together and is far preferable to trying to turn round a poor reputation further down the line.

Questions to consider:

  • What methods will you use to understand the aspirations and concerns of people who are not yet living in the area?
  • When will you start engaging with existing residents and how will you deal with their concerns?
  • What sort of decisions will you involve new and existing residents in?
  • What methods will you choose to find out the range of views from the community you are working with?
  • How will you handle the consultation, feedback, decision making and action to steer the community towards greater sustainability and cohesion?
  • What opportunities will there be for existing residents to take part in the life of the new community?
  • Are there plans to welcome new residents to the area and provide them with information?
  • Has a strategy for long-term engagement been considered?

While there are some obvious difficulties in finding a way into a conversation with a community that doesn't yet exist, it is not an impossible situation. Starting to build a community from scratch offers a unique opportunity to achieve real community planningGlossary: is a process by which residents are involved in planning and managing services or physical developments and there are ways of approaching this that can pay off in the long term.

This process is no less difficult in places where growth is planned alongside an existing population. In fact, the difficulties are greater in some ways because there are two distinct groups to understand and to bring together in creating and moving towards a future vision for the place, in addition to listening to the variety of views across various groups. The feelings, views and aspirations of people already living there and of those moving to the area are likely to be very different, not least because those who move into the area are more likely to be making an active choice to live in the new community, which may not be the case for existing residents.

The experiences of people in the early stages matter hugely to the long-term life of a place. A poor reputation can last many years after the place has been built and can be very difficult to shake off. For this reason it is essential that those involved in planning for andĀ building new settlements make a significant effort to engage with future residents before they have arrived, with those residents who are first to arrive to live in the place and with those who already live in the wider area.

Elements within this ingredent:

1. Engaging with residents who aren't there yet

In all new communities, whether or not there is an existing population, it is important to put significant effort into engaging with people who will live there in the future.

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2. Talking to people as they arrive

For many years, newcomers will be entering a growing, changing and unfinished place and an evolving community. They will need to know that they are being listened to and that they are able to influence how things develop around them within the master plan.

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3. Engaging existing residents

People living in areas where growth is planned are likely to have very different concerns and aspirations from those moving in to the new places.

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4. Developing and delivering a cohesive community

Effective engagement will also help to catalyse the creation of an environment where local people understand how they can get involved in community life and will feel welcome to do so.

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