From January to March, the CLT hosted a series of drop-ins at NowHere, its new headquarters, enabling the wider community to feed back on the plans developed by the Core Design Team. 11 sessions were held over five weeks, and 62 people came by to give essential feedback on how the plans were developing.
Tim Jeeves, who’s been writing about the design process on the blog for the last few months caught up with Britt Jurgensen, the CLT’s Community Engagement Coordinator, to find out what came up in the sessions.
Tim: Tell me about the drop-ins – why did the CLT decide to run these as well as the Core Design Team meetings?
Britt: We wanted to make sure that more people than just the twenty or so of the core design team could feed back on the plans and give their input. We decided to do a drop-in rather than a big public consultation event because we thought it would allow more people to come. We offered it over a few weeks, and at different times of the day, so if someone wasn’t able to make one session they could come to another.
Seeing people in the drop-in also meant that the quality of the engagement was higher – I could take more time with each person. There were also some nice connections made between people when more than one turned up at once.
The other advantage of doing something like this over a longer period of time, is that it’s possible to feed back to our architects step by step rather than have a single input all at once.
Tim: I guess that means the architects could give you stuff back, meaning that the people that are coming in two weeks later would have the most up to date information to look at.
Britt: Yes, exactly, and I’d also adjust the questions I’d ask people when they came. As time went by, certain things would start to be decided and then they wouldn’t be offered up anymore as a question because it wouldn’t be meaningful participation.
Tim: You mentioned you were asking people questions when they came in, did you have a script or a questionnaire that you went through with them? What was the format of the interactions that you had?
Britt: There were certain questions that were always the same. We’d show the plans, as they were at that time, and then ask if people could imagine themselves living in that kind of space. Another question was about the outer appearance – about the plans for the back of the scheme to be more modern and the front more traditional. We also talked about what’s important when people rent – things like security, and about maintenance, those kinds of thing – and I’d always ask people what they’d love to see on their high street.
“The investment in the old row makes us feel special”
Tim: Were there particular themes that came up when you talked with people about the homes?
Britt: The first thing that was really great for us to see was that there’s a demand for the houses: out of the 62 that came through, I think 10 people put their name down, and we’ve not even started advertising for tenants yet!
We talked a lot about rental security, and how people currently feel that renting privately isn’t a safe way to rent for a long period. As prices in the area change, they could easily imagine themselves being forced out. People also said that agent fees are really high – it would be difficult to move even if they wanted to – and future proofing against utility bill hikes also came up. And people were really excited about our plans to retrofit the houses and also have solar panels on the roofs so energy bills can be kept low.
A sense of spaciousness was really important so we’ve designed all the rooms to be bigger than standard. And people reacted really positively to things like the utility rooms and conservatories that we’d included in the designs.
People would often talk about how they might be renting, but they still want the same quality of stuff as everyone deserves – a bit of luxury.
Tim: Nothing is too good for the working class!
Britt: Ha – exactly! There were some lovely quotes about the frontage – perhaps you could drop them in to the writing when it goes onto the blog?
“I want to drive past and see the old frontage – if you’ve lived here for a long time, you get tired of seeing too much change”
Tim: No problem, I’m sure that will be possible. The other thing you talked about in the drop-ins was the commercial space – were there any particular themes or particular kinds of shop that came up?
Britt: Oh yes! If we’d run a competition, the winner by a long way would have been a fruit and veg shop. There was a lot of discussion about that, a lot of emotion and energy around the fruit and veg shop. It feels like that’s the next things, after bread.
Tim: Did people talk at all about the one that used to be on Priory Road?
Britt: They did. They also talked about Barrow Boy on West Derby Road. People would talk about the “honest fruit and veg” that they sold. So, it’s not about making a fancy shop, although many people said they’d love to buy organic if it was affordable. This feels like a big task for the CLT, how to take this forward. There was a lot of talk about a market – a weekly pop-up perhaps, or a market space where we can trial this. We need to have a look and see if there’s people in the area that already provide this.
“We want to pass this on to the next generation so we need to keep it intact”
Tim: Great. So, my last question… Any surprises? Anything that you found out that we haven’t already talked about?
Britt: Hmmm… I think the thing that most surprised me was how many people said that they don’t shop at a supermarket. There was even people who said they work in Asda but they won’t shop there.
Tim: Really? People were saying that it was something that they don’t do at the moment? Not something they’d like to stop doing?
Britt:Yup – so they go to Tuebrook market or somewhere to get stuff. They’ll travel a bit to buy veg so they don’t have to buy it all shrink wrapped. I think I was surprised because you so often hear that people want to shop in a supermarket because it’s so convenient, but a lot of people were saying that they’d buy on their local high street if they could. Of course, none of this is scientific, but it was good to hear, it gives a lot of hope!
I was also very humbled and excited by the amount of creativity people brought to the drop-ins; when people weren’t sure if a fruit and veg shop would be viable, they’d think of ways to make it work. Stuff like having a pop-up or the market – there was a real sense of bustling enterprise and creativity. It was really exciting!
After the drop-ins had finished, the Core Design Team met for one last time, to give a final contribution to the design process before planning permission is applied for.
In this last meeting we really honed in on the essential detail – where will the bins be collected from, how will the commercial property look different from the residential, can we get bike racks?
We got rid of the benches that faced onto the street (not what residents would want on a match day), but kept the planters out the front of the houses. We also had a very in-depth discussion about the colour scheme for the side of the block…
It took a while – it needed to take a while – but we’re there. This phase is complete (at least for the Core Design Team)!
In terms of housing, we have plans to convert the terrace into eight homes (two three-bed houses, one two-bed accessible flat, two two-bed duplexes, two two-bed flats on a single floor and one one-bed flat), and there’ll also be four commercial units; one each for the CLT’s sister organisations Homebaked and Homegrown, and two more that are still to be finalised – but could be something like a barbers or that much-in demand fruit and veg shop.
An application for planning permission is being submitted to the council and – all being well – construction work should start later in the year.
Watch this space…
(and the terraces on Oakfield Road!)
And… just in case you hadn’t had enough of Britt, she’s also done a video introduction.