Residents help shape estate development

Planning Aid has enabled a small community in Yorkshire to map out its own blueprint for future regeneration, reports Jacqui Baines.

RTPI Yorkshire Planning Aid (YPA) has spent a year working with residents of New Wortley in Leeds to prepare a long-term vision for their estate. This autumn, their community plan was formally launched by their MP Hilary Benn at a gathering of local stakeholders including residents' groups, councillors, police officers, primary schoolchildren and, of course, the YPA team.

New Wortley is a deprived 1960s council estate of high-rise blocks mixed with terraced two-storey flats and houses. It has many social problems. It stands on prime land near Leeds city centre and many residents had voiced concerns about regeneration plans involving demolition and estate remodelling.

A series of community consultations, which looked at issues and options, were held in the course of developing the West Leeds Gateway area action plan (AAP). The meetings led the Leeds development planning team to become interested in surveying residents' aspirations for the estate. Tenants still felt remote from talks and the team wanted a clear understanding of their wishes.

After meetings with YPA community planners, the New Wortley Residents' Association and Action Group agreed to team up to prepare a community plan that would help influence the future regeneration of their estate. YPA recommended using the Neighbourhood Initiative Foundations (NIF) Planning for Real technique and held a residents' training session, led by NIF head of training Margaret Wilkinson.

Two public events were attended by more than 300 residents, with smaller events aimed at developing an action plan. The focal point of discussion was a scale model built by schoolchildren with help from residents and YPA volunteers.

Leeds City Council local plans team leader Paul Gough found the process positive: "The production of the community plan has been the culmination of effective joint work between the council and residents. The plan is of a high standard and we are happy to include it as a key supporting document to the AAP."

Gough recognises YPA's vital role in drawing up the plan: "We have appreciated the help that the organisation has given in enabling this process and we have enjoyed working with the team."

Likewise, YPA was impressed by the commitment of residents and the willingness of Leeds council officers, the police and West North West Leeds Homes to embrace the initiative. Getting agencies' support at the outset was crucial to devising an informed plan, it says.

Residents now have a clear vision and are determined to use their plan to influence developments. New Wortley Residents' Association secretary Mike Powell says: "The plan will go a long way in helping to build a thriving community."

Jacqui Baines is RTPI Yorkshire Planning Aid regional manager.

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