...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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January 07, 2006 || 3:09 pm
Talking to the public about the Thames Gateway

Went to ippr yesterday for an update from their Centre for Cities and bumped into an old college-mate of mine who's now working there and is partly responsible for this report of findings from various focus groups of existing residents in the Gateway and the kind of social groups who are being targeted to move into the new developments there.

No real surprises, I'm afraid - pretty obvious conclusions about the lack of meaningful engagement with existing communities - and, although I'm not a statistician, I'm not really sure how a focus group of only 56 people can produce fully meaningful results, especially the focus groups of existing low-income residents in Tilbury and Sittingbourne - eight people in each town. But none the less it's useful to highlight the lack of engagement and produce a few 'shock statements' that might make policy-makers and the UDCs think a little bit more about the need to really take the public seriously.

It's a very serious problem, in my view, that at the very early stages of forming plans for things like the TG, the policy-makers never consider any form of public involvement. It's neither at all democratic, nor a pragmatic way to proceed; with big projects like this, as Kevin Harries notes here, you crucially need the local people to be behind if in the spirit of the inspirational WiMBY project that we used as a case study when we did our Thurrock project. There's simply no way that a 'sustainable' community - in the sense of a long-term, viable social entity - can evolve unless one works with the existing residents, who are generally the most deprived and least hopeful people. I'm not necessarily looking forward to seeing how these communities are behaving in thirty years time, unless the decision-makers really start addressing this fundamental principle of planning and governance.



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