Tony Pidgley, Chairman of the Berkeley Group and president of the London Chamber of Commerce, has written in Property Week recently about the importance of engaging with local communities as a step to solving the housing crisis.
In the article Mr Pidgley manages to succinctly set out how better community engagement can lead to higher density and, importantly, better development. Mr Pidgley’s argument, simply put, is that density allows for the provision of community facilities and thus, a greater sense of community. This sense of community fosters within residents a genuine sense of pride and belonging.
The point about ‘place’ is crucial. It is a concept highlighted recently in the Centre for London report ‘STOPPED: Why people oppose development in their back yard’ Click here to view it.
Very few people reject the requirement for an increase in houses across the capital and the country more widely. Similarly, most people accept that this requires both brand new homes where none currently exist as well as wholesale regeneration of run-down estates.
When tackling large estate regeneration projects all partners, private and public, need to be mindful that ‘place’ is extremely powerful. People are proud of where they live.
Within London people identify with the side of the river they are from (this article is being written by a Man of Kent, not a Kentish Man). Or the neighbourhood they are a part of or even the street they live on. People draw pride, a sense of identity and belonging from the place they call home and it is drawn down to the most local level possible.
People are protective of their identities and they are passionate about their homes.
When beginning the journey of large scale estate regeneration, and even when building homes in currently open space, there desperately needs to be some compassion and genuine engagement from the development community.
“Yes, it may be a run-down estate. But it is MY run-down estate.”
Once developers and public partners accept this sentence and use it as their starting point for engagement, a far better conversation can take place, one in which everyone can work together to understand precisely what makes an area special to those who live there and what improvements can be made to the neighbourhood, estate or street to ensure people continue to identify with and celebrate as a part of their own identity.
When done properly, as at Berkeley’s Kidbrooke Village development, it can yield superb results for all involved.
As London has no choice but to grow, Councillors are going to want to see not just engagement but compassion from developers towards the local communities of the areas they are regenerating. Developers realise that this approach will not cost them more money or hassle, but will actually pay off in terms of higher density to allow for more community provision.
If you are looking to develop a site in London Cratus can assist you with your community and political engagement. Please contact Ben on 020 3198 5790 if you have any questions or would like to discuss how we can assist you maximise value in your projects through genuine engagement.