Standards Wise International - Blog

A Festival of Ideas - Day 1

The HousingLIN Summit21 began with a session on 'Delivering Homes and Communities fit for the future, faster'.
Sue Cawthray of Harrogate Neighbours HA spoke first. Harrogate Neighbours was set up over 50 years ago to provide services for the elderly and the needy. Over the years, demands for their services have changed: they have two sites, a care home and a meals on wheels service, and a domiciliary care agency. 10 years ago the demands of clients meant that the building was no longer suitable, so they worked with North Yorkshire County Council to find a more suitable site. What was key was identifying the needs and demands, by looking at the demographics of the community.
The design was critical, as they wanted to create good space and light. They travelled to look at other schemes (old, new, still in construction) and found that people were willing to share their ideas, aspirations and learnings. The result was the design for ‘The Cuttings’, a 51 bed scheme with 10 studio apartments as well as 1 and 2 bed apartments. The studio apartments have proved very successful, and have been future proofed so that they can be turned back into 1-bed apartments. The design also included a spa bath and a wellness suite.
Outside space was very important, and this has been essential in the past 18 months. It includes allotments and chickens. The local football club has been of assistance with services, and they now support the Club on match days.
‘The Cuttings’ also has a meeting room, which helps them to engage with the community and supplement their income as it is used by the NHS and CCGs. They have learnt to be innovative with their spaces.
The site was an old station, and despite their best attempts keeping the building wasn't possible. Therefore they have dedicated the ground floor to the railway station – it includes lots of graphics, and the restaurant is called 'The Dining Car'.
The project worked because they took the residents on the journey with them, so they were excited about the move and being involved in the decision making process.
Toby Lloyd of the Create Streets Foundation then spoke about the 'No Place Left Behind' Commission. He explained that this Commission into prosperity and community placemaking was intended to take 1 year, but was disrupted by the Pandemic. It was set up to look at places without high property prices. There are lots of ways to define an area being 'left behind', and the decision was taken early on to look at individual places and examples rather than general data sets.
What was learnt was that, whilst economics matter, a huge amount can be done in terms of place-based improvements to improve people's lives. Left-behind places often have nice assets already, which may have been neglected. These can be green spaces, heritage sites, people with strong sense of identity and strong desire to improve their area. The High Streets matter massively - people also need places to meet.
Sometimes a large vision is required (such as Stockton on Tees plan to replace a shopping centre with a park to reconnect the high street to the river, and Scarborough's Urban Renaissance). It is vital to listen to local people.
Regeneration of properties is better on a neighbourhood basis rather than house-by-house, as the return on value is higher, and it can also include the streets and green spaces.
It is important to recognise that there are barriers to improvement, such as absentee landlords. In Dumfries there is a gradual community business ownership of properties.
Left behind places need trams, trees and tricycles, freedom to turn derelict areas around, powers and half the money (it is good if they have to raise some of it themselves).
George MacGinnis from Healthy Ageing UK then spoke. He said that the pandemic has made us question how we care for older people, accelerated change on the high street and made us think about what can be achieved virtually.
Age-related prejudices ignore older people until they need help, designers are often young, and innovative technology often lacks a way of integrating it.
Catalyst Awards, Investment Opportunities and Trailblazers were the three core elements of the Ageing UK plan. The 'Designed for ageing' initiative picks up on the experience of their Trailblazers. It supports businesses innovation based on user-centred design.
Michael Chang, Programme Manager Planning and Health (Healthy Places) Office for Health Improvement and Disparities finished the session. He said that we have to start addressing the health disparities in the UK, as we are ageing as a population but not all in the same areas.
Only about 1/4 of local planning policies are linked to health needs (26%) or strategies (27%). Financial contributions secured from developers are far higher in percentage terms in London than in other areas.
His ‘Ps’ for healthier and more equitable places are: Place, People, Public Health Outcomes.
How can the ‘Ps’ be translated into practice? Assess local health and care needs and assets; Connect, involve and empower people and communities; Maximise active travel; Inspire and enable healthier eating; Enable healthy play and leisure.
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