University of Reading: Helping give communities a voice in planning

A community consultation space looking at ways to give communities around the country a voice in the planning process has opened today at the Broad Street Mall. Led by the University of Reading, the ‘urban room’ will run throughout the month of March.

‘Your Place Our Place’ is part of a major research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The aim of the Community Consultation for Quality of Life (CCQoL) project is to develop a new, map-based model of community consultation that takes place both online and face-to-face across the UK. As part of the project, community consultation spaces are being set up in Reading, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast from March to October 2022.

Dr Nisa Unis, Community Partnerships Manager from the University of Reading, said: “We have an exciting programme of events lined up for ‘Your Place Our Place’, with exhibitions, talks and events being hosted by more than 30 local organisations over the next five weeks.

“We will be working with the local community to make quality of life maps. These will show the things the community value in their area, the things that contribute to their quality of life and that ought to be protected from change, as well as the things that need improving. People can come to ‘Your Place Our Place’ to put their pins onto the physical map, or they can use an online digital platform to go through the same process.”

Professor Lorraine Farrelly, Head of the School of Architecture at the University of Reading, said: “The government is currently undertaking a review of the planning system in England, so the time is right to make recommendations on how to do 21st century community consultation that takes advantage of digital tools while providing opportunities to bring people together face to face to make the case for the things that they value in their places, and to be heard.”

A further aim of the project is to develop a set of best practice guidelines for community consultation during the planning process, to be used at a national level. These guidelines will help planners and developers across the country make community consultation more engaging, informative and inclusive.

‘Your Place Our Place’

Your Place Our Place will run in the Broad Street Mall on Tuesdays to Saturdays throughout March, with late opening on Thursdays.

This urban room will provide information to the local community about key issues such as the Reading Town Centre Strategy, offering a place for discussion and to encourage awareness and connection between different communities.

Each of the five weeks will focus on a specific topic, with all events and activities relating to that topic:

Week one (1-5 March): Introduction and business community
Week two (8-12 March): Health and wellbeing
Week three (15-19 March): Culture and heritage
Week four (22-26 March): Climate Change
Week five (29-31 March): The future of Reading
This interdisciplinary project, led by Professor Flora Samuel and Professor Lorraine Farrelly at the University of Reading, is in collaboration with the Universities of Cardiff, Edinburgh and Ulster, working with the Quality of Life Foundation, the digital consultation platform Commonplace and consultation experts Urban Symbiotics.

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