“We have theories, specialisms, regulations, exhortations, demonstration projects. We have planners. We have highway engineers. We have mixed use, mixed tenure, architecture, community architecture, urban design, neighbourhood strategy. But what seems to have happened is that we have simply lost the art of placemaking; or, put another way, we have lost the simple art of placemaking. We are good at putting up buildings but we are bad at making places.” - Bernard Hunt, Architect
What’s it like outside your front door ?
1 Depressing and Run-Down ?
Organise a community clean-up day to clear litter, or perhaps join a Litter Action Group. Report any fly-tipping, abandoned cars, abusive graffiti, dangerous pavements or pot holes to your local Council - believe it or not they will be pleased to hear from you. Love Where You Live and Keep Britain Tidy have more ideas for sprucing-up your local area. To make a longer lasting change, take inspiration from organisations like Building Living Neighbourhoods and Glass House, and get involved with community planning.
2 No Community Spirit ?
Consider joining a local club, society, church, or other organisation, or perhaps a Neighbourhood Watch group. There may be a local Timebank scheme or environmental group you can join. In some places there may be a Transition Group working towards preparing for a post peak-oil, more sustainable future. Consider volunteering – there will be numerous local organisations seeking help; try CSV, Do It or Volunteering England for ideas. The organisation Community Group provides support and resources across a variety of local community projects. The mobile phone company Orange have recently launched a mobile phone application to make local volunteering easier.
3 Badly Organised and Run ?
Wonder who makes all these bad decisions, convinced you can do it better – consider becoming a Local Councillor, or perhaps just supporting your existing one. If you have links with your local school, hospital or some other organisation consider becoming a School Governor or other public appointee. Some people might relish the challenge of becoming a local Police Community Support Officer.
4 No Sense of Vitality ?
Make the most of your local economy, use local shops and facilities as much as possible. Some areas operate a local loyalty card scheme, and a few even use their own local money. Support your local farmer’s market or farm shop, as well as any independent cinemas, bookshops and restaurants. Wherever possible lend your support to businesses or events that support and encourage local distinctiveness. A number of organisations such as Common Ground, offer support to a range of distinctiveness initiatives.
5 No Greenery or Nature ?
Contact your local Council about tree planting, the charity Trees for Cities may also be able to offer support. The Conservation Foundation support a variety of local environmental initiatives including tree surveys and garden tool donation. Green Space aims to involve communities more in their local parks and green spaces, and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers or Groundwork may be able to coordinate volunteers for agreed projects. You may also want to join a community gardening project or sign-up for an allotment with your Council.
6 Never Anything Going On ?
There might be more going on than you think. Many websites list local events including the BBC, Timeout, List and your local Council’s What’s-On page. If you’ve the energy to organise an event yourself you Council may be able to assit, from a village fete or Street Party to an Oxjam concert.
Photo by Richard Smith