It has been a week of tiny steps forward. Firstly I was delighted to have an hour walking round Eric Treby and Brokesley Estates with Phil Doyle and getting some useful feed back and advice from him about what we are planning for the open spaces. His insistence that we obtain a design sign off is massively important. Following the ghastly experiences with Apollo ignoring the design input and  consultation processes on British Street and producing some of the most hideous play spaces i have ever encountered, I had alarm bells ringing again this week when i heard that the  secure by design officer has refused to allow even a covered sand pit that had been enthusiastically requested and approved by residents through official consultation processes. I also get wind of the fact that a lease holder who claims to have the management of east End homes in the palm of her hand, has said that there is no way the open ended football pitch should be allowed to be built and that it has to be a lockable cage. this resident has taken part in none of the consultative processes that we have arranged. None of the block representatives from the estates have reported her concerns… It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of her conversation.

Conversations with one of the young people  revealed that a new police operation on Bede Estate  which was designed to address the issue of incoming groups of  youth who are  of ill intent, is being used, in fact , to try to subdue and control the young people who live on the estate. incoming police officers, with no knowledge of the community, are adopting hostile and rudely dismissive attitudes to the young people and their parents. this is probably the most stupid thing they coul do. the regular Bobbies have worked hard to build up good relations and a good understanding of the estate and it is hard to imagine that they welcome this aggressive police style.

By the way, this same young person, showing myself and a colleague around the estate,pointed out that thanks to the new building work, when the gang of youths chased the residents on to the square, there was absolutely no means of escape. The golden rule of ball court design, always have lots of ways in and out of a space unless you are trying to create a fight arena,  has been ignored in order to design out ‘rat runs’ – or as the middle classes call them ‘pavements’. This is the insanity that happens when the leading philosophy driving the design of housing  the constant presence of crime.

There was a glorious  birthday party on a very rainy day for one of the children on the cow playground. once again the maintenance team did great work to prepare the site and there were even balloons delivered there for her, by way of a left over favour owing to East End Homes.

Then Cathy and I got a call inviting us to join a consultation session on Bede Estate.   Progress along the street of Eric estate was slow.  So many people wanting to stop and talk. So much news to share. At the consultation event, which was not supposed to be about open spaces. the women who did come along were almost totally concerned with addressing those open spaces.

They can in  with very evidently strong feeling..’ Now look here Andy. I’ve got something to say. we MUST have somewhere for the teenagers and we must have spaces for the children to play, and there must be garden spaces for the people that don’t have gardens.’ I dont think we want anything fancy in John Riley gardens, just make it like a little wood really. It would be good to have some fairy lights in there so as the kids dont do their drugs there any more…’

 

But for me the moment that was most touching was while we were waiting for the first people to come into the consultation. two lads went past the door and shouted fairly abusive stuff to Andy. he shrugged it of as usual. then the kids came into the building still being a bit feisty. then somehow, not certain how, one of them mentioned that they had cycled the London To Brighton at the weekend. Andy chipped in about the last hill being tough and they were away, all boundaries forgotten, chatting about cycling and bikes…..

… that is when consultation begins. when you can talk with people not ‘residents’ and when you become a person to them as well. Andy and the kids meandered across to the estate maps and had a really good and relaxed discussion about design and open spaces and wayfinding. The boys had lots to say and Andy had lots to hear.

The other event of the evening that shone for me was the point when a group of women who had been struggling to read the estate map finally said… ‘look. this is upside down’ turned the map on its head and were then able to find their way around it with no trouble.

If you ever needed a metaphor for this process…..

 

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