Representing the spatial needs of low income communities in the planning process
Camden is a vibrant collective of neighbourhoods each formed of a diverse range of communities, a prime example of this being the Gospel Oak area. Within such localities, low-income families tend towards the less politically empowered sections of the neighbourhood. The 2011 Localism Act promises communities greater power over their local environment by way of Neighbourhood Planning. This offers great potential to educate the public on the vital importance of sustaining the quality of our built environment. However, I perceive a real danger that the resultant planning legislation will not embrace the needs and aspirations of the neighbourhood as a whole, but be motivated by the biases of more established, insular communities within a given neighbourhood. GROW is an initiative which seeks to engage low income communities in their local environment so their spatial needs are represented and not overlooked by the (neighbourhood) planning process.
Initially GROW hopes to use food growing and public realm interventions as a universal tool to engage communities in their local public space, expanding upon previous experience in community consultation and design including project managing publically funded pavilion with a local residents association in Hammersmith at de Rosee Sa architects, a range of public realm work at DSDHA, principal design of the TCV Green Gym at the Oasis sports centre in Holborn and principal design team for a pavilion and neighbourhood mapping project at the Burcharest Festival of Architecture. This experience has revealed how taking back communal ownership of under utilized land can be a catalyst for engagement in the wider context of the built environment. The aim of this will be to open up trans-community discussion with and within the neighbourhood’s urban fabric, exploring the potential role for negotiators and social interpreters to represent diverse, disempowered communities in pursuit of democratic space.