StreetWorks: A True Community Initiative
I’m Anna, one of the local councillors in West Norwood and a local resident. I sit on the Streetworks steering committee and chair the project board.
How it all began
This project is really close to my heart – it was born from a community campaign to improve safety at the gyratory or one-way system, which I gotten involved in as a local resident. With the local councillors at the time, we ran a big petition after a car drove into the front room of someone’s home on Hardel Rise, Tulse Hill. For us, the idea that cars could drive so fast that they go out of control and into someone’s home was the final straw. It was lucky on that occasion that no one was seriously hurt.
We sent the petition to Val Shawcross, who was our London Assembly Member at the time – she has since become the deputy mayor for transport. She really helped us champion the scheme up at City Hall and we were thrilled to be included in a junction improvement programme. Officers were also successful in applying for funding for Norwood Road, to complement this and other public realm work that had been completed further south on Knights Hill and Norwood High Street.
Involving all of us
Too often, schemes are designed far away in an office, without the opportunity for local residents and businesses to get involved until the designs are all but completed. We think local people are the best experts on what needs improving on their streets, so we rejected this way of working. We wanted the community involved from day one.
I was a councillor by this point, and luckily the officers in Lambeth were just as enthusiastic as us about doing things more collaboratively. We kicked everything off with a public meeting in April 2015, and asked people for their ideas on how we should take the project forward. Following that, we created a project steering group with the Norwood and Tulse Hill Forums that brought together community, councillors and officers.
Our first act as a new steering group was to invite residents to get involved in choosing which consultants would do our modelling and design work. A group of residents did some procurement training with Lambeth officers, evaluated the tenders and chose the best application. Over that summer we were at Feast, raising awareness of the project and inviting people to get involved. We had sessions for people to contribute initial ideas and some experts in to give training and talk to residents about project management.
We held monthly co-design workshops – posting invitations through all the doors locally to encourage people to join in. We were really pleased that each workshop saw over fifty people come along and we heard loads of creative ideas for the area. By starting from a blank map and developing the designs over time, people were able to really shape each section of the scheme. What really stood out for me was that different road users, including cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, could sit down together to understand how different people use space differently, and through their debates could find compromises and consensus around some of the ideas. Strong themes from those meetings included creating more of a town centre feel, improving road safety with pedestrian crossings, making the area greener and more attractive, encouraging people to shop locally, and reducing speed.
Engaging more people
We noticed that while the turnout at meetings was great, we didn’t have many young people taking part. We didn’t want to lose out on hearing their views, so we developed a partnership with Elmgreen School and young people took part in consultation and led a design process for the station alley from Norwood Road to Station Rise, which will be built to their designs by Southern Rail. With Elmgreen and City Heights schools we organised project management training which was available for community leaders to enable them to involve their communities in the design and for students to get qualifications and contribute to the project.
We also appreciated from talking to members of the wider community about the scheme that many people are interested in having their say but don’t want to attend public meetings, or couldn’t come because of other commitments. In order to make sure designs were really representative, we also organised events for specific groups and visited their meetings.
This included attending TRA meetings and social events, organising a baby and toddler session so that parents of young children could take part, attending pensioner groups (and even an over-60s disco!), pop-up stalls on local housing estates, doorknocking on streets where we hadn’t had residents attend any public events, and surveys in the street and at Feast. We also supported the Twist market to start up on Station Rise, which was a 6-month pop up, and we had a stall every month to share designs and gather ideas from commuters, businesses and local residents. We organised for local residents to get some training to do surveys of businesses in the area too.
The workshops and our other engagement activities created a design for Norwood Road that Lambeth could take forwards, and a vision document for the gyratory, as the responsibility for delivering that part of the project sits with Transport for London rather than the council. Lambeth did a formal consultation, including an online survey and meetings, and the decision to go ahead with the community’s design was made by the Cabinet Member.
One way to two ways
Meanwhile, Transport for London are modelling the vision we gave them for the gyratory. This isn’t a hugely interactive process but we have organised t
hree public meetings for their officers to give updates to the community so far. Works on Norwood Road have begun and we have carried on involving residents - as each section is built, there are detailed design decisions to be made like the placement of new trees or where new cycle parking should go. For example, we have done walkabouts with cyclists and based on their feedback we are editing part of the scheme next to Ira Court, and a walkabout with people with disabilities shaped the choice of cycle parking so it’s visible.
The gyratory is going to take at least another three years to finish designing and actually deliver, and it’s so important that we keep the momentum going in terms of involving the local community. We are hoping to have planting workshops, public events, fun events and more opportunities for young people to get involved and learn new skills throughout 2018.
If you would like to be part of the project, or maybe you have some ideas for West Norwood and Tulse Hill, please make it your new year’s resolution to get in touch and get involved!