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14/10/2019

Case study: Designing a new community with young people in Kingston

Words: Matt Bell
Cambridge Road Estate youth engagement

Young people have plenty to offer planners and developers when considering new regeneration and development plans, says Kingston Council

The modern-day Cambridge Road Estate was built by Kingston Council in 1969. Today, it contains 832 homes and a community of around 1,810 people, of whom 26 per cent are under 15.

This is also the most disadvantaged area in Kingston and the borough’s largest regeneration programme, aiming to deliver approximately 2,000 new homes over the next 10-15 years.  A Joint Venture partner, Countryside Properties, has been appointed and the proposals will go to a resident ballot in early 2020.

Over the last six months, we have worked with a group of 18 young people to help them understand and influence the plans for regeneration. Over the course of five sessions, we have run design training, listened to their experiences, and conducted spatial analysis of the estate together, culminating in a direct critique by the young people of the masterplan itself.

All the young people were recruited by local youth workers who contributed to the planning and delivery of the project. Importantly, we also chose to pay the young people. This allowed us to work together as equals, respecting their time and expertise, and motivating attendance. As one of the council’s youth workers, Ben Skelton, commented: ‘Young adults want to know what’s in it for them and you need a pretty convincing answer.”

"The truth is, these features are not routinely delivered in most modern development and this project has given us insights and opportunities to create a place that genuinely works for everyone"

Strategically, this project was not simply conceived to encourage participation. It aims to create a better place and the feedback from young people has provided specific direction to the architects and the development team.

We found that young people’s fundamental interest was in the public space – not the buildings. They conceive of all external spaces in their neighbourhood as somewhere to meet friends, get about and play. They have a strong sense of justice and want all blocks to have equal access to space on their doorstep. They don’t like the feeling of being closed in. They want to be able to walk around the development independently. They want benches to sit on throughout the estate – on streets, in courtyards and in green areas – allowing them to gather in groups and chat. They also positively welcome the presence of adults in their world.

The truth is, these features are not routinely delivered in most modern development and this project has given us insights and opportunities to create a place that genuinely works for everyone.

"I enjoyed trying to make the estate a better place for teenagers,” said Mayzee, one of the young residents who took part. Her friend Katrina added: “Being involved in the project made me realise the good things about my community but also that quite a lot needs changing.”

The full process is described in detail in a new report ‘Designing a new community with young people in Kingston’ available at www.cambridgeroadestate.com

Images | ZCD Architects and Kingston Borough Council

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