Landscape Lead Consultation

21st March 2024

Over the past 20 years Outerspace has built up extensive experience consulting communities, stakeholders, local authorities and our clients (both as individuals and as a joint venture). During that time we have seen how attitudes  and knowledge have changed, with revised standards and policy helping drive better outcomes for the environment, and people generally becoming far more aware of the impact we humans have on the environment we live in. Whilst Covid was terrible, the one positive impact was that people did seem to spend more time more time interacting outdoors (as restrictions prevented us from getting together indoors), possibly increasing our awareness. At the same time, we saw a massive decrease in the extent of car, rail and plane use, which allowed animals to move more freely and for some populations to greatly benefit from this brief spell of relative ‘quiet’.

As a result the consultation processes we have been involved with over the last five years has demonstrated a much greater desire for the landscape and environment to be much higher up the agenda, and we have encouraged our clients to adapt the consultation process to better reflect this and the benefits to our clients of treating the ‘landscape’ portion of the consultation as a separate element n the consultation process.

Case Study: Parkside

For our Parkside scheme where we saw some real benefits in holding both combined architecture and landscape consultation events, but also specific landscape consultation events with the community. In contrast to the more traditional combined (Architecture and Landscape Architecture) consultation events, where the focus can quite often be on the negative impacts of development.

With the support of Peabody, the landscape focussed events really allowed the community to discuss and be involved on elements of the design that which are far easier to influence and change, so they really felt like they have invested in the development. While Parkside was a challenging technical projects with complex changes in levels and servicing that had to be ‘objectively’ incorporated into the design, there was still a great amount of scope for residents to feed into the design process, letting us know the types of equipment they would like to use and (more importantly how they would prefer to use it – spreading equipment out making it less intimidating to use). Holding events with local school children, youth groups and nursery children (pre-schoolers) allowed us to really tailor the types of play activities to match what they would like to see on site. We were also able to capture the residents desire for more communal growing spaces through really engaged residents, and provide designs that sympathetically incorporated growing spaces into the overall design, without them being over baring or difficult to manage.

 

As a result, this community which has been gradually transitioning out of its post war housing over the last 10 years, has felt like it has not only been fully engaged on its more communal spaces, but shaped its appearance and use, to really make them feel they have some ownership and pride over the space.

Through the development of the scheme we have had continuous dialogue with the Community to ensure we have listened to their views and incorporated their ideas.

Both the consultation with the community and the feedback we have received from the pre-application meetings and the design review panels have been crucial in the way the landscape design has evolved.

Case Study: Manor Park

Unlike Parkside, Manor Park was very much a community led (and funded) project, with community/stakeholder consultation at the core of the design process. Our brief was to produce a landscape masterplan that would then be used by the Friend’s of Manor Park group (FoMP) to gain further funding through grants to improve this park near New Malden (Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames). This was a very successful process, where the following steps where followed:

We worked closely with the group to establish a consultation strategy that reached local primary & secondary schools, stakeholders (including a tennis club, bowling club, football/cricket clubs, the privately operated Community Hall and of course the local authority) and the local (and in some cases not so local) residents who regularly use the park.

We time lined what we were doing when to keep the project on track, and ensure that the consultation process was not rushed or overtaken by the design process.

We took time to carefully format the questions we asked and the format in which we asked them, to remove bias, and help ensure that every person we engaged with had a equal say in what they felt were the issues with the park and the changes they would like to see.

We educated those we were speaking to, help them understand the objective design issues with the existing space, so they were better informed before providing their views and feedback on the emerging design.

We ensured that we kept the community up to date throughout the process, with regular sessions over the year long process to feedback on the evolving results and design till we had completed the process (and beyond).

The group and the park continue to flourish using the masterplan principles to build upon, with new a new playground, planting, paths and facilities being implemented over the last few years, further enhancing this park for the ever expanding community

 

Summary

Through these two case studies, we hope that we have demonstrated the benefits of consulting in this way.

Keeping landscape consultation separate from the overall developments allows communities to focus on something that should be really positive for them, and something that they can really buy into and take ownership of, which is less easy to achieve with buildings. Having that positive element of the landscape can really help residents get behind a development and take some of the heat out of the conflict that we have all felt at some consultations

Similarly the benefits of consulting with communities at the early stages of the design process, and taking the time to educate them on the process and allow then to be a part of the process, really helps communities genuinely engage in a project. In our experience moving away from presenting a finished polished scheme and spending more time absorbing their views, to then produce a plan with a clear qualitative narrative to be able to say ‘ You asked for this, so we have done this’  is a really powerful way of getting a community to put its weight behind a project.

Written by Nick Willmore, Associate Landscape Architect