Roman Road Neighbourhood has applied varied and extensive consultation methods in order to reach as wide a community as possible. The aims were to inform local people about the neighbourhood planning process, seek their views on the proposed plan area and begin to encourage discussions on how the area could be improved for the next stage of the planning process. Those contacted were also encouraged to consider membership of the neighbourhood forum.
Overall, our consultation showed support for the proposed area as submitted, and the area does not seem contentious.
The consultation methods used were:
- Initial inaugural public meeting
- Formal consultation events with key community officers
- One-to-one meetings with key community members
- Creative community engagement events
- Online presence
- Direct contact
1. Initial inaugural public meeting
An inaugural public meeting was held in February 2016 at St Paul’s Church, attended by over 50 local people and facilitated by Andrew Belfield from public works and The Cass architecture students. This event introduced what a neighbourhood plan and forum is and what potential function it has for local communities. In smaller groups local residents brainstormed about what the neighbourhood meant to them and where the boundary should be placed. It encouraged wide participation of the local residents in a future NF.
The meeting lead to formation of a steering committee of approximately 10 people. The group met approximately every three weeks since then overseeing a rigorous consultation process and mapping out wider program for developing the future neighbourhood plan.
FEEDBACK: There were some reservations about how effective a neighbourhood plan will be in delivering change, but the strength of concern for the area among those who responded was very heartening.
2. Formal consultation events with key community stakeholders
In June 2016 at Caxton hall the consultation focused on key community organisations representing diverse groups and age ranges, to make sure the voices of those communities are heard in the boundary allocation and future content of neighbourhood plan.
Other public meeting attended included a Premises Forum consultation convened by Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Service at which senior council officers presented proposals for a policy on community premises.
FEEDBACK: At Caxton Hall: Initial wariness was expressed from some members of Mile End Old Town Residents Association (MEOTRA) due to the perception that a neighbourhood forum might negatively impact their group. However, there has since been a growing appreciation that a forum might be a helpful vehicle for enabling local groups to achieve their aims through being part of a wider body which is able to influence the planning process.
3. One-to-one meetings with key officers and councillors
A variety of small meetings with representatives of different bodies have been held. In May 2016 Tom Martin, Tabitha Stapely and Mike Mitchell from the steering committee had a meeting with Ellie Kuper Thomas and Hong Chen of the Plan Making Team, who gave helpful guidance about the formal process and the role of planning officers. We have continued to liaise with Ellie Kuper Thomas over progress since then.
In September 2016 members of the steering group met with Rachel Blake, councillor for Bow East, and cabinet member for strategic planning. This helped us understand better the challenges posed by empty shops in the Roman Road, and opportunities for improving public realm spaces either side of the road. A steering group member attended the Council’s recent conference on its new housing strategy as a result of this meeting.
FEEDBACK: Generally very supportive and encouraging feedback was offered in all these sessions.
We were keen to obtain the views of young people as nearly a fifth of the population of Bow East and Bow west (18% according to 2014 ward profiles) are under 16. Morpeth School were extremely helpful in enabling us to carry out a survey. 54 students aged 12-15 completed the survey, which asked them for their views on the neighbourhoods where they lived. 63% of participants were Asian.
FEEDBACK: A key finding concerned the importance of leisure facilities to young people:
‘The fact that 65% of students mentioned leisure facilities of some kind demonstrates a clear desire for more or better youth leisure provision. This is supported by the answer to the question about changing ‘one thing’ in their neighbourhoods. Better leisure facilities was mentioned by 13% of students, with a similar per cent mentioning more parks or open areas. The wish for cleaner and safer neighbourhoods were the next most common subjects reported.’
5. Creative community engagement events
In collaboration with The Cass school of architecture the steering committee devised a series of more engaging community events to attract audiences who would otherwise not attend formal meetings. These included market stalls, coffee and biscuit sessions at InterAct hub, the High street Re-imagined walk and the Community Fair
a) Market stalls
During May and June members of the steering committee held a market stall as part of the Saturday Roman Road Yard Market on the corner of Roman Road and St Stephen’s Road. This was particularly helpful in reaching people who may not be part of local groups or use the internet.
The stall exhibited a map of the designated boundary and talked to local residents about the location of the boundary and what they wanted from their neighbourhood and high street.
FEEDBACK: Feedback centered on improving the high street and areas of public realm. Many people commented on the connectivity of the road to the neighbourhood and further afield. There was a strong appetite for improving the high street to make it a more desirable place to shop and socialize at the weekends and in the evenings
b) coffee and biscuit sessions at InterAct hub
Three coffee and biscuit sessions were held at InterAct hub inviting local residents from Circle housing to discuss their neighbourhood. These discussion held between July - October 2015 lead to the development of an urban framework document submitted to LBTH which included work by Cass students which was compiled and developed by Public Works. This document will be visually present and accessible to the community as a base for development of a future neighbourhood plan. Coffee and biscuit or discussion around food will continue as a consultation method to develop the neighbourhood plan.
FEEDBACK: There were requests for more activities for children and mothers. The drop-ins with shop keepers mainly addressed the lack of footfall. It was overwhelming how important circle housing is in the area, as it has the most population of daytime shoppers and visitors to the high street. Their voices are very important
c) The High street Re-imagined walk
The High Street Re-imagined was an exciting event in March 2016 where Cass architecture students took local residents and Neighbourhood forum members on a walk in the area, talking about unforeseen public spaces and community involved projects that can develop in the area. The aim of these spaces would be to increase civic pride of the neighbourhood. Bringing diversity between economic, cultural, and social projects. This all lead to debates between the group about what projects they wish to have in the neighbourhood.
FEEDBACK: People were very positive about the different way of thinking about community spaces and the opportunity to talk about them. Asked for more events like it
d) Community Fair
The ‘Community Fair’ in July organised by ‘Friends of Mile End Park’ provided another opportunity for the NF to consult with local people over the area, especially whether or not to include a part of the park in the designation area.
FEEDBACK: Everyone spoken to was in favour of the park being included in the plan area, indicating a strong liking of this green space and it being part of their neighbourhood. Typical of the response was: ‘Absolutely - it’s the main green area nearby.’
6. Online presence
As well as all the above we also have a strong online presence. There is a dedicated website, which can be found at: www.romanroadneighbourhoodplan.org. We also have a Facebook group for the Forum and a Twitter account. See above for site addresses.
The website is linked to ‘Commonplace’, an online public consultation platform, enabling contact with a wider group of people. This has led people to comment both on the area and any local matter of concern to them. The boundary has not been much commented on, supporting our view that it’s not a contentious issue. However, three people left comments requesting Cadogan Terrace be included in the plan area, as it was excluded in the map on our website. These comments, along with similar ones received during a door-knocking exercise, have led us to include Cadogan Terrace in the updated proposed plan area.
7. Direct contact
We have sought the views of as wide a range of local individuals and groups as possible. Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Service provided a list of member groups in E3 which supplemented the list of local groups held by the Roman Road Trust. All the groups for which we could find contact details were contacted, and invited to comment on the proposed area. A list of organisations contacted is given at the end of this document.
We communicate all our ideas via emails and letters to our authorised mailing list. Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Service provided a list of member groups in E3 which supplemented the list of local groups held by the Roman Road Trust. All the groups for which we could find contact details were contacted, and invited to comment on the proposed area.
Many individual visits to local businesses and community groups have been made, and the time spent engaging with people this way has proved fruitful. One response in particular, from Bow Arts, is worth quoting in detail:
"With regard to your neighbourhood consultation, Bow Arts and the Nunnery Gallery would love to be included in the Roman Road neighbourhood catchment. We are on the cusp of many different neighbourhoods – a strange position and, as such, are not part of any one local community group – but do feel affiliated to the activity and culture of Roman Road, the market and its many small businesses. In terms of our target local catchment for gallery and studio visitors, Roman Road is our first point of call, which I think reaffirms this. In light of the coming heritage trail that we’d also love to be a part of, we would like to be included – looking to improve way-finding throughout Bow and the Roman Road area." Bow Arts
List of organisations contacted
Tower Hamlets Council
- The Plan Making team;
- Ward councillors for Bow West and Bow East, CllrJoshua Peck and Cllr Rachel Black
- Circle Housing Old Ford
- Mile End Old Town Residents’ Association (MEOTRA)
- Fairfield Conservation Area Residents’ Association (FCARA)
- St Stephen’s Health Centre
Over 30 local groups covering a wide range of concerns were contacted and asked for their views on the proposed area. The following is a list of local groups who agreed to being in the Forum.
- Bow Muslim Community Centre
- Circle Housing
- Chisenhale Gallery
- East End Trades Guild
- Growing Concerns
- British Waterways
- Bow Haven
- Construction Training Centre
- Bow Baptist Church
- Old Ford Methodist Church
- Our Lady & St. Catherine of Siena (Roman Catholic)
- St Barnabas, Bethnal Green (Church of England)
- St Mary, Bow (Church of England)
- St Paul's Church, Old Ford (Church of England)
- Victoria Park Baptist Church
- the Hindu Pragati Sangha Temple
- Bow Muslim Community Centre
- the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat