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10.2011 >  CG opinion >  Winckley Square project shows value of community consultation

As many readers of our blog and Twitter feed will know, we are founding members of a community interest company which has been established to drive forward the revival of a Georgian-era public space in Preston City Centre.

The Winckley Square Community Interest Company (WSCIC) has been established by six local partners, including two law firms with property expertise, an accountancy firm, a PR company, local property agency and an architecture practice (that’s us!).

Since being launched formally in July 2011, WSCIC has already got the backing of Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council, and has launched a consultation process to get the thoughts of local residents, businesses, and community groups.

The response we have had since the survey went live has been overwhelmingly positive with many constructive suggestions for how the square can be improved. Furthermore, there has been significant interest in the story from local and regional media, helping to stimulate further debate.

While we’re still very much in the early days of this project, and many more months of consultation and planning lie ahead, the response has been largely warm and positive.

Contrast, this to previous attempts to revitalise this part of the city, and it’s easy to see why this is – people have been given a chance to have their say.

It was unfortunate that previous proposals for the Square, which lies at the heart of the city’s business district, were put forward with great haste and without proper consultation. Needless to say they came up against stiff local opposition and progress ground to a halt.

Once again, this is evidence that to be successful, regeneration projects, no matter what shape or size, have to take into account local views. With the implementation of the Localism Bill, not only is this going to be compulsory, it’s absolutely necessary.

With this in mind, Croft Goode has advocated the use of the Planning for Real® model as we move forward with the project. Planning for Real® is a nationally recognised process of community consultation, which begins with contacting local community networks and ends with the formation of an action plan for taking forward the decisions made during the process.

Planning for Real® enables effective community involvement in consultation by:

- Allowing people to have their say without needing to speak to an audience

- Encouraging informal discussion of ideas

- Removing the confrontation which often exists at a conventional public meeting

- Making the consultation process more fun and rewarding for everyone involved

- Stimulating informal contacts between the community and officials throughout the process.

By using it as part of the WSCIC project, we are giving local people a voice and allowing them to be fully involved in the process. Visit the WSCIC website to find out more about how you can have your say.