Resolved: the committee noted the report.
James Masini (Regeneration & New Supply Manager) introduced a report setting out the current approach to resident engagement on housing development in Lewisham. The following key points were noted:
5.1 The engagement process begins at a very early stage. This might include an “ideas event” with residents or local door knocking. There will be an initial consultation event and sometimes a second event depending on the scale of the project. There will also be engagement throughout the construction phase and after completion.
5.2 It was noted that this engagement is separate to consultation during the formal planning process.
5.3 Engagement exercises attract varying numbers of people. An event around the PLACE/Ladywell development, for example, involved 600 people over six days. Smaller developments tend to attract less interest.
5.4 It was noted that engaging with residents often leads to better quality development. The council wants to engage as many people as possible, but it was noted that ensuring good attendance at consultation events is a significant challenge. This is particularly the case with hard to reach groups.
5.5 Examples of innovative responses to this challenge were discussed, including engaging people through the Evelyn Community Store and the Achilles Street “Bring it to the table” events.
5.6 Lewisham Homes has a programme of support in place to help residents engage effectively, including free housing courses for residents and help with setting up Tenant and Resident Associations.
5.7 Other creative methods the council is considering include fun days, soft play and mobile cinema. Online engagement, although being used more, is still underused as a consultation tool. The online consultation platform, Commonplace, for example, has been used successfully by Team Catford.
The committee asked a number of questions. The following key points were noted:
5.8 The committee expressed concern about the differences in resident engagement carried out before the planning process and consultation during the formal planning process.
5.9 It was noted that consultation by the local planning authority during the formal planning process involves making comments on specific planning grounds. This is separate and different to the broader discussions about an area and/or development that take place as part of resident engagement carried out by the Council and Lewisham Homes before a development goes to planning.
5.10 The Achilles Street “Bring it to the table” events have been running every Wednesday since June. There are 87 properties on the estate and attendance has been about 10 households per night, half of which have been returning households.
5.11 The committee stressed the importance of door knocking in terms of engaging hard-to-reach groups and those who might find public meetings intimidating.
5.12 One member noted that they had been approached by a resident at a recent public consultation event who said that they were desperate for the development to go ahead as they were living in overcrowded conditions, but that they felt like they couldn’t speak up at the meeting.
5.13 The committee noted that door knocking on infill developments is particularly important because, unlike estate regeneration, the council is not making an offer to all residents and some local residents may be wondering what’s in it for them.
5.14 The committee noted the importance of face-to-face conversations and that they can be a better way of addressing people’s concerns, listening to feedback and explaining the borough’s housing need.
5.15 The committee noted while there is a growing number of people who support development, there is also a growing number of people who oppose development.
5.16 The committee stressed the importance of getting early engagement right in order to prevent misinformation from spreading.
5.17 Lewisham Homes carry out door knocking on their infill developments, at various times of the day, to make sure that a wide range of people are heard.
5.18 Engagement exercises like the Bring it to the table events at Achilles Street are an important part of early engagement. Engagement like this is more about finding out what residents think about where they live, rather than talking about the plans for a particular development.
5.19 It was noted that the best way of measuring the effectiveness of engagement is the quality of the schemes. Developments with a high degree of resident involvement tend to be higher quality.
5.20 The proposed residents’ charter is a response to new rules on estate ballots from the Mayor of London.
5.21 The residents’ charter will apply to every estate regeneration where a ballot is required. The ballot requirement applies to projects that involve GLA funding, the demolition of any social homes and the construction of 150 or more homes.
5.22 Achilles Street is the only development in the new social homes programme that requires a ballot.
5.23 Tenant and Resident Associations (TRAs) are involved throughout the engagement process. TRAs often better understand the local area and the views of local people. TRAs are not always representative of a local area, but it is useful to engage with them from an early stage.
Resolved: the committee noted the report.