Co-designing neighbourhoods with communities in a blended environment: digital and face-to-face knowledge exchange

Additional Team MembersDaniel Fitzpatrick, Nicola Livingstone, Sahar Navabakhsh, William Turner, Sarah Goldzweig, Alton Action, Just Space, Chetan Patel

Between October 2020 and July 2021, a group of researchers from University College London (UCL) have been carrying out the knowledge exchange project ‘Co-designing neighbourhoods with communities in a blended environment: digital and face-to-face knowledge exchange’ in the Alton Estate. The project has been carried out in partnership with the local organisation Alton Action and the London-wide network of community groups Just Space. Alton Action has acted as a link between UCL researchers and the residents from the Alton Estate. They have also acted as community organisers and has supported UCL researchers in co-hosting the engagement workshops and in the production of the ‘Alton Estate’s People’s Plan’. Just Space is a network of community organisations with experience on overseeing estate regeneration processes, co-authors of the platform EstateWatch. London, who hosted one of the engagement workshops on how London policies can support a regeneration approach different from demolition.

The project has consisted of a series of community engagement workshops, a survey, and interviews with the aim of understanding how the regeneration scheme proposed by Wandsworth council would affect local people and co-producing with residents an alternative plan for the area that is demarcated for regeneration. This alternative scheme is referred in this document as the ‘People’s Plan’, although we have also referred to it during the project as the ‘Community Plan’. The engagement workshops and the process of co-producing the People’s Plan have been a knowledge exchange with residents and campaigners, where residents learn about the future plans for their area and gain agency in being able to express the kind of development they aspire to; and researchers learn through the process of co-producing proposals with residents about how regeneration schemes affect local people.

The People’s Plan is one of the main outputs of this project. It includes urban design proposals that combine refurbishment of existing buildings, roof extension in existing buildings, sensitive infill development, demolition and redevelopment of two of the sites of the project, and also various strategies around biodiversity, community gardening, local shops and community infrastructure. The proposals have come out of the engagement workshops and are backed by various evidence base documents, including a social impact assessment, a heritage impact assessment, a life cycle analysis, and also a review of the policies that affect estate regeneration in London.