Our approach to developing Oakfield has always been rooted in involving the communities surrounding the site, involving them at each and every stage of development to make sure we’re creating homes people want and need. Listening to our neighbours and getting to know what makes this area special has been really important for us.
As recognition for this, we’re pleased to announce that our project sponsor Nationwide are joint winners of the prestigious Brownfield Awards 2020 for Best Public Engagement & Participation! Running for 16 years, the Brownfield Awards recognise best practice in the brownfield, regeneration and contaminated land industry. Nationwide has been responsible for involving the community closest to the site and reflecting their voice throughout the design and planning stages.
We know that people don’t often feel connected to the planning process. A report by Demos on People-Powered Planning showed there’s low engagement in the planning system and people often feel excluded from decision making. Because of this, housing developments often fail to match the needs of the local community. For Oakfield, Nationwide wanted to make sure that those who live, work, learn and play in the area were able to share their views on the development.
For two years before the planning application was made, our community organiser Keith Brown knocked on more than 600 doors to find out what people cared about and what their hopes and concerns were for the area. Taking a listen first, design second approach the aim was to get the views of a broad range of people who wouldn’t usually get involved in this type of activity. We wanted to hear what they value in the community and make sure their voices were heard.
Some great ideas came out of group sessions and events with the design team and architects. An idea that developed was one about how older people and younger people could live side by and side and the benefits that could come from that. We call that intergenerational living and will be one of the interesting things about Oakfield.
Since then, Keith has been working with the locals on social action projects looking at things like sustainability, traffic and youth activities, alongside supporting the relationship between the community and our construction partner Mi-space to continue the conversation. To keep the community engaged during lockdown we’re planning to run Zoom sessions with Mi-space. Members of the community are welcome to drop in to ask any questions they have about Oakfield and to get to know the team over a ‘builder’s brew’! Look out for announcements on our Instagram (@oakfield_swindon) and website for future events.
Nationwide is committed to sharing the learnings from Oakfield to inspire other responsible businesses to look at how they can also support improvements in the housing industry. If you’d like to read these, drop us an email at email@example.com and we’d be happy to share them with you.