In autumn 2015 the Shape My Town team publicised a call for community collaborators to help test and develop the toolkit and spread the word about Shape My Town and its resources. Learning about and using Shape My Town aimed to help pilot communities to:
- Think about positive change for their place
- Provide a focus and structure for community input
- Plan for their place and engage with decision makers
- Learn from and share case studies
Two pilot studies were chosen from the expressions of interest received from communities: Abergavenny, put forward by Team Abergavenny and Ynysybwl, put forward by Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership (YRP).
Shape My Town pilot study: Ynysybwl
Ynysybwl, a village located between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil, was selected as a pilot study following an application from Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership (YRP). Mentored by the Shape My Town team, pilot study workshops were designed to guide participants through the Shape My Town process using material found in the toolkit. The pilot study comprised two workshop sessions, the first to gather evidence about the place as it is now and a second try to make sense of the evidence collected and to generate ideas for the future of Ynysybwl.
Workshop 1: Gathering evidence
The aim of the first session was to gather evidence about the village as it is now. By developing a good understanding of the current context, a vision, next steps and framework of projects can be founded on a solid evidence base. Participants in the session were split into groups to work through the four themes of the toolkit: Landscape, Townscape, Streetscape and Community.
Workshop 2: SWOT analysis and project ideas
The aim of the second session was to try to make sense of the evidence collected on the first part of the day and to generate ideas for Ynysybwl. In this session the groups came together to combine their knowledge and to analyse the village as a whole. Participants were guided through the process of bringing together and making sense of the information they had collected through a SWOT analysis. Participants were asked to evaluate the place under four headings:
- Strengths: The characteristics of your town that are successful and set it apart from others
- Weaknesses: Things that are not successful or put your town at a disadvantage
- Opportunities: Areas where there is chance for change or external factors that offer a chance to make improvements
- Threats: Conditions that are harmful to the success or character of your town or that could damage its chances to improve
Participants were further tasked with identifying a small number of projects that would have a big impact on the place if they were carried forward. The group was asked to consider both small-scale projects, that could be done with limited funding by local people and larger, transformational projects, requiring funding applications. It was acknowledged that there are many more projects of various scale that could be included on an action plan, but the following were identified as feasible projects that could take place over the short to medium term:
Village centre improvements: Finding funding and help to improve key tall buildings that mark the centre of the village.
- Croeso! A project to address the Croeso/Welcome sign at the main arrival point into the village.
- Derelict shops: Finding ways to reuse, let or renovate derelict shops to improve the appearance of the village.
- Community hub The need for a community hub was identified as a large but essential project. This could address many points raised in the workshop: need for community space, youth space, start up space, training, a focal point for local groups to access information and a focus for a record of local history.
- Wind-fall! The democratic dispersal of community gain from wind turbine payments could be significant and help enable projects across the village.
The workshops highlighted the assets Ynysybwl has as well as a number of weaknesses that could be addressed. The projects suggested range in scale and complexity from working with youth groups to create a new and distinctive sign for the village, to a new building to be located on the Lady Windsor site with complexities of funding, business planning and access.
The workshop highlighted that the Lady Windsor colliery site is vitally important to the future of the village. The development of the site will have a major impact on the success of the settlement and should be carefully considered. Locating a proposed community hub on the Lady Windsor site has the potential to link the new development to the existing village. The location of and access to this hub will be important to ensure it is well used and integrated into the life of the community.
Having carried out this workshop, a number of next steps were suggested:
- To carry out further consultations with a wide cross section of the community. This could be in the form of drop in consultation sessions or exhibitions of ideas or householder surveys. Identifying difficult to reach groups, for example the elderly or very young, is vital to get a rounded view.
- To develop the information held by YRP and others into a place plan for the village. The fourth step of Shape My Town can help you do this and will guide you through the process of writing a plan and who to involve.
- To develop an outline proposal for the community hub, which can develop into a business plan and design brief. This will be needed to apply for funding further down the line. Creating an aspirational brief will ensure a high quality output and a building that is inspiring for the community. The community hub should involve different local groups and businesses in its design and construction to ensure it is ‘owned’ by the community and has a strong relationship to people and place.
To find out more about mentored workshops or to let us know if you and your community would like to be considered for future pilot studies, please contact us.
Alternatively, read the full report here.