Step 1: Getting started
So, you’re interested in the quality of the place you live in and have ideas for how to make it better. But how do you go about making this happen?
In this step you will:
- Set up a Town Team, getting the right people involved
- Decide if you need a specialist
- Form a relationship with your Local Authority
- Reach the wider community
What is a Town Team?
Town Teams are a way of overseeing town centres and championing local causes; and have an important role in making a town plan a success. They are a visionary group of people responsible for coordinating the voice of the community, guiding the Shape My Town process, organising the various stages of the process, working with stakeholders and consultants, driving your plan forward, and delivering the project aspirations through a shared vision and shared goals.
Who should be involved?
“Charismatic, local people with a vested interest in protecting their town centres and revitalising their communities will, if empowered to do so, inevitably lead the charge for change”
Mary Portas 
Your Town Team might come from existing successful partnerships or might be a newly formed team. It should be open to everyone and should include people with a wide range of experience and expertise. There will often be charismatic, passionate local people who can become or are already ‘town champions’- keen to play a role in local affairs, connected widely and who care about the place they live. A useful guide exploring how to identify and make the most of these champions can be found here.
To make sure the aspirations of the whole town are reflected, a Town Team will need to involve a cross section of the community, including local residents, businesses, voluntary and community groups and land owners; The aim of the process is to engage as wide a section of the community of possible. This will encourage wider support for the plan, rather than it being seen as dominated by one person or group.
Formalising your Town Team
Formalising your Town Team will add impetus and authority. This could be done through a charter or perhaps through consultation with your Town Council or Local Authority. If you are an independent team, then appearing professional will increase your voice and impact within your town. Coordinated leaflets, posters and brands are important, and means of communicating with your town should be considered from the start. Perhaps you could set up a website, blog or Facebook group. Go to Shape My Town's Townloads page to download a poster template if you are planning a Town Team event.
Questions to ask:
- What is the purpose of your Town Team?
- What skills do your team members possess? What skills may you have to find from elsewhere?
- What is the role and responsibility of each member of the team?
- How often will your team meet, and where?
- How will your group contact and consult the wider public?
- How will you report on your progress?
- How will you ensure the team has longevity?
Find out more….
Check out these three very useful guides:
Action for Market Towns Town Team Toolkit - a free resource, intended to guide you through the process of setting up or strengthening your Town Team
Yorkshire Forward’s Renaissance Market Towns Manual presents details of how Town Teams in Yorkshire were set up for the Renaissance Market Towns programme, including roles and responsibilities, useful examples and a sample team charter
Action for Market Towns provides an online diagnostic tool to ensure the longevity and sustainability of a community partnership
RSA Changemakers presents an innovative new approach to identifying and mobilising the key individuals who are driving positive change in local areas
A local approach to town centre regeneration through the creation and development of town centre partnerships, led by the Local Authority.
Working with the Local Authority
Wales has 22 Local Authorities and 3 National Park Authorities. Partnering with your Local Authority will help you link your aspirations with their policy frameworks. You can also draw from their experience in dealing with planning policy, parks and green space, street care, highways and youth and community; and they should be able to connect you to elected local Councillors who can help to raise support for the project.
Your Local Planning Authority will have a Local Development Plan that outlines relevant policies and what can be built where across your area. Contact your Local Planning Officer to find out more.
National charity, Planning Aid Wales will be able to help you get to grips with planning policy. They provide specialist help and resources for communities and Town Councils as well as information and contact details for each planning authority in Wales.
Find out more…
Welsh Government: Welsh Government set the overall framework of the planning system in Wales
Planning Aid Wales: an independent registered charity providing free, professional and impartial advice and support on all aspects of land use planning in Wales
Planning Portal: The UK Government's online planning and building regulations resource for England and Wales
Working with a Specialist
Getting the right support, advice and skills will help make the most of your ideas. Specialists, including architects, landscape architects, artists, researchers, film-makers, urban designers and voluntary organisations, bring a range of skills. From design, consultation, spatial visioning and analytical skills, to liaising with official bodies and making funding bids; a specialist will help you to maximise the quality and outputs of your project
The cost of commissioning a specialist will depend on what you want them to do. Whatever you wish to achieve, your Local Authority should be able to advise on local or national specialists and funding sources to enable you to achieve your goals.
Independent facilitators, such as those trained by Action for Market Towns (AMT) or Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), are able to provide practical advice during the development of a community-led plan.
Find out more…
Action for Market Towns (AMT) is a UK organisation dedicated to promoting the vitality and viability of small towns
Landscape Institute Wales - membership organisation representing landscape architects
Planning Aid Wales - a charity providing impartial advice on all aspects of planning and land use
Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru (RTPI Cymru) – membership organisation representing town planning professionals in Wales
Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW) - membership organisation representing architects in Wales (regional branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects)
A small town in North Wales, Corwen had suffered from the closure of its railway following the Beeching Report. However, the volunteer-run Llangollen Railway is being extended 2.5 miles from Carrog and will eventually terminate at a new station in the town. In 2010 Addo were appointed by the Partneriaerth Corwen Partnership to engage an artist in residence to explore the potential of public artworks as a tool to lift the visitor experience of the town and draw visitors the extra 250m from the station to the town centre. Click here to find out more.
Working with the community
“Tell me, I forget.
Show me, I remember.
Involve me, I understand.”
The people of your town know it best. A wealth of knowledge and experience exists within your community; an asset that you can tap into to understand your town and develop a vision for its future.
For a successful Plan for your Place, a broad spectrum of the community will be collaborators in the project, giving them a sense of ownership of the vision. A Plan might be guided and presented to the community by an employed specialist, encouraging them to engage in dialogue with the Council or a developer, and preventing a feeling of something being imposed on the town.
Community consultation and engagement should not be a one off event, but should happen throughout the process of developing your plan. You will need to decide how and when to consult local people, businesses and interest groups. Think about the following:
- Launch event
- Involving local people in studying the town
- Community workshops and events
- Idea generator sessions
- Questionnaires and feedback forms
- Interviews and small group workshops
- Web, email and social media
- Local magazines , newspapers and other media
- Workshops with schools and colleges
- Taking over empty shops for events
Go to Shape My Town's Townloads page to download a poster template to promote your event.
School and youth groups are often keen to become involved in local projects, and the involvement of young people can often lead to surprising results.
The wider community should not act just as a sounding board for your ideas, but their value as a generator of ideas and as a wealth of knowledge should be employed. Their input should inform the development of a plan and can suggest avenues of exploration the Town Team may not have considered. You might need to provide information in several languages or formats to make sure it is accessible to a wide range of people.
A week of exciting events organised by Ruthin Town Council to get feedback from the community about their town.
‘Sense of Place’, was a research project commissioned by Urban Living in 2009, to explore how people’s everyday experiences of their neighbourhood can be turned into active citizenship and neighbourhood renewal.
Find out more…
Participation Cymru - Participation Cymru aims to achieve better public engagement in the design, development and delivery of citizen-centred services for the people of Wales. They provide bespoke training and practical engagement work with your organisation. The website provides useful resources and practical guidance on running community engagement events
Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) - WCVA represents voluntary organisations and communities in Wales, providing information on volunteering, training, and grants
Herefordshire County Council Guide to Community Engagement – a guidance note on the value of community engagement and best practice techniques to ensure success
Streetlife - a social network for neighbours to connect and share news, views, recommendations and resources
PlanLoCaL - A guide to Community Engagement as part of a tool for low carbon living
VOiCE Scotland - Planning and recording software that assists individuals, organisations and partnerships to design and deliver effective community engagement. Scotland focussed but with useful guidance for successful engagement
The Glasshouse - The Glasshouse is a national charity that gives communities and professionals the skills and confidence to lead and contribute to design and neighbourhood planning for the benefit of local people
Community organisers - A national training programme in community organising: building relationships in communities to activate people to create social change
Big Lunch Extras - A guide to community engagement
 Mary Portas, ‘The Portas review: An independent review into the future of our high streets’ p20