Interactive consultations guide the designs for community-led housing in Crook



During the lockdown, Crook Community Leisure were focused on delivering a 30-homes, affordable housing project for Crook (County Durham). The project was funded via the community led housing fund.

Crook Community Leisure were ambitious about the project design, and wanted to capture as much feedback as possible from the community in order to understand their priorities and any obstacles the project might encounter.

Crook Community Leisure are a registered Charity and a community-led organisation. Their reputation as a community based services provider was very important, and they wanted to ensure that this was enhanced by the project as they had never built affordable homes before. It was important to ensure that the community understood that the project was aimed to provide housing for veterans and local residents with impairments. The money earned from the project will also be re-invested into a new leisure facility for the local community.

The project was funded by Homes England, Crook Community Leisure needed to ensure that all activities were compliant with their contract with Homes England, including also an early stage community engagement and consultation. 

What was done

PlaceChangers suggested a two-stage engagement approach using the interactive digital tools for engagement and consultation available consultations on the PlaceChangers platform.

Stage 1: Interactive housing needs and character appraisal

The initial consultation stage sought feedback on the wider area to inform the design. The interactive consultation invited residents to focus on the site context initially, and then on the site itself. Residents commented on the current social amenities in the site context, including buildings with good architectural style and local facilitations that were enjoyed. In a second step, residents could feed back on a range of housing options that they thought were suitable in the local area.

Stage 2: Interactive design review 

In follow-up, respondents were invited to an online design review. The site layout and key features on site were presented and respondents could leave improvement suggestions.
The project owners were very focused on reaching as many people as possible in the community as possible. They were aware that creating awareness for the project in the local community was a challenge with Covid-19 lockdowns preventing holding physical events.

Assisted by PlaceChangers, the client chose a combination of FaceBook posts that were placed in local groups, sponsored ads, and a postcard invitation that was sent out to 900 households.

What outcomes did the client achieve?

Responses made by the public helped the architect to shape the final design.

  • The first campaign identified a preference for accessible bungalows as well as a combination of Tyneside-style terraces. It was also identified that there was a preference for more allotments. In response the architect shaped the final design to include a greater number of single storey, accessible bungalows; and a range of 2 and 3 bed terraces. The final site layout also included community spaces including a playground, and orchard, and had two community rooms.
  • In the second round consultations, a majority of respondents thought that the site layout was well considered and they were largely supportive of the designs. Some queries were raised about the incorporation for sustainable design features, the maintenance of green spaces and facilities, and the entrance way to the site. 

The consultation process fully met Crook Community Leisure’s objectives. The trustees were pleased with the presentation and reports available from the PlaceChangers tool set and confirmed that using the service provider had been "good value for money".

Homes England were satisfied with the approach as it streamlined their application process and ensured the release of funds for the project. The fact that the process was approved without queries was very helpful to Crook Community Leisure. 

The planning consultant who used the platform also confirmed the ease of use and efficiency of the PlaceChanger digital tools and that it provided a lower cost (and better outcomes) approach to organising a consultation programme. They were very pleased with the ability to view or print a consultation report in real time. This also saved time and decreased any errors that can occur with manual data entry into reports.

Using PlaceChangers allowed residents to fully understand the proposal and how they would sit within their area. The consultation ran smoothly and within the agreed timescales set out. There were a number of people who responded with valuable information which was collated onto an easy to use report which fed into our design response. The process of the consultation was easy and allowed for us to fully understand residents' concerns.

Amelia Robson, Hedley Planning 

“I can recommend this service to any community-led development. With the PlaceChangers platform, we got our message across in a professional articulated way that people can understand. The feedback from local residents greatly helped us to shape the designs for the community. In addition, we got rapid approval from our funders and the professionalism of the consultation put us in a great position to attract reputable housing providers, which is essential to our business case.” 

Dorothy Winter, Crook Community Leisure

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