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Essential principles for engaging communities in estates regeneration

Since a new programme for estates regeneration was announced in February, we have been calling on the Estates Regeneration Advisory Panel to make sure that communities are in the driving seat of regeneration.

Residents should be empowered to set out what regeneration should look like locally.

We have developed three principles of community engagement which should be embedded into regeneration, and have been calling on the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure these are built in to the plans:

1) Community leadership and engagement at the heart of the programme

Successful regeneration is based on early, meaningful and inclusive engagement with residents. The evidence from earlier regeneration programmes consistently shows the importance of this at all stages of the regeneration process including planning, implementation and succession planning. Co-design of regeneration plans with tenants should be an expected standard in all areas.

Dialogue between decision makers and community anchor organisations and local voluntary and community organisations is central to this. Community anchor organisations are particularly effective at ensuring a range of people in the community are supported to engage with decision making processes, including those who would typically not have a voice.

To ensure that community level scrutiny and involvement is built into the entire regeneration process, there is a need for a strong system for participation. To make sure this is not tokenistic, this should be designed in partnership with the voluntary and community sector, to ensure people and communities have influence at all levels within the regeneration process.

We believe the ‘Right to Return’ under the same tenure agreement as before the regeneration must also be protected within all plans.

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2) Commitment to developing community ownership of assets

Community ownership of assets – such as community centres, affordable housing, libraries, open and green spaces – can enable communities to directly control the important activity in their communities. The regeneration of estates programme provides an important opportunity for community asset transfer and development, and to mainstream community management into regeneration plans.

See our new report – Spaces and Places: the future of community asset ownership – to see community asset ownership can be an enduring and wealth-creating part of the regeneration of neighbourhoods, ensuring their long-term sustainability.

Community-led housing is a key model of community asset ownership, and should be central to the estates regeneration programme. Community –led housing is directed by community priorities and is a route to providing genuinely affordable housing. It also offers an income stream to community organisations, allowing them to reinvest in more community-led housing or in other activities or services which benefit the community.

3) Neighbourhood planning – building on existing momentum of neighbourhood planning

A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. It may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or the allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development. A Neighbourhood Plan can address a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues (such as housing, employment, heritage and transport).

The foundations of a good Neighbourhood Plan will be a robust programme of community engagement and a strong, proportionate evidence base. This makes sure that the plan is based on a proper understanding of the area and of the views, aspirations, wants and needs of local people.

Neighbourhood planning provides an important tool for ensuring the estates regeneration is community-led and ensures there is local support through a referendum. These are all key steps that will be required as part of a communities journey to redeveloping their local area and homes.