People make places!

Community engagement, social value, environment and regional devolution emerged as major themes at Infrastructure Intelligence’s placemaking webinar, writes Rob O'Connor.

Genuine engagement with local communities, social value with a people-centred approach, environmental sustainability and the vital need for more local and regional devolution with strong local leadership all emerged as major themes at a lively placemaking webinar on Friday 25 March 2022.

The webinar, Placemaking and regional development, a blueprint for success, saw a typically strong panel of leading industry figures gather for the latest in the popular Friday morning series of Infrastructure Intelligence online events, organised in association with communications specialists BECG.

More and more regional mayors are adopting a people-first approach as the best way to make a real and lasting difference to local people’s lives up and down the country. This increasing focus on placemaking and regional development means that the construction and infrastructure sector will need to work in partnership with devolved administrations and local communities, to think more about people and to focus on place rather than just projects. 

Emily Ford, senior planner at Barton Willmore, said: “Placemaking is not something that can be delivered by number, but needs to reflect local needs and aspirations. There needs to be a shared understanding with local communities on what placemaking can achieve, so only by genuinely engaging with local people can we understand what communities actually want. It’s not just about people, it’s also about the environment and the economy, so if successful we need to deliver places that are good for all those things.”

Peter Hogg, UK cities director at Arcadis, said: “Building stuff is the easy bit. But making sustainable places requires focus and understanding on the social and economic aspects of placemaking. You need to understand the importance of both, which are vital in creating and nurturing a sense of pride within communities. The role of the private sector shouldn’t be passive in this but should be much more engaged in public-private partnerships at the earliest stages to help create great places.”

Jenny Hughes, climate change and social value manager at Stantec, emphasised the need for sustainable development goals with a focus on health and wellbeing. She said: “The social value agenda needs to be much more at the forefront of a people-centred approach. The last decade has seen huge strides in understanding climate science and wellbeing and we now need to make sure this increased understanding takes centre stage in future planning. There’s currently a glaring gap in strategy that locks in high carbon living. The realm of planning needs different voices at the table – we need system thinkers at the table, plus wellbeing experts, to help longer term thinking in planning.”

Max Camplin, director at communications specialists BECG, stressed the need for increased local and regional devolution, highlighting the role of local political leaders in shaping the places around them: “We need much more local and regional devolution, with strong and powerful local leaders who have a clear vision for their communities. Some local authorities, unfortunately, don’t help shape their communities and that is one of the factors that contributes to them being at risk of falling behind.”

Andy Walker, Infrastructure Intelligence editor, said: “There’s an old saying that people make places, and it’s absolutely true. Today’s panel recognised that people should always take centre stage, with themes of genuine engagement, community pride, social value, environmental sustainability and strong local leadership all shining through in the debate. 

WATCH NOW! Click here to watch a full recording of the webinar.

The Infrastructure Intelligence Live series of events is organised in association with our strategic partner, BECG

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