Resident consultation has been crucial to the success of the Blackwall Reach Regeneration project. From the start of this project, back in 2007, the development partners have carried out a wide range of consultation activity to ensure that local residents were able to work with us to tailor the whole process of the regeneration from the design of the new homes to the re-housing options available to the local community.
At every stage of the project the local community has been
engaged through activities such as:
- Home visits
- Consultation events
- Public Exhibitions
- Onsite Project Shop which has been staffed since 2008
- Residents' Insight Group (RIG) activities including away days, workshops etc
- Community Fun and Information Events and Art activities
- Dedicated Community Website
- Community Newsletter – to date over 30 editions have been published
You said, we did
Swan and the Council spent a lot of time consulting with residents over the design proposals. After this process, the design team then spent
considerable time and effort taking into account the feedback received, and designing elements of the scheme to meet resident desires.
Some of the key issues are discussed below:
Separate lounge and kitchen
You said: The kitchen and sitting room should be separated.
We did: The design team have been working hard to ensure that the maximum number of properties have a separate lounge and kitchen. They have tweaked the designs so that all two, three, four and five bedroom properties will have a separate lounge and kitchen. The only exception to this is the small number of one bed units, where the layout of the building makes it impossible for this to be accommodated.
Dual aspect properties
You said: We want dual aspect properties (a layout in which windows on adjacent walls allow for views in more than one direction)
We did: Swan’s architects have worked at carefully planning the layouts of all units to ensure maximum daylight. They are working within the remit of the London Housing Design Guide to ensure that all two bedroom properties and above are dual aspect.
Gas in kitchens
You said: We want gas hobs not electric.
We did: Swan commissioned an engineer’s report into the feasibility of providing gas cookers throughout the new scheme. Originally Swan committed to providing a gas supply only on the lower floors of the building. However the results of this report have demonstrated that a gas supply can be provided in all the flats in Block B but not in the 15-storey Block A. This is due to the configuration of the units which means that the gas supply can not be linked to an external wall (a requirement under Building Control and Health and Safety legislation).
You said: We are worried about rising energy bills.
We did: Swan’s energy consultants are working hard to ensure our commitments are met to build to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 - this means lots of insulation and a home so warm in winter that residents on other schemes have fed back to us that they find central heating is only necessary on the very coldest of days.
Ground floor units
You said: Some people want to live on the ground floor.
We did: Ground floor properties are understandably popular. Swan have sought to design properties so the maximum number of families can enjoy ground floor units; however, the majority of properties will not be at ground floor level. In the first phase the requirements of the office and the community centre restrict the amount of ground floor space that is available. There will however be more ground floor units available in future phases of the project.
You said: We want parking on the new estate.
We did: Existing residents who held a residents' permit or rented a garage as of April 2011 will be able to retain a permit on the new development. Blue badge holders will be entitled to retain permits subject to meeting eligibility criteria. Don’t forget - Tower Hamlets have introduced new parking regulations in the borough. If you are in a three bedroom property or larger and have a permit to park you will keep your permit even if you move off the estate.
You said: It looks nice but our buildings, kitchen, bathroom, living room, everything should be big enough.
We did: Our designers worked with the London Housing Design Guide to ensure generous room sizes in all of the new units. This means the new units will be significantly larger than new builds of the past 20 years.
History of the consultation process (to date)
Initial community consultation on the project began in 2007 for a four-month period. Community outreach and information events included:
A dedicated website with information about plans for the area and how residents can feed in
- Freephone information line
- Home visits to residents
A full-day community event attended by 225 adults and 40 children was held on 3 November 2007. This included workshops on the detail of the housing, design and community engagement aspects of the proposal.
Workshops were held with young people, the mosque elders and local women.
The Local Voices Group, a regular forum for the local community to learn about and influence emerging plans for the area, was established.
A regeneration office was later opened on the estate, staffed by Tower Hamlets staff. Residents were welcome to drop by to discuss the proposals, advise on progress and discuss individual tenant and homeowner concerns.
This facility has also been used for meetings in connection with the project and by the local tenants and residents’ association. There have been other community uses for the facility such as English and Health classes for local residents and a sewing workshop for local women. The building is now shared with Tower Hamlets Homes for use as a housing office.
In 2008/2009 the next stage of the consultation process was the preparation of a Community Charter. This included the aspirations and concerns of local residents towards regeneration, and the response to these by THC and HCA. This Charter was adhered to throughout the procurement process to select a development partner for the project.
Near the end of 2009 large public meetings were held to update residents on the project including design workshops.
In 2010 there was a re-launch of the consultation process and a series of smaller ‘Floor’ meetings were held, building by building, floor by floor. Volunteers came forward from the community to form a Resident Insight Group (RIG) which meets at least monthly to discuss the regeneration. To assist in the understanding of design issues for procurement and the planning process, CABE offered their services as Enablers for sessions, including a one-day event based on Building for Life principles.
As part of the procurement process, members of the RIG came forward to form a Resident Procurement Panel (RPP), dedicating much time and energy to understanding and participating in the procurement process. When the competition for development partners was down to 2 bidders, RIG held introductory and competitive dialogue sessions with each bidder. Following the final submission by each of the 2 bidders an exhibition was held for the local and wider community to meet the bidders and have their proposals explained.
An intense period of resident meetings happened from September to the submission of the final tenders at the end of 2010.
A community needs survey was undertaken in November 2011 to identify the local community needs to identify activities that local people wanted to get involved in and to obtain residents’ feedback to design the new community centre in the phase 1A.
Following consultation with residents and local partners, we developed the initial design of the new community centre of around 500sqm including two halls, meeting room, computer suit, youth club, kitchen and office space. This was later finalised in consultation with the local TRA and LB Tower Hamlets.
We held an Open Day on the estate in July 2013 to give residents an opportunity to have their say on the estate regeneration. Residents who attended the event actively took part in the consultation activities on the masterplanning review exercise and the design of homes for phase 1A. Participants also had the opportunity to select the names for the blocks to be built as part of phase 1A.
A similar event was held in August 2014 sharing with residents the outcomes of the masterplanning review, phase 1B final design and provide feedback on the services they would like to see delivered from the new community centre.
Outline Design - The initial consultation for the outline design began early 2011 with a range of community consultation events which included design exhibitions, open days, resident’s away day and open meetings. The consultation events focused on masterplan, green space, courtyard view, heights of buildings, indicative materials, precedent images and timetable for planning. Over 200 residents attended the events and provided us very with positive feedback.
Phase 1A - The detailed designs for Phase 1A were developed taking into account previous comments from residents and local stakeholders during the outline consultation as well as an extensive consultation programme took place between July 2011 to September 2012 leading up to the submission of the Reserved Matters planning application. The consultation programme focused on internal design, residents’ choices on internal fittings, community centre and housing management issues.
Phase 1B - The design consultation was held in November 2013. Local community attended the event, viewed and commented on the proposed architect’s design plans and discussed various regeneration issues. The design and proposals were received positively by the local community. The consultation outlined the principle of relating the proposed buildings, heights and using common materials to provide uniformity of the area.
Phase 2 - Planning approval was received for Phase 2 in October 2016 and further consultation activity will be announced over the coming months on this and later phases.