Holbeck: a case study about neighbourhood planning as a tool for regeneration
Holbeck is an inner city area of Leeds, West Yorkshire. The area begins on the southern edge of Leeds city centre and mainly lies in the LS11 postcode area. Neighbourhood planning is seen as a holistic means of pulling together and making good on various historical and ongoing initiatives to reinvigorate the area, and to re-connect it with historical Holbeck – now largely industrial and containing some fantastic, listed buildings.
Residents feel that Holbeck has huge potential, as it has an engaged, multicultural community, many active community groups and an identifiable centre (not to mention the best kebab in Leeds…allegedly!). However Holbeck faces challenges.
Large parts of Holbeck were vacated in preparation for various regeneration initiatives, so some parts have suffered from a population exodus. There has been a tendency for Holbeck to be overlooked, and seen merely as a place to drive through or park in on match days at Elland Road (which is located just outside Holbeck, on the other side of the M621).
How can the neighbourhood plan help?
It has been hard at times to convince people who have been affected by previous regeneration schemes and have “heard it all before” that the neighbourhood plan will be different, and will be an effective way to bring about change in the area.
However, the neighbourhood planning process is seen as a proactive one and something which the community can do in addition to other regeneration initiatives (for example, those led by the council). Neighbourhood planning is seen as a tool to improve Holbeck, but also as a way for the community to have more control in the planning of the area.
The Neighbourhood Forum
There is no parish council in Holbeck and it was difficult to get started on the neighbourhood plan. Also, it took a long time to get to the stage of submitting an application to be designated as a Neighbourhood Planning Forum and Area (including setting up a Board for the Forum and ensuring it was representative). Throughout this period the local planning authority (LPA) was very supportive and the group has also benefitted from ongoing support from Planning Aid England staff and volunteers.
The Forum meets four times a year. It has three sub-groups:
- Content (LPA-led)
- Publicity (promotional activity such as banners, website, badges)
- Community projects (fireworks, Christmas lights etc – to show that the community can deliver these activities)
This newsletter outlines the three topic groups (pdf). There is a good level of resident representation on the Forum but greater business involvement is currently being sought.
Engaging with the local community
The Forum is linking with local community groups and other organisations including:
- Housing developers and social housing management: local children were involved in naming new streets (Ingram Road Primary School children name new homes on Brown Lane East)
- Local primary school (which held a competition for children to draw their vision of Holbeck over the next 15-20 years)
- Having a presence at the Holbeck Gala, an established, annual community event
- Working Men’s Club
- Messy Play (for families, carers and children)
- Holbeck Elderly Aid (holds a weekly lunch club)
- Holbeck Feast (a charity-run breakfast club aimed at isolated, elderly people)
- Local Theatre
- St Matthew’s Community Centre
- Putting posters up in doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries
It can be hard to engage with transient groups such as refugees, so the Holbeck group would advise others wanting to do this to try to use places where people already go (e.g. doctors’ surgery).
The Forum is also using:
- Its website (although the group feels it could do more here, and is looking at what else it could do)
- A newsletter delivered to each home by a network of local volunteers
- Events - such as this one using SlungLow's airstream!
Developing the vision for the neighbourhood plan
So far the Forum has drafted a vision statement and identified key topic areas, with input from the local community:
- History and heritage
- Environment and green spaces
- Traffic and access
- Business and employment
- Community services and issues
A questionnaire has been designed to seek community views on these issues. This will then be cross checked to assess if these are still the right topics to focus on and seek other suggestions. The group has found that when they share ideas and findings put forward so far, people quickly come back with additional suggestions and feedback.
The questionnaires are filled in face to face and it takes about 20 mins per questionnaire. It is important to do it this way to ensure people take part. Volunteers from the Forum and Planning Aid England carry out the interviews and record the responses.
Planning for the future
It has already taken lots of hard work from volunteers and professionals to get to where Holbeck is now. As Dennis Kitchen, Chair, Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum, says “This HNP is a unique opportunity for us to shape the future of Holbeck and to place our aspirations and expectations on record…Now, I believe we are optimistic for the future…Our biggest challenge is to direct the use and ensure development of unused land [and] our next task is to prepare the draft plan”.
- Choose your time when reporting back on surveys or activities. Don’t report if you’ve nothing to say – wait until you can give clear information and outcomes.
- Don’t promise things you can’t deliver – be clear about what the neighbourhood plan can and can’t do.
- Build a comprehensive body of information of what you’ve done and why. This will help demonstrate to people how your plan is progressing.
- The learning process is very important – pick up advice and tips wherever you can.
- Make newsletters and other material colourful and eye catching
- If you set up a website think about how much time it will take to keep it up to date, who will do the updating and how you want to use it
Many thanks to Lucy Potter, Dennis Kitchen and Alan Lane, Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum, for their help with this case study. These case studies are produced by Planning Aid England as part of the Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning programme, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and delivered by a consortium led by Locality.
Photo credits© All photos are copyright Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum