Our group – Friends of Latchmere Rec wanted to get ideas from residents and user groups facilitated by committee members. This valuable feedback would allow us to develop a Latchmere Rec Master Plan which reflected the ideas that mattered the most to those who use the site. This plan was then shared back to the wider community for further consultation. We provided the opportunity for anyone to give feedback to the FoLAR Committee via our newsletter and website at all stages. We wanted accountability and transparency so everyone felt part of the process and the solution. There were three groups we knew of who were sceptical about, or potentially even hostile to, our proposals and initially we weren’t sure how to manage this situation. We gave this a considerable amount of thought and in the end to reach each group needed to take very different paths. This element of the consultation took 15 months, but it was worth every second as we needed to get it right!
1. Footballers – getting off on the wrong foot
We began by wanting to use the kitchen on the Rec (a public facility we felt we had every right to share) in order to provide a temporary café. We met huge resistance from the footballers, who used the kitchen on Saturday mornings in winter.
The footballers already had a plan for a pavilion. We had different ideas, and this led to initial difficulties.
There were misinterpretations / miscommunications over our plan to run a ‘Fun Day’ that led to their putting an unhelpful notice on their website about a ‘local group’ which was ‘us’.
We stepped back and re-thought our approach. We decided to move to a plan that did not require the kitchen and we started to talk about what we both wanted and we listened to their ideas. We took a position of being helpful.
Outcome: Ongoing productive meetings.
2. Dog owners
During the facilitated discussions at our inaugural meeting, we identified one group of dog owners who were against any changes on the Rec. The facilitator listened and took note of their views. They were encouraged to come to the next consultation – one did, there was more listening, and note taking and we identified one change they wanted, “for parents to teach their children not to go up to strange dogs and expect to stroke them”. A further meeting was proposed to take this forward. Five months later, after protracted arrangements and cancellations, we met in their house with six owners with dogs on laps. A wide range of issues was discussed, including crime and management issues and their worst fears about the possible changes to the Rec. which was loss of all access for dogs.
We liaised with the police and passed on these concerns regarding crime on the site and we invited the police along to a meeting.
Outcome: Ongoing conversations, particularly about drug crime on the Rec.
3. An area of housing backing onto the Rec
We worked with someone we knew in that area who was open-minded about our project, we hoped this would allow us to build connections through her neighbours. The meeting still hasn’t happened, but we will keep pursuing this route and hope a meet up will happen one day soon.
By chance we met a lady from the neighbourhood on the Rec. She is known and respected in that particular housing area. Along with others, she is very opposed to a pavilion.
We met with her to try to find areas of common vision for the Rec and to understand her reasons for not wanting a pavilion. She mentioned fear of rubbish and traffic, these were things that we did not want either, so it was possible to connect with her over that.
Outcome The lady has joined our Facebook page and posts up photos from his visits to the Rec; crocuses coming up on the Rec and recent vandalism. She waters the green roof of our bug hotel.
KEY LESSON: Try to start a consultation by listening to residents and groups. Talking about management issues is a good way of connecting with people and showing the areas of common ground.
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