Above all, we feel that good playgrounds are not built by consultation – they’re built by good designers, informed well by meaningful consultation. So at Sutcliffe Play we encourage consultation, and believe in spending time and money to do it well.
However we realise that there can be restrictions in terms of time and funds available, so we will tailor our activities accordingly, offering a menu of services from simply communicating plans with potential user groups, through to a higher level of consultation with many parties. At the other extreme, if required we enlist the help of experienced play consultants and community artists.
The purpose of consultation, we believe, is to allow children, young people and others in the community to be involved and participate in the development of the environment they live in. It also gives them the opportunity to work together as a team, binding a community together. Our view is that it creates ownership, pride and responsibility of their community and reduces vandalism and crime on the sites.
We have considerable experience of consultation, both working with the results of consultation that has already been completed by a community, or at the other end of the spectrum, starting from scratch, devising the methodology to be used and project managing the whole consultation exercise.
Our approach is that one size does not fit all. We would start by listening to the desired outcomes, the funding and time available, the current capabilities of the community, as this would inform the nature of the consultation. We would consider existing groups set up in the community – residents groups, schools, youth groups, Brownies, Guides, Cubs, Scout Groups, and those parts of the community that are hard to reach. We would want to ensure we heard the views of all potential park users – local residents, children and adults. Where there aren’t well established groups, we might hold fun open days to get the interest of the local community.
There are a whole host of techniques that we have used, bringing in appropriate help where necessary. This could range from a simple creative workshop, to more extensive mind-mapping, modelling or poetry sessions to unleash creativity, imaginations, discussion and debate. If appropriate we would propose to use local recycled materials from Scrapstores. It may extend to questionnaires (if possible designed and delivered by children and young people), day long visits to other existing playgrounds to open up the minds and experience of the users and more mobile consultations using play buses. Following the consultation, we will interpret the information provided by all parties involved and present the information back to the community gathering further feedback and any apprehensions.
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