South Owlerton in Sheffield made a fantastic case study for us to visit on a Study Tour we ran as part of the Building Community programme – supporting communities to become ‘neighbourhood planning’ ready. A number of community groups came with us to hear from South Owlerton Area Regeneration (SOAR) and tour their huge array of projects including a library, a community centre, an enterprise centre, a park and street improvements.
SOAR was originally set up by community activists and has done a huge amount of work to try and make South Owlerton which suffered from multiple deprivation a better place to live.
Groups involved in neighbourhood planning may find these learning points from the day useful:
- Projects need leadership – each neighbourhood in the area was designated a support worker throughout the regeneration. This really helped to drive projects
- Spend time and money on building quality – SOAR decided early on to spend a bit more money on their buildings to give them distinctive features, giving the area some character. Some residents were unsure about this and felt it would be better to ‘get more building for their money’ but with hindsight, they are pleased they made this decision as the buildings they now have are of high quality
- Speak to others! – In developing the SOAR Enterprise Centre, the group spoke to other Enterprise Centres in Yorkshire & Humber and this really helped to inform their design brief
- Involve young people in a positive way – Young people in South Owlerton were involved in developing local parks and instead of vandalising those parks, were encouraged with an artist to paint graffiti to decorate them
- Work together – We felt that much of the successful regeneration in this area was due to a close working relationship with the council and others
Many thanks to SOAR for hosting us, to Sarah Hollingworth from Architecture 00:/ for being the Enabler (providing architectural and urban design expertise on the day) and all the groups who came along.