Within our latest blog series, entitled “INSPIRED”, we are making space to celebrate community leadership and cross-sector collaboration within design and placemaking. Through our open call for stories, ideas and anecdotes about inspired approaches to shaping buildings, open spaces, homes or neighbourhoods, we are taking the time to celebrate the connections that continue to make our places special.
Having completed my undergraduate degree in Liverpool, I am familiar with the intertwined political and physical landscape of the city, in particular the areas impacted by the Housing Market Renewal Initiative (HMRI). Running between 2002 and 2011, the programme was a controversial approach to addressing the region-wide issues of failing housing markets, with an aim to improve local neighbourhoods and incentivise work and life within the areas chosen. A band-aid approach to decades-long social and economic issues, areas within Liverpool were designated as ‘market failures’, and earmarked for demolition. Owners were given compensation from the city, often not enough to invest in one of the new replacement properties, whilst the urban fabric of existing communities and neighbourhoods was disrupted to make way for the promise of new development.
In the shadow of Anfield’s Kop in northern Liverpool sits a local landmark, a small bakery which has been serving the local community since 1903. Formally called Mitchell’s Bakery, but known by many simply as ‘The Pie Shop’, it served homemade bread, pies and cakes to generations of Liverpudlians and visiting football fans.
Despite being earmarked for demolition, the bakery remained standing as 1,800 residential and commercial properties were demolished around it. In 2011, stripped of local customers as the streets were emptied, the bakery closed its doors. However, it remained a key facet of the community memory, a token of a once thriving highstreet community.
This memory was one of the key factors to Bakery being chosen to be the base for the arts initiative ‘2Up2Down’, led by artist Jeanne van Heesqijk, which focused on empowering the local community to take the development of the neighbourhood into their own hands. This people-centred approach, which pulled young residents together with multi-disciplinary design specialists from URBED, focused on re-claiming the right to live well through the re-use of the empty bakery. In 2012, a Community Land Trust (CLT) was formed, which quickly incorporated the Homebaked Bakery Co-operative and took on the bakery, refurbishing the core building and the flat above it.
The amazing positive impact of Homebaked CLT and Co-operative, together with a long series of negotiations with Liverpool City Council, resulted in an agreement to remove the bakery from the City’s demolition plans. The bakery doors were first re-opened to the public in 2013, and now it sits once again at the heart of the community, offering local jobs, excellent food and a place for community exchange.
Building upon the success of this initial project, Homebaked CLT have continued the process of community-led design and planning, developing the adjacent site and former recreation ground to the rear of the bakery. Part of this work has included the provision of a series of events and courses with the former recreation grounds, reactivating the space as a community asset and helping people imagine the future of the space together.
Now Homebaked CLT is continuing their ethos of living well through the collaborative development of their neighbourhood, developing the adjacent terrace in collaboration with URBED and their local housing group Your Housing Group. Upon completion the houses along what has been dubbed Oakfield Terrace will be bought back and the freeholds transferred into community ownership.
As part of the design process for Oakfield Terrace, Homebaked CLT developed a nuanced approach to participatory design. 20 local community members were enlisted as a ‘Core Design Group’, who worked in collaboration with architects and other built environment specialists to co-create the scheme for the terraces. By incorporating educational aspects into their workshops, design capacity and understanding was built within the community, helping them to subsequently make informed design decisions. Building design capacity in this way is a vital aspect of participatory and collaborative design, ensuring that participants have the tools and know-how in order to engage fully with the design process. Homebaked CLT has held 16 planning workshops for the Oakfield Terrace development, engaging with around 900 people through this process.
This amazing project, which continues to grow, develop and blossom, showcases the extraordinary power of community engagement, and how passionate people can change the future of their spaces, buildings and communities. One initial spark can build into a crescendo of activity which continues to positively shape and define a community over a decade later, relinking communities to their urban spaces and giving them agency over the future of their street.
Homebaked CLT is located in Liverpool, near Anfield football stadium in the north of the city. Find out more about their mission, current work and events here.