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Shaping The Heart Of Nottingham Waterside - Trent Basin

by Deetu on behalf of Blueprint

Shortlisted for Brownfield Awards Category 4: Best Public Engagement And Participation

(Sponsored by Celtic)

A once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the regeneration of Nottingham’s brownfield Waterside

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A parking barn, an accessible water basin, community courtyards, creative industrial spaces, and people-friendly public areas. These concepts in isolation are nothing new. But, when combined into one masterplan they challenge the local norm and look to create a 21st-century neighbourhood fit for future sustainable family living out of an under utilised brownfield asset.

Trent Basin was built in the 1930’s following Nottingham’s promotion as a city of commerce at the centre of a national network of rivers and canals. Trent Basin was used for the timber trade with large dockside buildings and lightweight prefabricated huts set around its dock edges.

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Cold, hostile to pedestrians, no sense of place; these are just a few ways to describe the historic Trent Basin area. One of Nottingham’s greatest assets, the River Trent, has laid inaccessible for decades as a large swath of industrial estate separates the city, cutting off the waterside. What should be a tranquil yet thriving riverside area, with vistas into the city, is dominated by light/heavy industry and fast roads with no regards to its surroundings, a brownfield no longer fit for the 21st century. However, the southern gateway into Nottingham is now being transformed.

The vision is to provide green sustainable living in contemporary, stylish homes with a lower carbon footprint. In doing so, creating a neighbourhood that is connected and walkable for school, work and leisure, with shared spaces for meeting neighbours and play. Whilst also forming a community that is living responsibly, enjoying nature and caring for the planet.

This once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the urban regeneration of Nottingham’s waterside led to a revolutionary, digital-first stakeholder engagement exercise that increased meaningful participation by 1500%.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, sustainable developer Blueprint took the opportunity to rethink the traditional engagement methodology, providing a truly inclusive, anytime, and anywhere consultation using real community evidence to influence its design.

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The use of innovative, interactive tools, combined with powerful data analytics and an emphasis on youth-friendly content, ensured that a remarkably diverse audience, including those seldom heard, were consulted during a multi-stage, irrefutably transparent engagement campaign.

Creating a sense of social wellbeing was key within this defiantly thorough engagement. It wasn’t just a case of ticking a box of support; it was about ensuring people knew that their opinions would genuinely make a difference to the future of their community. This was mirrored in a specific youth engagement exercise that ensured the views of those seldom heard were being listened to. In fact, one youth engagement participant said: 

 

“I never thought I’d meet an architect, and I never thought anyone would ask me what I wanted like this.”

Figure 3 - Site Conceptual Model showing the sandstone espleys (orange), thickness of infilling and the contaminant exceedances

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Encouraging community participation in shaping a brownfield project:

Rather than being constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team took the opportunity to rethink the traditional methodology and show an exemplary level of engagement with the public. 

The first step was to gain a comprehensive understanding of the local community to better engage with them. To do this, the engagement team used data analytics to segment their stakeholders, creating defined personas and audiences.

Secondly, using the defined personas and audiences, the engagement team curated audience-specific content to reach a broad spectrum of stakeholders and form a diverse evidence base.

At the core of their engagement strategy was a series of digital tools adapted to reflect each specific audience’s required language complexity and technical understanding whilst still being consistent in their critical messaging. 

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Audiences were made aware of the consultation through a social media campaign, QR code posters, Facebook Groups, press releases, alongside a local letter drop and a more comprehensive leaflet distribution.

A series of youth engagement exercises and site walkovers were undertaken using the Voice, Opportunity, Power toolkit to capture future generations’ ideas and views.

Thirdly, by undertaking continuous engagement throughout the design process, the team amended the masterplan based on real community-sourced evidence.

This new approach resulted in a 1500% increase in participation compared to the engagement on previous development phases and an overall approval rating of 94%.

 

“This engagement exercise allowed us to reach a far greater audience than our traditional approach, including a much wider demographic. Because of this, the feedback is far richer and the outcome is a better development proposal which reflects a truly representative range of needs and viewpoints.”

Samantha Veal - Chief Executive - Blueprint

What Now?

The iterative design process, based on the diverse feedback collated throughout this engagement exercise, allows the project team to adapt their plans and contest traditional planning assumptions. They are pushing the boundaries of what was perceived as acceptable to the public and creating a genuinely community-driven design.

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The contribution from the public not only supported the sustainable principles of the environmentally led design; it pushed for more green space around the basin, more planting in the courtyards and more people-friendly zones. All of which are being incorporated into the final plans.

 

“This was a first for us. The interactive tools offered a constructive way to gain an understanding of the scheme. It not only saved us time, but gave us a lot more information to determine our views than a typical application. We hope that others would use this approach.”

Senior Principal Planning Officer – Nottingham City Council

Keen to build a local community and continue the conversations about how they will use the area, stakeholders are continuously engaging with the design process through the digital engagement tools, virtual town hall briefings and Q&A sessions.

Blueprint wants Trent Basin to be the heart of this new community, innovatively designed to meet the current and future communities’ needs. From the beginning, this engagement was not just about gathering one-way feedback or even holding a two-way dialogue. It is about actively creating authentic, multi-faceted conversations in the community.

It is tying together businesses like Nottingham Bikeworks with local studios One Thorseby Street in Makers Yard. It is opening a dialogue between Olympic athlete-hosting Flo Skatepark and Whole Health Triathlon Club about the basin’s future.

It is becoming the catalyst of conversation for local entrepreneurs to open their own Dojo and community parents to discuss how their children could make the best use of the space in Basin Park.

Company/ Team/ Ind.: Deetu (on behalf of Blueprint)

Project Name: Shaping the heart of Nottingham Waterside – Trent Basin

Project Location: Trent Basin, Trent Lane, Nottingham, NG2 4DS

Developer/ Client: Blueprint

Project Team (designer, consultants etc.):

BBUK Landscape Architects, BWB Consulting, Deetu, Gerald Eve, Faithful & Gould,  Focus Consultants, Proctor & Matthews Architects, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, Turner Works, ZCD Architects

 

Additional resources:

Brownfield Briefing Summary Video: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/517140540

Trent Basin Public Consultation Tool: https://my.engaged.space/trentbasin/

Trent Basin Digital Pre-App Tool: https://my.engaged.space/trent-basin-pre-app

Trent Basin Virtual Drop-In Booking: https://my.engaged.space/trentbasin/meet

Trent Basin Virtual Consultation Room: https://my.engaged.space/trentbasin/virtual/

News Clipping 1: https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/property/latest-phase-nottingham-riverside-development-4716073

News Clipping 2: https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/eastmidlands/news/2043019-new-details-revealed-on-next-phase-of-major-trent-basin-scheme