Changing Chelmsford How bold is your vision?
Report of the summer 2010 proceedings
Stephanie Mills Project Manager ‘Changing Chelmsford’, on behalf of the RSA
21st century enlightenment
The way places and buildings are planned matters. The built environment has an important influence on our wellbeing. It helps shape our identity and can attract or deter investment and job opportunities. As part of a broader drive to engage and empower local communities we must do more to engage people in making decisions about the place where they live, and empower them to shape places themselves. In difficult economic times we need to develop the concept of lean thinking â€“ where do we start when we no longer have huge capital budgets? How do we use localism to advantage? What is shaping our expectations? What do we value? What generates community? How best to harness and encourage entrepreneurialism? Changing Chelmsford describes a process of engagement with the broader community about what is important to them. The initiative was led by two national organisations with the support of Essex County Council and Chelmsford Borough Council. The RSA encourages our community leaders to think creatively about places, social structures and enterprise to make a real difference to peopleâ€™s lives. Changing Chelmsford was inspired by a fellow of the RSA who developed the network that gave rise to the project. The Academy of www.changingchelmsford.org
Urbanism is dedicated to learning from places to make better places â€“ in their social and cultural richness and their economic and political complexity. Changing Chelmsford is all about looking, learning and practical action, to make a difference. Four themes emerged as the project developed: Understanding place. Learning from places in all their dimensions, to make better places. Understanding the planning context and Chelmsfordâ€™s relationship with its sub region and role as a London satellite. Entrepreneurialism and change; learning town. How to harness the spirit of entrepreneurialism to promote a thriving business economy. Finding new ways to fund place-shaping activities and provide opportunities for learning throughout the town. How to rely more heavily on voluntary action from individuals and communities, and less on public funding. Empowering communities; civic involvement. Giving individuals and communities greater influence over local decisionmaking. Empowering them to address local issues while providing the ability to become self-sustaining and independent. Governance, leadership and creativity. Encouraging community leaders to think creatively about places, social structures and
enterprise to make a real difference to peopleâ€™s lives. Not producing a masterplan but developing a strong set of agreed values. Engaging people, helping them contribute more. Developing the capacity and readiness of neighbourhoods, interest groups and the voluntary and community sector to tackle social problems. The Changing Chelmsford initiative was conceived as a pilot project. Through bringing individuals and community representatives from Chelmsford together with leading practitioners from higher education, culture, urbanism and business we have been stimulated to look at our town and what we do differently. This document sets out how the local community can, over the next months and years, build on this pilot to create a better and more dynamic place. Barry Shaw Head of the Built Environment and Director of the Essex Design Initiative, Essex County Council. Derek Stebbing Planning Policy Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council. Roger Estop Planning Design Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council. Professor John Worthington DEGW and the Academy of Urbanism. Clare Reilly The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Malcolm Noble Chairman, The Chelmsford Initiative.
2.0 Looking at Chelmsford in new ways
3.0 The story so far
4.0 Themes and ideas
5.0 Underlying concepts
7.0 Changing Chelmsford â€“ Next steps
1 Breakthrough Cities p.34 (http://creativecities.britishcouncil.org) 2 http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/five-ways-well-being-evidence
‘Changing Chelmsford’ started with a simple premise: how do you make Chelmsford a more successful place? Many people are concerned about the proposed scale of residential and retail development in Chelmsford, that a growing urban population and the broader challenges of climate change will damage a much-loved town. So how is Chelmsford seen today? What do inhabitants want from the town and how might they help shape its unique character? The Shire Hall was used as a metaphor for the changing town within its county and regional sphere of influence. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Chelmsford was characterised by images of Shire Hall, with the cathedral in the background, and various aspects of town life taking place in the foreground. Church and state provided a secure structure for the social and entrepreneurial activity that gave the town its character. What social and commercial structures will shape the town in the future? The project impetus came from RSA Fellows in the region. They formed RSA Chelmsford – initially to explore imaginative ways of taking forward work on the town centre. Discussion was generated between RSA Fellows and planners representing both the Borough and County Councils seeking to find ways to look at the town that did not duplicate existing council work, was separate from existing planning and political procedures, looked to the long term and opened up new public discussions. This led to forums held at the Borough Council addressed by John Worthington, representing the Academy of Urbanism, and Charles Landry – both international authorities on how cities move with the times. A steering group was established to develop the Changing Chelmsford project. What emerged was an organic and evolving way of working as the steering group began to develop themes. Most critically, the programme was anchored around the idea of engaging local individuals and interest groups in a responsible, positive and pro-active process to improve livelihoods. How could this capture the spirit of local enterprise, harness the energy and ideas from leading thinkers and local interests – and translate them into future action? The decision was made to do this through an understanding of place and by looking at how other towns and cities have approached shaping their identity. It was agreed that the RSA should lead the programme because of its experience of fostering innovation. It contributed people and contacts and brought the experience of working with different stakeholders to develop entrepreneurial opportunities and resources together with geographic communities to activate their entrepreneurial drive. The Academy of Urbanism joined the project. Underpinning their
mission is the desire to understand what makes great places and to transmit this learning to others to improve the overall quality of our neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Writtle College also came on board, adding their weight to the local voices. Essex and Chelmsford Councils committed modest amounts of pump priming funding and a project manager was appointed. A series of workshop and discussion programmes were held that generated ideas going beyond the usual political, planning and regulatory consultation. New directions emerged, more people got engaged and the summer programme took shape. During May and June 2010 eight workshops explored living and working, culture and production, innovation and local economies, environmental resilience and learning. The ideas from these workshops were brought together in a symposium on 25 June called ‘Towns Like Ours’. This day-long event organised by the Academy of Urbanism and hosted by Professor John Worthington, Director of Learning for the Academy, was held on the Chelmsford campus of ARU. It compared the experience of cities in Britain and Europe with Chelmsford. There were presentations by invited representatives from comparator towns highlighting various UK (Cambridge, Peterborough, St Albans and Totnes) and European perspectives, including Dublin, Nordic and Dutch Randstad Towns. These were followed by open discussion on civic engagement, city identity, connecting communities, fostering resilience and engendering innovation. A ‘World Café’ on 26 June provided an opportunity for local people to examine and reimagine their local neighbourhood as a focus of community and economy. Facilitated by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), this was a public event that encouraged a ‘conversational process based on seven integrated design principles: set context, create hospitable space, explore questions that matter, encourage everyone’s contribution, connect diverse perspectives, listen together and notice patterns, share collective discoveries.’1 The focus for this event was to envision a low carbon, high wellbeing future within the framework of NEF’s ‘five ways to wellbeing’ – connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give2. On 28 June the Chelmsford Town Commons was held – a hands-on, proposal-making workshop with invited practitioners hosted by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA and Paul Finch, Chair of CABE. Participants were asked to look ahead five years and to postulate something that was now true as well as something that was no longer true about Chelmsford. The event culminated with individual pledges to action and ‘pitch’ proposals for the RSA ‘Catalyst’ Fund.
What has Changing Chelmsford achieved so far? An exercise in re-imagining Chelmsford turned into a series of inspired events bringing insights from eminent practitioners as well as valuable contributions from local people. It generated more than 100 ideas for Changing Chelmsford. Some of these ideas contribute to current council objectives and projects, some set an agenda for a revitalised Chelmsford Civic Society, while others will be taken up by educational institutions. But most importantly, some of the ideas are being carried forward by individual or community energy. The programme captured the non-institutional, and explored informal creative networks that can mobilise action. It showcased a series of young dynamic local entrepreneurs including Archifunk, Clever Atom, and Dance Digital. It was also grounded in specific projects, looking at ways to turn historic spaces and buildings into hubs for social innovation. It worked simultaneously with policy and delivery – reviewing and seeking to recast the balance between localism and centralism. It was an investigation into what might be called Civil Society, and what in social terms has been called the fourth helix. Some ideas can usefully be linked with the refresh of the three year Local Strategic Partnership Community Plan. One final headline that captures the essence of the output and summarises the content of the report: 1 shared identity, 1 collaborative web site, 120+ participants, 80+ organisations, 11 events over 5 weeks leading to: 100 ideas, 10 themes and 14 initiatives resulting in 1 big step in an on-going process. What next? An event will launch this report with a link to emerging thinking and government legislation on localism. A website will act as a repository of ideas and discussions plus carry information about individual initiatives. The steering group will evolve to embrace the active people emerging from the workshops. Further activities will be timetabled including: development of an ARU-Chelmsford relationship through the Academy of Urbanism’s ‘UniverCities’ programme; a workshop with Grayson Perry in November 2010; initiatives to debate and safeguard the future of key buildings like the Shire Hall, Marconi and Anne Knight buildings, as well as various map-walks and foyer events. More pledges for initiatives will be invited and nurtured.
Looking at Chelmsford in new ways
As this historic market and industrial town faces a challenging scale of growth over the next twenty years, with intense competition for investment in business, retail and culture, the aim of the Changing Chelmsford project is to engage diverse sections of Chelmsford’s communities in developing an understanding of the role and potential of the whole town, including its constituent neighbourhoods and networks, as an emerging city within the broader context of Essex and beyond. Its ambition is to collaboratively develop a clearer identity for Chelmsford by building on its strengths – and by exploring comparator towns and cities – in order to establish the ingredients that will enable it to become a more innovative and successful place. The focal point of the town and county is the Shire Hall, currently occupied by the Magistrates’
…a ‘collaborative urbanism’ that engages community organisations and businesses in action research… Courts but due to be vacated at the end of 2010. Part of this project is to explore how the Shire Hall and the adjoining Tindal Square can be adapted to represent the changing city, its regional role as well as its institutions, networks and culture. Changing Chelmsford forms part of the national debate over the future of civil society. The RSA has been a leading voice in this debate, exploring terrain associated with localism and citizen power. As an initiative led by RSA Fellows, Changing Chelmsford reflects the organisation’s commitment to finding ways in which citizens can tackle the major social challenges of our times. The project adopts a holistic approach to these challenges by 6
way of a ‘collaborative urbanism’ that engages community organisations and businesses in action research – a process of in-depth inquiry that involves dialogue between individuals, companies, voluntary organisations and public authorities. The
…exploring how citizens can help to shape civic and democratic renewal… process works within and between these groups and organisational structures, sometimes challenging established practices. Changing Chelmsford’s aim is to address community needs and generate opportunities while inspiring new approaches that focus on public interest and social cohesion. This has similarities to the RSA’s Citizen Power programme, which is exploring how citizens can help to shape civic and democratic renewal; it also echoes the findings of the recently published RSA Connected Communities report, which argues that understanding local networks of people and resources can help policy-makers to support positive social change. Much of the shift towards citizen power is underpinned and enabled by rapid transformations in communications technology, reflecting the legacy of innovation in Chelmsford of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company that relayed the UK’s first public wireless-radio broadcast from its factory premises on New Street on the 15th June 1920. This is manifesting itself in the social networking phenomenon, sparking new forms of organisation and direct action. One of the ambitions of the Changing Chelmsford project is to find ways to foster a new spirit of innovation and enterprise in the town as part of its future identity and ethos – with the now derelict Marconi factory as a potential enterprise hub.
The story so far
The initial phase of the Changing Chelmsford project focussed on a sequence of eight workshops that took place in early summer 2010. The workshop venues were intended to reveal a unique aspect of Chelmsford. Each explored a different strategic urban theme and envisioned the future – the town as a learning environment; resilient town adapting to climate change; the town as a multitude of places to live, while being productive and containing a diversity of organisations and working patterns; a place with obvious or subtle unique qualities to be celebrated; a place that embodies cultural richness as well as a culture of innovation in technology, business and education. The workshops followed a broadly similar format in that a topic specialist was invited to make a proposition to the fifteen or so participants who then went on to discuss issues and constraints a well as opportunities for Chelmsford based on the overlapping themes. Each three-hour session culminated in 10 (sometimes more) ideas that could make a difference to Changing Chelmsford. These provided a platform for a three-day event in late June 2010. This included a ‘Towns like Ours’ Symposium, World Café Workshop (with collaborative, community sessions facilitated by NEF) and a Town Commons. About fifty participants attended the Symposium, the ethos of which was ‘learning from place’. Hosted by the Academy of Urbanism, various experts shared their experience and best practice examples from towns in the UK and abroad, as well as their perceptions of Chelmsford. This was complemented by ‘snapshot’ perspectives on working and living in the town provided by Chelmsfordians, while breakout sessions enabled diverse groups to explore the town’s many attributes as well as its shortcomings, with a view to finding ways to make Chelmsford a more innovative and successful place. At the World Cafe the following day, small groups of local residents were encouraged to reimagine their high street by focussing on NEF’s five ways to wellbeing themes of connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. Ideas generated were gathered on postcards that were then placed on maps of the high street. Each workshop ran for
a couple of hours and was facilitated by a member of NEF’s Connected Economies team. Various initiatives are emerging from these sessions with more planned in future. The concluding event in the summer series was the Town Commons (or Charette) – a collaborative, daylong placemaking and envisioning event that provided a synthesis for the findings of the Symposium and the other topic based workshops in the series. Parallel roundtable sessions with working groups of some eight participants (including table facilitators), addressed a different scale or context: Building, Neighbourhood, Town, Regional and (Inter)National scale. Topics included: Transformational buildings: Connectivity – Virtual and Physical; Town Identity and Raison d’être; Competition, Complementarity and Collaboration; ‘Glocal’ Networks and Resilience. Groups worked on an aspect of Chelmsford with regular feedback loops to the collective. Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, as the overall facilitator, progressively synthesised the proceedings in the plenary sessions assisted by Paul Finch, Chair of CABE. Participants
…some of the pledges have progressed and various other initiatives have taken root… were asked to look ahead five years and to postulate something that was now true as well as something that was no longer true about Chelmsford. The event culminated with individual pledges to action and ‘pitch’ proposals for the RSA ‘Catalyst’ Fund. Since then, some of the pledges have progressed and various other initiatives have taken root as a result of the events. Many more opportunities and ideas generated throughout the process are taking seed. Some need further encouragement and the networks of potential participants extended. Changing Chelmsford will evolve as an autonomous body, charged with following through the outcomes of the visioning exercise.
Themes and ideas
This summary crystallises the fascinating themes that emerged from the eight Changing Chelmsford workshops, the Symposium and the Town Commons. They form the foundation for the 100 ideas ‘that would make a difference to Chelmsford’. Some of these opportunities are worth developing further, especially where they are not specifically encapsulated within the 100 ideas. 4.1 Celebrate Chelmsford’s identity and uniqueness The workshops generated considerable debate about Chelmsford’s identity and the ingredients that contribute to this. Finding the characteristic of ‘uniqueness’ was seen as the key to developing the identity of Chelmsford and its neighbourhoods, including what makes it distinctively ‘home’ for its inhabitants, as well as interesting and attractive to newcomers and visitors. This has important implications for the future planning of Chelmsford at borough-wide and local scales as well as for its ambition, degree and rate of change as a town, seen on a continuum from being an established, uniform and homogenous place – like many other towns – to one that is uniquely entrepreneurial, innovative and multi-functional. Despite considerable assets, both Chelmsford and Essex are perceived to be under selling themselves in that neither is seen as a destination place. What can be done to change this? A consensus began to emerge that the foundation to Chelmsford’s identity and uniqueness lie in:
¶ Promoting its sports legacy including Essex County Cricket Club, home to many famous England cricketers. Chelmsford’s location – being close to London and the West End, the countryside, the sea – is also regarded as an important factor contributing to its identity, both now and throughout its history. The town’s role as Caesar’s marketplace en-route from Roman London to the garrison at Colchester, laid the foundation for its early networks – both tangible (physical) and intangible (virtual). Discussions at the Symposium and Town Commons proposed that the parallel processes of making visible these networks, exploring the town’s different scales and characterising its identity will combine to reveal a ‘unique’ concept of place. Part of this process is to match the image of Chelmsford with the aspirations of its inhabitants. Previous consultation on the town centre revealed city aspirations while maintaining a cherished market town identity. How do people see the town now and what are the implications for transformational change? Is Chelmsford on the edge of London or at the centre of Essex? Is it a County Town or just another Home Counties town? Are people up for being reclassified as a city? Answers to these questions will help provide a strategic brief for the location of public life between centre and neighbourhoods, and the type and amount of space required for community, cultural and enterprise activity. Opportunities also lie in Chelmsford differentiating its offering from other places in Essex with its spatial and economic planning providing ‘flexibility to meet changing market needs’. The Symposium findings suggest this could be achieved by exploring alternative perceptions of Chelmsford, for example, viewing the town in the wider context of Europe rather than as a commuter catchment for London, or by examining its regional networks and collaborative potential within the East of England, in the spirit of the Dutch Randstad (‘rim city’) conurbation. This change in outlook could provide important clues to Changing Chelmsford.
¶ Celebrating the town’s history, special places and people – Marconi, Anne Knight, Judge Tindal, Grayson Perry, for example. ¶ Harnessing its legacy of innovation – it’s the birthplace of radio and home to e2v. ¶ Being ‘a place that makes things happen’ – it should nurture its entrepreneurial spirit and support local enterprise. ¶ Building on the reputation of its excellent schools –’best in the country’.
Ideas emerging from this opportunity 8, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 35, 43, 51, 57, 58, 64, 84, 85, 93, 100
4.2 A model for a Civic Chelmsford that reflects its collective values The special character of a town or city is a reflection of its collective values: Freiburg embodies sustainability, while Brighton typifies creativity and Cambridge is an exemplar of learning – and increasingly, of knowledge sharing. The visioning
process – or collaborative urbanism – is seen as an opportunity for Chelmsfordians to identify and articulate their values in order to provide a new model for ‘Civic Chelmsford’ as well as to forge a clearer identity. Among the issues raised, was the fact that the relative prosperity of Chelmsford disguises social deprivation in that the town has one of the highest levels of deprivation in Essex. There is a widening gap between ‘haves and have nots’ – and although local housing maintains its price levels, young people – especially single persons and first time buyers – cannot afford property in Chelmsford, particularly in the central urban neighbourhoods where they may prefer to be. There is concern that affordability might be further compromised as a result of consistently high property vales in the town, which may intensify if the centre attracts more cultural activity. How to address issues of affordability, equitable and inclusive development? There is also a degree of resistance to town growth and newcomer influx in that some people fear this will compromise their current quality of life. Yet precedent shows that newcomers are often progressive people who stimulate change and bring about innovative ways of doing things. How to balance these sometimes opposing trends? On the business front, observations were made about how much emphasis is placed on meeting the needs and demands of the financial services sector at the expense of other sectors in Chelmsford. There is a view that the town should be more inclusive – not a case of ‘either or’, but both. How to achieve this yet ‘maintain traction’ as a commercial centre? Participants suggested collective values might emerge from discussions about:
Participants proposed improving social relations between people and organisations: working together, collaboratively, rather than in blinkered independence, shifting away from growth that suffocates others. Examples cited include:
¶ The links between investment, property development and political vision. ¶ Deals that subsidise low rents for a while to get small businesses going. ¶ More overlapping and shared public and private uses of buildings and open spaces. ¶ Changing perceptions through looking, listening, evaluating and learning. ¶ Capacity building and developing skills for new enterprises. ¶ Growing ‘glocal’ Chelmsford and its fair trade, environmentally responsible, caring and inclusive initiatives. ¶ Increasing the amount of local shops. ¶ Increasing the capacity for cultural initiatives.
Ideas emerging from this opportunity 2, 11, 13, 19, 22, 27, 29, 32, 33, 52, 54, 60, 62, 63, 64, 66, 70, 73, 79, 80, 91, 92, 95, 96
There was a growing sense among workshop participants of an opportunity for a new conception of ‘Civic Chelmsford’ that brings together commercial, education and community needs.
¶ Learning initiatives that reflect a new small scale business model, rather than waiting for conventional funding – like the creation of a new bookshop cum learning centre on New London Road; ¶ The University of the Third Age or establishing an on-campus retirement community; ¶ Opportunities to explore different leasing arrangements (short term contracts; 28 days notice) and share offerings (mutual benefit; lower business rates) that allow higher commercial (more profitable) uses to offset less commercial type activities (for example, media type learning offsetting a skill like silver-smithing). An exemplar is the Chelmsford Community Exchange – a ‘charity department store’ selling donated items, an information exchange and purveyor of ‘tea and sympathy’. The model for a new Civic Chelmsford should be inclusive, giving genuine opportunity for a wide variety of people to be involved on their own terms and by being proactive towards those who are often excluded. It should be engaging, by making it attractive and easy for those habitually excluded to take part. It should invest in the town’s young people and be SMART: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic. Time limited. And finally, be cost effective ‘as there will be no money; so ensure there is no duplication of work and don’t re-invent the wheel.’
4.3 Develop Chelmsford’s capacity as an inclusive learning town Many participants reflected that Chelmsford doesn’t feel like a university town. Local universities and colleges work as separate entities with little, or no, degree of overlap. There is also a perceived disconnection between ARU’s new campus and the town centre. Although only a short distance away, New Street, linking the campus and town centre is not ‘pedestrian friendly’. This, together with the lack of regular public transport and activities for students (‘not much to do’), leaves it somewhat isolated. Graduation ceremonies now take place on the new campus rather than in the town centre (the Cathedral) further reducing the university’s visibility 9
and interaction with the wider public. A number of ideas were generated in the workshops to physically, virtually and symbolically reconnect the universities with the town. Additionally, ARU has the potential to attract the business sector to its campus by finding
…physically, virtually and symbolically reconnect the universities with the town… synergies with research and learning and by setting up an attraction like the RIBA restaurant, by offering shared rental spaces and providing other incentives. Another area of concern is that while Chelmsford offers a wide variety of learning opportunities, these are increasingly financially driven and funding constraints sometimes make it difficult to meet diverse learning needs and deliver what is valued in community education – for instance, adult education that is qualification driven rather than for pleasure or learning in and of itself. Meeting commercial targets thus impacts on the quality of learning and those teaching in such environments in that the underlying objectives often embody different value sets. An alternative approach might be to establish seedbed centres linked with universities and other places of learning in Chelmsford, to grow innovative businesses while at the same time encouraging and supporting lifelong
…developing Chelmsford as a learning town… training or learning. The aim would be wide ranging and imaginative re-skilling of local labour to effect long term economic and social change in the town. One of Chelmsford’s strengths lies in its top schools (rated within the UK’s highest 2%) and its overall standings in the league tables. This should be celebrated. At the same time, participants also expressed the desire to find ways to ensure fairness and quality in education in that there are many communities and interest groups in Chelmsford with different learning needs, some harder to reach than others. Although the ‘NEET’ (Not in Employment, Education or Training) percentage in Chelmsford is low (3.8%), and despite Chelmsford College taking on 200+ unfunded learners this year as a
community investment, there is still concern that insufficient routes are being provided into training. This highlights the importance of offering courses that meet people’s needs and aspirations while also recognising that quality learning does not just occur within the ‘accredited’ system. In Chelmsford, these needs are sometimes met by voluntary organisations like ‘Interact’ while others who are more practical might achieve learning to a high level without entering the academic route. Apprenticeships should therefore be celebrated and valued in the same way as academies or universities. They can be used as an opportunity to define Chelmsford via a network providing mentoring and inspiration as well as events. The focus for this could be the creation of an institution or apprentice hub in an empty building. Articulation of these issues led to discussions about developing Chelmsford as a learning town, encouraging working partnerships across a wide array of educational sectors – including schools, further education and higher education – and by exploring the potential for shared spaces and joint funding of certain educational courses. The creation of different learning sites – e.g. a network school, which shares places and facilities throughout the town, or better use of outside space for education – could provide overlap in usage and help foster vibrancy while increasing utilisation of existing space. This creates opportunities for: ¶ Social inclusion (youth inclusion, youth offenders funding via grants). ¶ Things you can do with your hands. ¶ Habitats linked with school curriculum. ¶ Treating young people with respect. ¶ Learning in allotments and conservation. There is also potential to develop the common library as a learning resource – particularly since Chelmsford’s main library is second highest book lender in UK according to a survey for the MLA. The social role of the librarian was highlighted as was the concept of the library as a vibrant place to be ‘critically engaged’ rather than passively amused or entertained. Libraries should provide dispersed or mobile sites for borrowing and extended hours encouraged – like Sunday opening to benefit from footfall in the High Chelmer Shopping Centre. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 19, 20, 22, 25, 27, 39, 40, 43, 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 72, 73, 89, 93, 95, 99
Chelmsford has adaptive capacity – ‘space for change’. The town has a relatively high proportion of vacant and underutilised space. Much of this is of variable quality. For example, a lot of empty office space is not ‘intelligent’ in terms of contemporary building performance criteria and therefore not appropriate nor desirable for many tenants. Unit size and floor to ceiling heights also impact on vacancy rates. Spatial utilisation of office buildings is low and behaviour change could help increase capacity by encouraging sharing of space and overlapping or temporary uses. There is a trend towards inward-looking buildings with residential and office development based on ‘perception of user needs’ rather than ‘meeting user needs’. The ‘clone town’ phenomenon – a sameness and lack of variety in shops – is seen as a consequence of focussing on commercial viability as the primary or sole driver for financing and delivery of projects as well as the selection of occupants. To counter this, many Chelmsfordians believe the town needs ‘spaces of inspiration’ – vibrant, dynamic hubs, with people around – an example being the informal, creative workspaces in the former factories of Hackney Wick, London. Small, growing businesses also need affordable and accessible space that could be provided by older office buildings and small commercial premises in the neighbourhoods, while simultaneously offering a greater variety of residential and mixed-use space in the town centre. A recurring theme in the workshops is that there is widespread opportunity in Chelmsford to initiate ‘meanwhile’ or temporary uses of vacant buildings and sites. Former industrial spaces may wait months or years to be redeveloped, but creative enterprises value these spaces and, if allowed to occupy them, initially on a temporary basis, begin a process of positive change. Buildings are looked after, sites are safer and the area stays active. Transforming ‘pockets of dereliction’ requires leadership and vision – ‘when things happen, it’s because someone recognises a value’. Chelmsford’s disused buildings – including the former water company site on Hall Street, the ‘egg packing factory’ near the ice rink, old buildings on Wharf Road, Marrable House or parts of St John’s Hospital – have the potential to be transformed into vibrant working and socialising spaces as well as exhibition spaces, including those for ‘pop up’ events. Following the example of ‘Camden Town Ltd’, landowners could work with arts and business organisations to take up contracts on under-utilised space then let these out to creative and small new enterprises. There is a belief that
matching ‘slack’ time with cheap space has the potential to foster innovation. Toolkits should be developed to facilitate creative adaptive reuse of space and to ‘test bed’ hub spaces for apprentices, older learners, environmental initiatives, internal co-location, skills sharing – thus making it easier for people to experiment and innovate. Proposals for progressing creative adaptive reuse include mapping – and matching – spaces of potential with small business needs as well as mapping social and organisational networks to measure overlap and establish ways to support fragmented ways of working in different places. Many creative businesses have already been established in rural buildings, supported by initiatives like the provision of a courier and parcel service at the local train station. Others suggested the creation of hubs, with multiple functions and users, connecting small businesses in rural settings around Chelmsford. The vacant Chancellor Hall and the pending move by the Magistrates’ Courts from Shire Hall, offer an opportunity to rethink the usage of these public buildings. One suggestion is to explore the potential of Shire Hall as a multifunctional hub for a variety of community, cultural and business uses while simultaneously rethinking Tindal Square. The former ARU town centre campus – including the Anne Knight and Frederick Chancellor Buildings and the Law Library – also needs consideration. It was once seen as part of a West End ‘creative quarter’. It’s now a major development site and the potential of these buildings should not be lost. Suggestions to improve Chelmsford’s public spaces include identifying themes (relating to history, characters, etc) that instil pride together with good design to enhance quality of life, attract people and encourage interaction. Consideration should also be given to the way (public) buildings are used to provide a sense of place as well as improving interstitial or linking spaces (London’s South Bank Centre being an example) to increase vitality and pedestrian permeability. There is an opportunity to encourage a mix of tenants, sizes and rents in Chelmsford’s large shopping centres in order to create more overlap, complexity, diversity of interaction and usage. This is based on the potential of using traditional retail space for learning and community projects. The High Chelmer Shopping Centre has paved the way for innovative use of space by supporting several temporary creative enterprises in empty shops, including those initiated by arts organisations and students. Other precedents cited include: a school located on the top floor of a shopping centre in Christchurch, New Zealand; a first floor hospital in empty department store in Stockholm;
4.4 Encourage overlap and creative adaptive reuse
Barcelona Shopping Centres (with their array of shopping, food, entertainment, leisure, wellness and recreational facilities). Also mentioned were collaborative initiatives like UnLtd (a charity supporting social entrepreneurs) and Ultralab (a learning technology research centre) as well as the suggestion of a library in a shopping centre as part of a fundamental shift in conception of what a ‘retail’ destination should offer. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 9, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 55, 56, 58, 59, 61, 65, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 78, 82, 88, 94, 100 4.5 Harness the spirit of entrepreneurialism Throughout its history, Chelmsford has demonstrated resilience and responsiveness to change. Chelmsford is viewed as ‘an easy place to do business’ – based on good communication networks. Once ‘Caesar’s marketplace’, Chelmsford later became an industrial town, home to the Marconi and Hoffman factories. Today Britvic and e2v are the town’s largest employers and Chelmsford has adapted to become a service economy, with employment in health, education, finance and local government as well as being a regional retail centre. There are nearly 15,000 commuters from Chelmsford to London daily – travelling mostly by train. There is an equal influx into Chelmsford daily in that nearly 40% of the Chelmsford workforce commutes in from adjoining areas. Consequently Chelmsford is the 36th busiest rail station in the UK (or the 14th busiest if London is excluded). There are also now 79,000 jobs and 5,900 VAT registered businesses in Chelmsford – more than in any other Essex district. 80 percent of these businesses employ less than 10 people each. The town’s rural wards are home to over 2,300 businesses and 17,000 jobs. All this activity is not very visible nor has it dented the overwhelming perception of Chelmsford as primarily a commuter catchment for London. How to support and make manifest this spirit of enterprise? With an ageing population, Chelmsford may have to make best use of available skills and create work opportunities ‘for Chelmsfordians in Chelmsford’. What can be done? There is a belief that Chelmsford has the ability to ‘make its own luck’. This is a reflection of Chelmsfordian’s fierce entrepreneurialism and the town’s history of industrial innovation. Chelmsfordordians have the ability to work in partnership and there is an opportunity to explore this by, for example, linking technology, business and research with the learning potential of ARU and Writtle College. As in the example of ‘Knowledge
Cities’ (Arup) or the Writtle College radio project, Chelmsford could do similar things in unusual spaces. A first step would be to identify innovative businesses and start ups in Chelmsford and to explore the potential for high-tech business space for four to six persons including IT companies, engineering and spin off companies. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 6, 19, 20, 27, 28, 29, 48, 52, 54, 55, 65, 67, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77, 79, 82, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, 97, 100 4.6 Foster collaboration Innovative towns and cities are not just focussed on planning and building new fabric. They aim to develop social networks coupled with imaginative use of existing resources and spaces in order to encourage a spirit of collaboration for the exchange of new ideas and initiatives – the Hoxton area in London, was cited as an example. This requires reversing the tendency for Chelmsford’s best young graduates – and many young people in general – to leave the town as this depletes the ‘ready pool of young people in the workforce’ and saps its revitalising energy. What can be done? Affordability is an issue but this also raises the question of how to foster Richard Florida’s combination of ‘technology, talent and tolerance’3 to attract or retain this sector
…build on existing social networks and initiatives via community forums and joint ventures… of the population in Chelmsford. Additionally, the culture of maximising property returns leads to empty spaces at the expense of innovation. Maximisation of shareholder profit is at the expense of innovation. How to challenge the perceived wisdom and change the paradigm? The power of collaboration is seen by participants as an opportunity to establish new ways to be organisationally and financially innovative in economically straitened times – to make the most of local talent and resources, to undertake town improvements and to provide 3 Florida, Richard. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. Cambridge MA: Basic Books. 13
incentives for the marginalised or poor. It was suggested that part of developing a collaborative ethos in Chelmsford is to build on existing social networks and initiatives via community forums and joint ventures hosted on the ‘Changing Chelmsford’ website (www.changingchelmsford. org) – with links to partner websites and predecessor sites like ‘Choosing Chelmsford’. There is an opportunity to develop this as the virtual hub for knowledge sharing and coproduction within Chelmsford’s wider community and beyond. Another opportunity is to identify potential catalysts for sector innovation in Chelmsford. In the health sector (Basildon was cited as an example) – is there a potential link between ARU (a ‘networked university’; research and training), local and London hospitals (staff supply and patient data bases) and the medical business sector? Or in sport innovation – building on Chelmsford’s record and expertise in various sporting areas like cricket and via organisations like Sport Essex? In the cultural sector, Dance Digital, a Chelmsford-based performance company is a natural a sector focus for collaborative exploration. The company is unique in the UK in that makes use of the interplay between dance and technology (e.g. motion capture) to co-create work in news ways. It maintains active partnerships with performers from Denmark and Germany (Berlin) and sometimes stages performances in unusual spaces as a response to the challenges of finding local venues and reaching wider audiences. How to support and exploit this creative initiative? Suggestions proposed include: harnessing the collaborative potential of dance with Chelmsford’s wealth of engineering expertise; another is to use existing streets and squares to accommodate performances and events in the town centre – while a third is knowledge sharing with comparator towns (Peterborough and Folkestone) in order to find ways to stimulate Chelmsford’s creative economy. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 14, 19, 22, 25, 27, 29, 30, 49, 52, 55, 63, 65, 66, 69, 72, 73, 77, 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 99 4.7 Strengthen Chelmsford’s cultural offering Many participants view Chelmsford as ‘punching below its cultural weight’. There is a perception that Chelmsford is not on the Arts Council ‘radar’ due to a stereotyped image of low cultural aspiration based on South Essex towns – in direct contrast with North Essex towns – and representative of a North-South Essex divide. Chelmsford’s 16-19 year old profile in the creative arts / industries is low and
the absence of fly-posters in the town is indicative of a lack of vitality or the range of events offered in Colchester, for example. Perhaps creativity is hidden by a combination of lack of attachment to place, absence of a cultural focus for young people, shopping dominating the identity of a commuter town and networks disconnected from each other. Peterborough has a two year funded ‘Arts and Social Change’ project to break down barriers and build a creative economy hub. Funded by the Arts Council and the local borough, this has the potential to build ‘creative gatherings’ to connect artists and networks. Chelmsford could learn from this. Dance Digital’s view is that Chelmsford is great for commissioning dance performance work, with Stansted Airport providing good access for visiting
…‘punching below its cultural weight’… performers and collaborators from elsewhere in Europe. However, a shortage of local dance venues and a lack of evening activity in the town centre mean Chelmsford looses cultural impetus in that the company makes use of performance spaces and audiences in other towns, while limited public transport results in performers having to stay overnight. Similarly, Chelmsford has a legacy of music events that used to take place in old buildings but many of these are now redeveloped as shops or housing thereby limiting this type of activity. The town centre also fails to benefit from any overlap – or ‘spill-over’ activity – with the successful, externally promoted ‘V’ Festival in that people are encouraged to come and go directly from the (council owned) venue in Hylands Park. Despite these obstacles, there is a strong desire to strengthen and promote Chelmsford’s cultural sector. An initial step would be to undertake an audit of both the cultural offerings in the town as well as of the physical spaces that are potential ‘generators of culture’ in a unique or idiosyncratic way. For example, Dance Digital has a space that dancers can hire or use. The next step would be to build on existing culturally related festivals, figures, organisations and networks in Chelmsford (e.g. the ISAN outdoor artists network, Dance Digital, the ‘Activate’ network of visual artists and organiser of the arts trail, Grayson Perry, ‘V’ Festival). There is potential to link further education colleges and music businesses with 16-19 year olds as part of the sustainable jobs initiative instigated by Creative & Cultural Skills / Learning & Skills Council. This could feed into the ‘V’ Festival – and help nurture a ‘V’ Fringe Festival in the town centre and beyond. 15
Another suggestion is to establish a BID (Business Improvement District) in Chelmsford as a catalyst for a range of creative, cultural and complementary businesses. Folkestone provides an example of how the acquisition of run down or derelict buildings, coupled with the active encouragement of art galleries, studios and creative enterprises, attracted complementary businesses like
…undertake an audit of both the cultural offerings in the town as well as of the physical spaces that are potential ‘generators of culture’… cafes, restaurants and independent shops leading to the cultural regeneration of a once-failing seaside town. Chelmsford’s West End is the best focus for this. Although it already has a diverse mix of small businesses next to the transport hub, it feels separated from this and potentially much more dynamic. Part of Chelmsford’s strategy would be to persuade organisations and developers to provide short term venues for performances and the arts – strengthening the West End and the nightclub cluster around Backnang Square, for example. The belief is that by linking creative pioneers to interesting venues, by encouraging ‘subversive’ events that change perceptions in the town, and by supporting small scale acts in suitable venues, these collectively will have a ripple effect, serving as cultural drivers in the town, thereby attracting new artists or initiatives. This is not to forget that heritage is also part of Chelmsford’s cultural offering. There is an opportunity to explore Chelmsford’s historic linkages – rivers, canals and buildings. Additionally, the precedent of Southend’s installations and performances in public spaces provides a learning opportunity for Chelmsford and raises the question of how to create cultural synergies within the region and beyond. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 8, 18, 23, 38, 39, 40, 45, 47, 48, 49, 57, 58, 63, 68, 76, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 94, 100
4.8 Rethink transport and traffic The car is the mode of transport for Essex due to the structure of the county with its numerous small villages. Chelmsford exemplifies this model. Attracted to the town’s great variety of family housing, Chelmsfordians live and work in fragmented patterns, often commuting to different locations by car or train. Sprawl and town centre congestion are issues that may eventually compromise its attractiveness as a place to live. Chelmsford has a compact town centre, but the Ring Road (Parkway) breaks connectivity between housing areas and green spaces. Busy pedestrian routes have to cross several lanes of Parkway at the Rainsford Road and Coval Lane junctions, and the main pedestrian route to the station goes through a car park. Solutions to reasserting pedestrian precedence and managing the consequences of road engineering from 1960s should be part of a holistic approach for future planning. Chelmsford’s Park and Ride has been a success in bringing people into town. There is an opportunity to increase this facility – although cost and land take are issues – and remove traffic that does not have to be in central Chelmsford. Cambridge was cited an exemplar. Lorry traffic should be routed out of town centre and better use made of parking space for multiple uses. A further step towards greener mobility is to encourage a shift towards electric vehicles by providing ‘juice’ infrastructure (from renewable energy sources/waste to power systems). Better use could be made of waterways as a potential attraction and for environmental, leisure,
…linking creative pioneers to interesting venues, by encouraging ‘subversive’ events that change perceptions in the town… recreation and communications uses as well as for linkages such as footpaths and cycleways. Walking or cycling allow more permeability than does the car; better links along the river provide an opportunity to get families closer to the centre without further traffic congestion. There are also issues of legibility to be addressed in that signage could be improved with a heritage trail from the bus and train stations to local landmarks. www.changingchelmsford.org
The general consensus following the Living Town Walk is that public open spaces in Chelmsford can be improved. The town centre has a high percentage of tarmac and hard surfaces. Not all of these are quality, designed spaces and many are not distinctive. There is scope for more sitting areas, places for people to congregate and spaces for teenagers to meet. In Old Moulsham there is a perceived shortage of play areas, while in some residential neighbourhoods, the ‘no ball games’ signage is preventing the active use of open spaces and represents ‘old thinking’ – although it is recognised that this type of activity can conflict with nearby occupants – for example, small squares surrounded by housing occupied by the elderly. Quality design can resolve this. It was noted that surface parking spaces behind Duke Street and elsewhere could be better used. There are issues where footpaths are not kept in good condition and where a lack of dropped kerbs do not ensure universal access. Improvements would make movement through Chelmsford much more enjoyable. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 16, 21, 26, 34, 46, 47, 50, 57, 66 4.9 Maintain a good quality of life by focussing on attributes There is a general perception among Chelmfordians that their town is a compact, family friendly place. It has a good quality of life, and easy links to the countryside, rivers, canals and the sea. People enjoy the opportunities this provides for canoeing, cycling and walking. The town as a whole has a strong sense of neighbourhood, incorporating villages such as Moulsham, Melbourne and Great Baddow. It has a wealth of local community associations, special interest societies, choirs, worship groups, as well as parish councils and the Civic Society. As a growing town, participants expressed the importance of safeguarding and enhancing these attributes –
…their town is a compact, family friendly place… including the town’s community allotments, its parks and nature reserve space. However concern was expressed about what is perceived to be the unrealised potential of the town centre to reflect or represent the wider town. Some view the centre as having ‘too much shopping’ and insufficient mix of activities or overlap to sustain a
variety of local economies. Certain participants said they do not feel entirely safe walking there after dark and performers find it difficult to get footfall to venues, as there is no incentive to be there after 18h00. Those with families suggested there is little to do that does not involve alcohol. There is a widespread view that the unique heritage of the Anne Knight and Marconi buildings – the sense of what these buildings signify in Chelmsford’s history – and the opportunities they can provide for transformational use – is being lost or wasted as they sit vacant. This raises the question of who ‘owns’ the town centre? The answer – or a common consensus – will have a bearing on planning its future. Many are of the opinion that there needs to be a way of balancing ‘aspirational’ needs and associated building usage on the one hand, with rates of return, land values and business rates, on the other. For example, Moulsham Mill is apparently the last building in the town centre providing incubation space for new small businesses. The desire to safeguard local shops and enterprises is undermined by the disappearance of similar ‘feeder buildings’ for unique places like Moulsham Street. A new focus may be placed on the local neighbourhood parades and associated community and business activity to nurture sustainable local economies. For the town centre as a regional shopping destination, competition from new centres like Westfield Stratford provide a stern challenge to keeping people in Chelmsford to shop and work. Part of the solution lies in making the most of opportunities to redefine the town arising from key development sites, such as the former gas works, Marconi factory and university central campus, as well as sites outside the centre such as St John’s Hospital. These sites provide an opportunity to increase social and economic vibrancy by providing a rich mix of different uses and housing typologies – home as a place to work, for example. Changing lifestyles and working patterns could help develop a modal shift for a renaissance in Chelmsford’s evening economy – perhaps even evolving to a 24hour economy. The view is that many of the 60s and 70s buildings in the town centre also provide an opportunity for creative adaptive reuse to support this, although it is recognised redevelopment is sometimes necessary to create quality buildings and to attract the right people. In all cases, the architecture, public spaces and access routes need to be well designed, of high quality and human scale. They should celebrate or enhance Chelmsford’s entry points through the use of, say, boulevards with quality spaces between buildings such as atria. The Chelmsford Museum was cited as an exemplar. Another of Chelmsford’s attributes is its economic vibrancy across a number of sectors. 17
Maintaining the right balance of jobs, retaining status in academic league tables and attracting high-level jobs were all viewed as being extremely important for Chelmsford’s wellbeing and an opportunity on which to build its future. Development of funding and support frameworks for a wide variety of apprenticeships, SMEs and hightech companies / a high-tech workforce is therefore vital as is the provision of the right types of spaces and rents for a wide variety of enterprises. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 28, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 41, 42, 44, 46, 51, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 68, 78, 82, 84, 93, 98, 100 4.10 Improve resilience and sustainability Some participants expressed feelings of being overwhelmed or ‘down’ in relation to the challenges of tackling issues such as carbon emissions and climate change. Is this a reaction to the status quo, rather than to responding proactively to the opportunity for change and adaptation? Chelmsford’s name is derived from ‘Ceolmaer's ford’ – the crossing between the Rivers Chelmer and Can – near to the site of the present stone
…local businesses should be at the heart of all regeneration projects… bridge on the High Street. In the resilience workshop, the observation was made that Chelmsford has lost its ‘natural rhythm’. While it has a real sense of being a green country town – with ancient hedgerows having the potential of providing a memory of old Chelmsford – clues to natural assets like the topography and its rivers are hidden in the town centre where there is no expressive use of slopes and the rivers are canalised. Chelmsford is also prone to flooding. It has had three 15-20 year flooding incidents in the last ten years. The threat is of a once in a lifetime flood where both Chelmer and Can peak at the same time. Flooding alleviation schemes need to be sympathetic to advantageous uses as there is development pressure on areas liable to flooding. Movement infrastructure – like bridges – also require adaptation to cope with this risk.
Resilience and sustainability were recurring themes throughout the workshops – an implicit, if not always explicit, ambition. Opportunities to improve resilience (i.e. robustness to deal with change when confronted with upheaval) were encapsulated in proposals to strengthen community networks, to provide a diverse and inclusive learning offering and to support all scale and manner of local businesses and enterprises. Opportunities to make Chelmsford more sustainable emerged in themes such as rivers and flooding, green mobility, encouraging more localism – including local currency, food production and retail offering – and increasing capacity in the built environment through creative adaptive reuse and improved utilisation. There is also a desire on the part of Chelmsfordians to increase resilience in the town by ensuring it’s a ‘thriving’ place with live music, outdoor cafes, special places and good neighbourhoods while maintaining the ‘rural-ness’ of its surroundings, growing ‘glocal’ Chelmsford and its diversity initiatives. Both the Unique Town and World Café Workshops were facilitated by Paul Squires of NEF’s Connected Economies team whose approach to sustainability is captured in the belief that ‘local businesses should be at the heart of all regeneration projects, and produce research, policies, programmes and training which help communities protect the diversity of their high streets and the growth of independent enterprise. We also help communities to reinvent their local economy in response to climate change, seeking a new low carbon, high well-being model of local economic development.’4 This emphasises the increasingly important contribution of local centres, workplaces and shopping parades to fostering resilient neighbourhoods. Ideas emerging from this opportunity 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 26, 32, 33, 34, 35, 37, 42, 44, 46, 47, 50, 53, 63, 64, 73, 93, 95, 97, 98, 99
4 http://www.neweconomics.org/programmes/connected-economies 19
embodied in the RSA’s Citizen Power programme which aims to investigate – through a combination of theoretical argument, action research and policy analysis – how people and communities can better shape national, local civic and democratic renewal and, in so doing, influence the shape of the future city.6 This is being test-bedded in Peterborough with insights shared during the Changing Chelmsford ‘Towns like Ours’ Symposium and Town Commons. Related ideas 1, 3, 5, 11, 13, 63, 75, 79, 80, 91, 92, 93, 95
A number of underlying concepts emerged from the 100 ideas and the various opportunities articulated above. These provide the foundation for Changing Chelmsford – and have wider applicability for other places. Mass localism and citizen power The Changing Chelmsford project resonates with policy initiatives across the political spectrum seeking to harness the ideas, energy and commitment of local groups to address contemporary lifestyle challenges through community-led innovation. According to research undertaken by NESTA, ‘mass localism is about seeking distributed solutions to problems and supporting communities to implement them’5. This approach presumes community capacity to innovate and generate tailored solutions that instil a sense of local ownership by encouraging engagement through access to local networks and existing relationships. NESTA research highlights why central government attempts to support and ‘scale-up’ local action via generalised prescription ‘can undermine this rootedness, and take away from what makes localism successful in the first place.’ Mass localism offers an alternative approach to national scaling in that the concept envisages lots of local solutions developed organically, from the
Co-production The concept of co-production is gaining momentum not only borne out of financial necessity, but because it is regarded as a process to more actively and humanely engage citizens as active agents in the design and delivery of public services, rather than as passive recipients of state services. According to NESTA, ‘Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. Where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change.’7 The process recognises people as assets, builds on their existing capabilities, is based on mutuality and reciprocity, uses peer support networks, blurs distinctions between professionals and recipients as well as between producers and consumers of services, thereby enabling public service agencies to become catalysts and facilitators for change rather than central providers of services themselves. Related ideas 11, 13, 60, 61, 62, 63, 75, 91, 92, 95, 98 Social networks and communities of interest
…‘mass localism is about seeking distributed solutions to problems and supporting communities to implement them’…
It is argued that participation, rather than production or consumption will be the key organising idea of future society8. This is underpinned by the revolution in computing and mobile phone technologies that have transformed our social networks and led to the burgeoning communities of interest via the World Wide Web. These virtual networks have the ability to connect, supplement and extend groups that meet
ground up. This requires variously challenging, supporting and rewarding local communities who innovate and facilitating national scaling through collaboration and knowledge sharing, This is
5 Bunt, Laura, and Michael Harris. February 2010. Mass Localism. London: NESTA. 6 http://www.thersa.org/projects/citizen-power7 7 Boyle, David, and Michael Harris. December 2009. The Challenge of Co-Production. London: NESTA. 8 Leadbeater, Charles. 2008. We-Think. London: Profile Books Ltd.
face to face. The RSA’s Connected Communities programme employs social network analysis as a
…engender a new form of civic collectivism – one that is organic, spontaneous and bottom-up… means to understand, plan for and foster the kind of communities residents want. It aims to engender a new form of civic collectivism – one that is organic, spontaneous and bottom-up. The process involves mapping social and organisational networks by surveying and interviewing local people. The responses inform bespoke community development strategies directed in regenerating neighbourhoods in inclusive, efficient, locally owned and embedded ways.9 The desire and need for this type of mapping arose repeatedly throughout the Changing Chelmsford workshops – associated variously with connecting individuals, organisations, businesses and diverse communities of interest with the purpose of exchanging ideas and knowledge, as well as information about space, services and events. Related ideas 3, 8, 14, 15, 19, 29, 30, 63, 66, 69, 73, 77, 80, 83, 87, 92, 93, 94, 95 The learning landscape The proposition for developing Chelmsford as a ‘learning landscape’ originated from discussions in the Learning Town Workshop and research by DEGW. The notion stems from new ways of learning as a consequence of changes in technology (learning any time, any place), demographics (a shift to lifelong and all age learning) and outlook (inclusive, collaborative, flexible learning) leading to new spatial and time models that encourage overlap and blur the boundaries between traditional categories of education space and usage. The learning landscape encourages a cross-sector approach encompassing specialised, generic and informal learning spaces across the city – including laboratories, classrooms, workshops, hubs, homes, museums, galleries, libraries and wildlife habitats – as well as enhanced ‘virtual’ capability through 9. http://www.thersa.org/projects/connected-communities/ about-connected-communities
shared computers and open source software, extended wi-fi networks and bar coded buildings or artefacts linked to mobile phone technology. This provides opportunities for shared facilities and extended usage by a diversity of users leading to more equitable and efficient utilisation of facilities and resources. The approach is embodied in initiatives such as the University of the Third Age, the Academy of Urbanism’s UniverCities project and the RSA’s Whole Education partnership. Related ideas 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 19, 23, 25, 27, 30, 43, 52, 54, 55, 56, 57, 65, 66, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 79, 91, 92, 93, 95, 97, 99 Hub spaces Hub spaces were a constant theme in the workshops with proposals to variously develop an apprenticeship hub, community hubs, an elderly entrepreneur (‘olderpreneur’) hub and an enterprise hub in Chelmsford. Conceptually, hub spaces are technology-enabled, shared work places that, in addition to providing serviced office space, offer a combination of member’s club, innovation space and think tank for like-minded individuals and enterprises. They also provide social meeting space, catering facilities and lecture or workshop space, the aim being to develop collaborative synergies and initiatives amongst its diverse occupants and members. While this represents a type of ‘mixed use’ encompassed in one building, the concept is
…a combination of member’s club, innovation space and think tank… more about ‘hybrid’ space – space with overlapping uses that is intensively used for different purposes, by a multiplicity of users over extended time frames resulting in improved utilisation and added vibrancy. Different levels of access to the facilities within hub spaces are controlled through types of membership, although almost always access is offered to the wider public in the form of a wi-fi café space. In this sense hubs operate as semi-public places even when privately or institutionally owned. Related ideas 19, 25, 27, 55, 62, 65, 70, 71, 72, 88 21
Meanwhile uses Participants in the Changing Chelmsford process frequently proposed ‘meanwhile’ or temporary uses for vacant buildings or land (building sites) – also known as ‘slack space’ – until these are either redeveloped or return to commercial use as and when the market allows. Temporary uses ensure slack spaces are productive in intervening periods as well as being supportive of embryonic businesses or social enterprises. In the case of the public realm, temporary uses in the form of events (like car free days, urban orchards or dance performances) provide an opportunity to change perceptions of place, to test bed changes that might later become permanent, or to modify behaviour through learning. These kinds of uses are therefore not only beneficial to landlords and potential occupants, but also have a positive impact on the surroundings, enlivening otherwise dead or derelict space. The key to unlocking the potential of vacant space involves identifying and brokering deals between the property owners or their agents and leaseholders as well as negotiating specialist licenses/leases, favourable rents, rates and suitable insurances. Increasingly this process is facilitated by organisations like the Development Trusts Association and community interest companies (CICs) such as the Meanwhile Project.
(or ways of doing things) in response to a perceived need or opportunity. It involves creativity and inventiveness. The generation of ideas is part of an iterative process that enables structured development and piloting until an effective solution is reached. Innovation is fostered by a culture of openness and experimentation, networking and collaboration, with strong leadership exhibiting passion and commitment. This was recognised during the workshops in the desire to identify and develop ‘next generation’ cultural leadership and entrepreneurial skills as well as ‘fostering a revolution in organisational change’ to support innovation in its broadest sense. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company demonstrated both innovation and enterprise, so it is not surprising that the Marconi building is seen as a potential enterprise hub or centre for innovation. Related ideas 6, 27, 55, 65, 70, 72, 75, 79, 91, 92, 97
Related ideas 9, 17, 18, 45, 48, 50, 67, 71, 82, 88 Innovation and enterprise The terms ‘innovation’ and ‘enterprise’ were raised on numerous occasions during the workshops, as were ‘entrepreneur’, ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘entrepreneurialism’ – the latter characteristic being attributed to Chelmsford as a consequence of the town’s inhabitants’ ability to risk, learn, get ahead and adapt to change. Enterprise is associated with the characteristic of initiative, resourcefulness and a degree of originality. Chelmsfordians take great
…ability to risk, learn, get ahead and adapt to change… pride in this quality and there is a widespread ambition to encourage and support it in learning, business and social endeavours. Innovation is a process of developing, testing, refining and scaling products, services and methods 23
use/extend it and so create a more networked and engaged community. Initiator: ‘Changing Chelmsford’ Executive Board. 2 Narrative documentary
The ‘Changing Chelmsford’ project has already framed a number of exciting opportunities and seeded 100 ideas, some of which have resulted in 14 initiatives including 8 pledges to action. These relate to a combination of the following: ¶ People / participatory networks; ¶ Processes that change behaviour or delivery of projects and services; ¶ Re-conceptualising and/or reshaping products or places; ¶ Rethinking principles and policies. What follows is a brief outline of some of the initiatives emerging from the Changing Chelmsford process. The timescales for each of these varies – from short to long term actions and outcomes. Budgets also vary in magnitude – some ideas and initiatives require little or no funding, while others are capital intensive. In some cases, existing funds, resources and/or capital assets – may be reallocated or deployed differently. In other cases fundraising through sponsorship or contributions in kind may be pursued. Furthermore, certain ideas and emerging initiatives require no formal approvals or changes in policy or legislation, while others may precipitate a radical rethink leading to systemic change. 1 T he ‘Changing Chelmsford’ website (www.changingchelmsford.org) The web site is regarded as a virtual, interactive ‘community wall’ and social forum for Changing Chelmsford initiatives and collaborators. This independent, umbrella website is unconstrained by the design or corporate constraints of the partner organisations although it provides links to them, other relevant organisations and Web 2.0 platforms. It will serve as the main source for all audiences, events and information about the project and convey its purpose as well as the inspiration, innovation, creativity and energy of the initiative. It will host a blog and discussion forum(s) to encourage other Chelmsford groups to 24
A narrative documentary is in production. Intended to convey Changing Chelmsford’s evolving visioning and participatory process, its purpose is for collaborative exchange and learning purposes, rather than investigative or expository in intention. The aim is to capture the three phases (or ‘Chapters’) of the Changing Chelmsford process – namely project origin, development and outcome. The first chapter, currently being edited, will be shared online to providing a narrative of the project inception. Additional funding is required for the subsequent two chapters. These will capture the essence of some of the ideas generated as well as various pledges made by participants, which, once developed will lead to successful outcomes for this ground breaking city visioning project. Initiatiators: Stephanie Mills, Project Manager ‘Changing Chelmsford’ and Kiran Conlon, Realta Productions. 3 Finding a new use for Shire Hall that reflects the aspirations of ‘Changing Chelmsford’ Dr Nicholas Falk facilitated the Living Town Workshop on the 10th June 2010 and participated in the Town Commons where he pledged, firstly, to report pertinent opportunities and ideas arising from these events as part of some work he would be doing with members of the Development Trusts Association in connection with advice they are giving Essex County Council on the transfer of the Shire Hall. This work was completed in July 2010. The second part of the pledge is to come up with a list of names of people who might be involved in the formation of a trust to take the eventual proposal forward, possibly as an extension of the Local Strategic Partnership. Initiator: Dr. Nicholas Falk – Founder URBED, Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow. 4 Matching underutilised or vacant space with potential users At the Town Commons event on the 28th June 2010, Annabel Brown pledged to establish a ‘young explorer team’ of 13-19 year olds in Chelmsford to map derelict or empty buildings in the town and identify potential www.changingchelmsford.org
users. Using GPS and Google Maps the aim is to create a ‘geographic immune system’ for Chelmsford and in so doing, aid the re-envisioning process. This initiative is now a recipient of a RSA Catalyst Fund award. Initiator: Annabel Brown – Chelmsford Architect and RSA Fellow.
heap of other things that fit with transitioning… like a hand in a glove.’ Initiators: Manoah Smiley and Leonie Ramondt with Christine Barrett, Owen Ephraim, Peter Foreman, Reza Hossain, Chris Moon, Dellé Odeleye, Stephen Robinson, Spleeny Tildesley, Malcolm Wallace and Ben Wright.
5 Enrolling Chelmsford’s acclaimed artist in the local arts cause
8 Making better use of Chelmsford Rivers
Nick Ewbank facilitated the Cultural Town Workshop on the 17th June 2010 and participated in the Town Commons where he pledged to invite Turner Prize recipient, Grayson Perry, back to his hometown of Chelmsford to enrol him into the local arts cause. The agreed date for this is the 12th November 2010.
Michael Wray attended the Productive Town Workshop on the 03rd June and the Town Commons on the 28th June where he pledged, in his capacity as Town Centre Marketing Manager, to use the rivers in the town centre for more events like the Dragon Boats and Christmas Lights.
Initiator: Nick Ewbank – Freelance creative consultant, Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow.
Initiator: Michael Wray – Town Centre Marketing Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council. 9 Creative adaptive reuse of key buildings
6 Establishing a ‘UniverCities’ project as part of Chelmsford’s Learning Landscape Janet Sutherland attended the Town Commons on the 28th June 2010 where she pledged via the Academy of Urbanism to support the establishment of a Chelmsford ‘UniverCities’ project with the involvement of ARU, Chelmsford Borough Council and other interested parties. The aim of UniverCities is to create vibrant, multi-disciplinary groupings of built environment practitioners, developers, universities and other learning providers, research centres, local authorities, regional agencies and local organisations. Through their shared interest in a particular town or city, UniverCities will harness combined energy and expertise to produce new insights into place. Initiator: Janet Sutherland – Director of JTP Cities and Member of the Academy of Urbanism. 7 Transition Town Chelmsford Leonie Ramondt attended the Resilient Town Workshop on the 1st June 2010, the Innovation Town Workshop on the 21st June and the ‘Towns like Ours’ Symposium on the 26th June. At a joint meeting of the Chelmsford Civic Society and the RSA on the 13th September, she and others decided to set up an initial meeting to establish ‘Transition Town Chelmsford’ with an open invitation to attend. Their agenda is ‘very broad, non-political, essentially to take the next step on the road to transitioning and all that this brings ... social networks, sustainability, becoming a hub, Changing Chelmsford and a whole
John Lyall attended the Resilient Town Workshop on the 01st June and the Town Commons on the 28th June where he pledged to arrange for Eric Reynolds, a regeneration specialist for historic buildings and Founder of Urban Space Management – or similar specialist – to look at the potential adaptive reuse of the Marconi building in Chelmsford. Initiator: John Lyall – John Lyall Architects; CABE Enabler; CABE London 2012 Panel. 10 Achieving national recognition for architectural education in Chelmsford At the Town Commons on the 28th June, John Lyall pledged to help and encourage the architecture school at ARU to achieve national recognition for its work and the quality of its design teaching. This is founded on the belief that the future design and the regeneration quality of any large town or city can be enormously assisted by the presence of a strong, confident and very active local school of architecture. The school's fostering of debate and young design talent will have a positive effect on the future of Chelmsford if it engages fully over a long period. Initiator: John Lyall – John Lyall Architects; CABE Enabler; CABE London 2012 Panel. 11 Re-establishing links between ARU and the town centre Stuart Eaves attended the Towns like Ours Symposium on the 25th June, the World Café 25
on the 26th June and the Town Commons on the 28th June where he pledged to initiate discussion between ‘Archifunk’ (a student founded platform for appreciation and engagement with architecture) and others about how to improve the connection between ARU and Chelmsford’s town centre. Initiator: Stuart Eaves – Architectural student at ARU; Co-founder and President, Archifunk. 12 Community hub Councillor Jude Deakin attended the World Café Workshop on the 26th June 2010. Facilitated by NEF’s Connected Communities, the idea for the creation of a ‘community hub’ in the Boarded Barns neighbourhood of Chelmsford was stimulated by the notion of how to ‘connect’. Cllr Deakin continues to work with Cllr Graham Pooley to arrange and attend KRAG meetings. ‘Things are progressing slowly with the two churches (URC and All Saints) holding discussions with architects and planners regarding their new shared 'home'. A survey has been drafted and will be going out to residents within the next couple of weeks. It is hoped that through the survey we will get more residents involved and we will have a much better idea of what the community would like to see happening in the locality. We are also seeking the views of local businesses and other organisations.’
14 Temporary studio space Gordon Flemons attended the Unique Town Workshop on the 08th June, the ‘Towns like Ors’ Symposium on the 25th June and the Town Commons on the 28th June. The Changing Chelmsford workshops discussed making use of ‘meanwhile space’ in vacant or underutilised buildings for studio space. Following these events, he offered to follow up on a chance meeting with Acava – a company that sets up and runs artist studios. Having recently created new studios in Harlow and looking to do the same in Hadleigh, Acava is said to be open to proposals to create new studios in Chelmsford if a suitable property can be found and it can be demonstrated that there is a market. Initiator: Gordon Flemons, Artist.
Initiator: Jude Deakin, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Chelmsford Borough Council, Marconi Ward and for Essex County Council, Chelmsford West. 13 ‘V’ Fringe Festival A groundswell for a ‘V’ Fringe in 2011 emerged at the Changing Chelmsford events in June. Roger Estop, a member of the Changing Chelmsford executive team, pledged to co-ordinate an initiative to get this fringe festival off the ground. ‘Every year thousands of people pour into ‘V’ at Hylands Park, barely touching the town centre. This seems a great opportunity for a Chelmsford Fringe offering exciting, surprising, small events separate from, but around the same time as ‘V’. A genuine fringe festival is essentially a DIY, ad hoc and slightly chaotic event. It is not organised by a promoter – events are arranged individually by performers in small halls, back gardens, pubs, in churches and in the street. In addition to music this would include artists' open studios, poetry and dance.’ Initiator: Roger Estop, Planning Design Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council and RSA Fellow. 27
Changing Chelmsford Next Steps
The Executive Board has recommended that Changing Chelmsford becomes an autonomous body charged with following through on outcomes of the visioning exercise and providing an ongoing management structure for the project. It will continue to be made up of representatives from the RSA, Academy of Urbanism, Essex County Council and Chelmsford Borough Council, as well as a Project Manager. The Board will subsume the responsibilities of the current steering group and work with individuals and representative organisations committed to achieving the aims of the project. This will take the form of a Changing Chelmsford Network that will work alongside the RSA and the Chelmsford Civic Society. Collectively, this group will help connect and extend the networks of participants involved in the project as well as provide the framework for stimulating and nurturing initiatives towards tangible outcomes, for organising and co-ordinating events, and for disseminating information about the project.
…‘Spaces of potential’ – a tour of unique, historic buildings in Chelmsford undergoing change… Organisations will be encouraged to open their doors to the general public for a ‘foyer event’ that addresses something unique or special about Chelmsford or their enterprise. These events provide an opportunity to reveal different aspects of Chelmsford’s identity and raison d’être (past, present, future) as well as to creatively challenge and change common perceptions of people and place. This will be supplemented by ‘talk-walks’ and ‘map-walks’ to engage local people about aspects of Changing Chelmsford and provide an opportunity for them to meet. Some of these will 28
be guided walks others will be self-led, by either downloading a walk – or instigating one. These can be uploaded to the web site along with photographic essays, sound files and ‘mind maps’ of Chelmsford that reveal likes and dislikes about the town as well as opportunities. Initial themes for guided walks include ‘Flows, flooding and food’ – an exploration of the Chelmsford’s rivers and canal; and ‘Spaces of potential’ – a tour of unique, historic buildings in Chelmsford undergoing change. The locus of this activity is the web site – www. changingchelmsford.org – intended as a form of electronic community notice board and repository of ideas for Changing Chelmsford. It aims to engage the wider Chelmsford community about what inspires, challenges or frustrates them about their town and direct them towards platforms for positive action. The web site incorporates space for related community forums, links to partner sites and other interactive sites for uploading related multi-media content. In conclusion, the Chelmsford Initiative is concerned with both the culture and character of the town. It has the potential to involve more people in shaping its future. They can do so by contributing personally and through their communities. Changing Chelmsford will enable the town’s people to join
…intended as a form of electronic community notice board and repository of ideas… together to make things happen and influence decisions. Over the next year an action plan will focus on the outcomes from the workshops, Symposium, World Café and Town Commons. This will be in two parts, covering first the 10 issues, ideas and opportunities and second the 14 initiatives. The Executive Board will manage the process: co-ordinating the activities and networks of local residents and organisations; facilitating involvement of external supporters; and utilising the expertise of professionals in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Board will work with the existing representative bodies in Chelmsford, including the Local Strategic Partnership and the Civic Society. Overall, Chelmsford will build on the clear consensus that gives the town its identity: its heritage; a legacy of innovation; facilitating an entrepreneurial spirit; a high value on learning; and fostering sports and cultural life. www.changingchelmsford.org
The following organisations were either fully active participants in the Changing Chelmsford events during May and June 2010 or were represented by individual participants who attended the events. Academy of Urbanism Acanteen Activate Ancer Spa Anglia Business Resources Ltd Anglia Ruskin University AND Technology Annabel Brown Architects Aquila Holdings Ltd Archifunk Arup Best Western Atlantic Hotel CABE CAG Consultants Cambridge City Council Chelmsford Borough Council Chelmsford Chamber of Commerce
Civic Societies, East of England
Robert Hutson Architects
Core Education UK
Savills (L&P) Ltd
Stephen Feber Ltd
Dublin City Council
T G Vanner Architects
Eco Design and Build
The Creative Foundation
Essex County Council
The Froglife Trust
Transition Town Totnes
Goldsmiths, University of London
Griffith University, Brisbane High Chelmer Shopping Centre HKBS, Netherlands Hudson Architects Husbanken, Norway Jamison Consulting John Llyall Architects JTP Cities Ingleton Wood LLP Inspire Kemsley Property Consultants
University College London University of Bolton University of Essex Urban Narrative Urban Practitioners URBED Urhahn Urban Design Whoosh! @ e2v Wilderness Foundation UK Write Away UK Ltd Writtle College 00:/ Architects
Lend Lease Meadows Shopping Centre Meanwhile Space CIC Mediashed Moulsham Traders Association National Skills Academy New Economics Foundation Nvisage
Chelmsford Chapter of Architects
Peter Brett Associates
Chelmsford Civic Society
Chelmsford Parish Councils
Rob Bristow – 14-19 Area Manager, Essex Diploma and Sixth Form Support & Challenge Lead, Essex County Council. Annabel Brown – Annabel Brown Architects and RSA Fellow. Gillian Burgis – Director of Strategy and Design, DEGW; Chelmsford resident.
Many of the participants mentioned below attended one or more of the ‘Changing Chelmsford’ events during May and June 2010 – some attended a majority of the events. Felicity Allwell – Dance Digital. Robin Auld – Business Development Manager, National Skills Academy; Creative Director, Tuff.
Roy Chandler – Chairman, Essex Waterways.
Martin Ebbes – Ancer Spa – Economic Regeneration. Roger Estop – Planning Design Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council and RSA Fellow. Nick Ewbank – Freelance creative consultant, Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow. Dr Nicholas Falk – Founder URBED, Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow.
Jan Chaplin – Chelmsford resident.
Stephen Feber – RSA Fellow.
Sarah Chaplin – Head of Research JTP Cities; CABE Enabler; Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow.
Paul Finch OBE – Chair of CABE; Editorial Director of the Architectural Review and Architects’ Journal.
John Chapman – Director, PRP Architects.
Gordon Flemons – Artist.
Chris Balch – Director, Precode: Planning, Regeneration & Development Consulting, Member of the Academy of Urbanism.
Andrew Claiborne – Senior Lecturer, Department of the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin University.
Lynn Ballard – ‘Heart of Essex’ advocate.
Barry Coltrini – Development Manager, Lend Lease.
Jamie Banks – Director, Anglia Business Resources Ltd.
Judith Cronshaw – Chelmsford Chapter of Architects.
Christine Barrett – Chelmsford Resident.
Jocelyn Cunningham – RSA Director of Creative Learning.
Liz Best – Principal Enabling Officer (Housing Strategy), Chelmsford Borough Council.
Cllr. Jude Deakin – Lib Dem Councillor for CBC – Marconi Ward & ECC – Chelmsford West.
Joost Beunderman – Urhahn Urban Design London; 00:/ Architects and Member of the Academy of Urbanism.
Ben Dellot – RSA Citizen Power Peterborough team.
Brian Frost – Chelmsford Civic Society. Michael Fuller-Gee – Chief Architect, Husbanken, Norway. Nikki Gamble – Write Away UK Ltd; she is planning a bookshop/learning centre in Chelmsford. Jim Gillies – Arts interest.
Henk Bouwman – HKBS, Netherlands. Guy Briggs – Consultant architect and urban planner, Member of the Academy of Urbanism. 30
Frank Duffy – Co-Founder DEGW and RSA Fellow. Matthew Eaves – Director of Creativity, Clever Atom, Chelmsford.
Dick Gleeson – City Planner, Dublin City Council; Director, Member of the Academy of Urbanism. Stuart Graham – Chelmsford Borough Council. David Green – Director of Sustainable Communities, Chelmsford Borough Council. Gareth Gunning – Lecturer, Department of the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin University.
Stuart Eaves – Architectural student at Anglia Ruskin University; Founder Archifunk. www.changingchelmsford.org
Patricia Gupta – Chair of the Chelmsford Chapter of Architects; RIBA Holdings Board; and Board of Governors of Anglia Ruskin University; and RSA Fellow.
Louise Jamison – Director, Jamison Consulting.
David Meadows – Chair of Moulsham Traders Association.
Peter Judd – Dean of Chelmsford; President of Chelmsford Civic Society.
Emily Miller – Director, Meanwhile Space CIC.
Tony Hall – Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
Tom Kinloch – Senior Associate, Kemsley Property Consultants.
Andrew Harrison – Director of Learning & Research at DEGW; Chair of the Centre for the Creative Industries in the Shetland Islands; Trustee of the UK Crafts Council.
Joanne Knapek – Dance Digital.
Stephanie Mills – Project Manager on behalf of the RSA; Director, Cite Design Ltd and PhD Student at University College London.
Prof. Peter Landshoff – Chairman of Civic Societies, East of England and Vice Chairman of the RSA's Regional Committee.
Richard Millwood – Director, Core Education UK; Reader in Distributed Learning, University of Bolton; Former Head of Ultralab.
Nicole La Ronde – Head of Planning and Regeneration, Ingleton Wood LLP.
Prof. Jay Mitra – Founding Professor of Business Enterprise and Innovation; Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Research and Head of School of Entrepreneurship & Business at the University of Essex, Southend; RSA Fellow.
Peter Heather – Chelmsford Chapter of Architects. Christopher Hewitt – Inward Investment, Economy & Growth Officer, Chelmsford Borough Council. Jenny Hill – Adult Community Learning; Visual artist; Former chair of Activate. Paul Hirst – Aquila Holdings Ltd. Rob Hopkins – Founder Transition Towns Movement (by videolink). Anthony Hudson – Hudson Architects; Chelmsford Chapter of Architects. Anna Hughes – Local resident; North Avenue & KRAG. Ruth Hughes – Local resident; North Avenue URC & KRAG. Nick Humfrey – Fastrack Manager working on the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 for Essex County Council. Robert Hutson – Robert Hutson Architects, Chelmsford Chapter of Architects. Kari Huvestad – Landscape Architect, Arendal, Norway.
David Law – Principal of Chelmsford College. Hana Loftus – Director, HAT Productions, RSA Fellow. Jeremy Lucas
Dr Chris Moon – Eco Design and Build; RSA Fellow.
Chris Luffingham – Fellowship Networks Development at RSA Bristol.
Zoe Myddelton – Regeneration & Economic Development Officer, Essex County Council.
John Lyall – John Lyall Architects; CABE Enabler; CABE London 2012 Panel.
Malcolm Noble – Chair, Chelmsford Initiative; Former Headmaster Bexleyheath School; RSA Fellow.
Sue Macfarlane – Wilderness Foundation UK.
Sarah Noble – RSA Fellow.
Hari Mann – Director of Enterprise for RSA Projects.
Sophie Noble – Associate, Arup Integrated Urbanism.
Steve McAdam – Founder and Director, Fluid; Member of the Academy of Urbanism.
Emma Norris – RSA Citizen Power in Peterborough.
Mick McDonagh – Chelmsford Chamber of Commerce Committee; High Chelmer Shopping Centre. Janice McLean – Lecturer in planning at Anglia Ruskin University.
Dr Dellé Odeleye – Senior Lecturer, Department of the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin University; Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow. Margaret Otter – Parish Council Representative.
Cheryl Owen – Sales Manager, Best Western Atlantic Hotel, Chelmsford.
Jenny Robinson – Planner / Urban Designer, Chelmsford Borough Council.
Carley Taylor-Neilson – Deputy Centre Manager, High Chelmer Shopping Centre.
Dr Susan Parham – Director at CAG Consultants, Board Member at Council of European Urbanism, Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow.
Jonathan Rowson – RSA Connected Communities.
Chris Thompson – Actor and Theatre Consultant; RSA Fellow.
Helen Russell – Senior Skills Manager, Skills and International Trade, Essex County Council.
Valerie Thorn – Managing Director, AND Technology, RSA Fellow.
Biljana Savic – Senior advisor CABE; Member of the Academy of Urbanism.
Paul Van Damme – Parks & Heritage Service Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council.
Barry Shaw – Head of the Built Environment and Director of the Essex Design Initiative, Essex County Council; Member of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow.
Ben van Bruggen – Director Urban Design, Savills (L&P) Ltd.
Robert Parker – Senior Transport Director, Peter Brett Associates. Glen Parkington – Parks & Heritage Service Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council. Sue Patel – Manager, Meadows Shopping Centre. David Pocknell – Pocknell Studio; RSA Fellow. Councillor Graham Pooley – Lib Dem Councillor for CBC – Marconi Ward; Shadow Chair, Sustainable Communities. Jeremy Potter – Senior Planning Officer (Policy) Chelmsford Borough Council.
Jonathan Simcock – Architectural student at Anglia Ruskin University. Shamiso Sithole – Dance Digital Youth Dance Company. Steve Smith – Founder and Director, Urban Narrative.
Leonie Ramondt – Inspire, Staff Development, Anglia Ruskin University.
Martin Spaul – Project Officer, Department of the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin University.
Councillor Sian Reid – Liberal Democrat Councillor – Leader, Cambridge City Council.
Paul Squires – Connected Economies, New Economics Foundation.
Clare Reilly – Fellowship Networks Manager, RSA.
Derek Stebbing – Planning Policy Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council.
Liam Rich – Cultural Events Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council. Antony Rifkin – Joint Managing Director, Urban Practitioners; Member of the Academy of Urbanism. Hilary Robinson – Chelmsford Chapter of Architects.
Janet Sutherland – Director of JTP Cities; The ID&EA strategic housing framework agreement; Board member of Aldwyck Housing Group; a Director of the London Housing Foundation; Member of the Academy of Urbanism.
Terry Vanner – Chelmsford Chapter of Architects. Barbara Vohmann – Senior Lecturer & Module Manager, Department of the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin University. Linda Wenlock – The Froglife Trust. Philip Wing – Architectural student at Anglia Ruskin University. John Wood – Professor of Design, Goldsmiths University of London. Guy Wood-Gush – Independent Healthcare Investment Professional. Professor John Worthington – Co-Founder DEGW; Director of the Academy of Urbanism and RSA Fellow. Michael Wray – Town Centre Marketing Manager, Chelmsford Borough Council.
Matthew Taylor – Chief Executive, The RSA. www.changingchelmsford.org
1 Connect Chelmsford’s many quality learning institutions, including in those supporting the 14–19 year age group. 2 Create an inspirational student or learning parliament that encompasses a more coherent, holistic view of Chelmsford as inclusive and diverse. 3 Create a holistic virtual learning space as a gateway between individuals, organisations, processes and disciplines. 4 Use learning as an umbrella for all the other Chelmsford workshop themes. 5 Encourage Chelmsford to become an intentional campus with institutions celebrating being part of a learning community offering a diversity of educational opportunities. 6 Encourage and support the natural Chelmsford attribute of entrepreneurialism to learn, develop, get ahead and adapt to change.
the built fabric of Chelmsford with a growing database of people sharing information and stories – like the Moulsham Street traders are doing for each of their premises. 9 Encourage learning in outdoor places and non-institutional spaces (community library, coffee shop, and pub) to facilitate the blurring of boundaries and shared collaborative spaces. 10 Design riverside and waterside development to overcome flooding problems including the provision of living spaces on upper floors rather than on ground floors; the addition of ‘safety valves’ or flood alleviation areas; the instigation of flood scenario planning between community and emergency services; ‘sponge principles’ like the use of water meadows to ensure amenity while offsetting risk; and raising bridge heights to provide sufficient clearance when water levels are high. 11 Use local businesses and the third sector as ‘resilience champions’ in return for subsidised rents with the aim of changing behaviour patterns, developing knowledge, maintaining provisions and logistical strategies in an emergency. 12 Work with the Environment Agency and communities on a Flood Escape Management Plan that brings statutory and non-statutory processes together.
7 Develop a vision for a new learning landscape that provides a connection between learning and the town with the support of a Chelmsford Visioning Group.
13 Run leadership workshops to unlock potential in socially deprived communities and empower them to communicate more effectively.
8 Develop an internet resource for city-wide learning that connects, by barcode to laptops, ipods and mobile phones,
14 Use the physical and logistical infrastructure for waste recycling or composting and CHP or waste-to-power schemes as an
opportunity to get people to collaborate and develop social networks. 15 ‘Make visible’ by mapping, Chelmsford emissions, pollution and wasted energy to raise environmental awareness and encourage behaviour change. 16 Provide the infrastructure and know-how to support cycling and walking including the walking bus, a network of cycle routes that links into the national network and bicycle parking at local venues. Promote widely once created. 17 Support temporary uses to test bed change that may become permanent later and that uses learning to influence behaviour (e.g. events like car-free days; mini-orchards in car parks). 18 Improve the utilisation of empty, derelict or ‘slack’ spaces – especially those that are publicly owned – by developing an SME strategy to support existing and embryonic businesses via flexible leases and a subsidised rent structure. Extend ground floor retail to include office space for small businesses and the right mix of activities as ‘pump primers’ to encourage vibrancy. 19 Develop synergies between commercial, institutional, charitable and third sector uses by developing social networks and extending wi-fi hotspots in shared, multi-user spaces (e.g. ARU). 20 Foster more start-ups, linked to training, in all disciplines. 21 Retain quality of life in Chelmsford by improving public transport and cycling infrastructure. 22 Develop a diversity of learning opportunity – 33
‘a learning plan for all’ – by providing linkages between different sectors, at all levels. 23 Celebrate, promote and maintain Chelmsford’s attributes of uniqueness including good places to eat, shop, meet, explore. Make it interesting, an experience, something different – or free. 24 Encourage adaptive reuse of Chelmsford’s unique buildings and places, as well as physical linkages and connections to their history and occupants. 25 Develop an apprenticeship hub. 26 Develop park and ride facilities that are connected to other uses / modes of transport and an infrastructure with electric charging points powered from renewable energy and/or waste. 27 Develop elderly entrepreneur hubs. 28 Ensure the right balance, quality and types of buildings/spaces on large, key sites like the Marconi factory and near the railway station, in order to attract investment from appropriate developers and occupants to foster innovation and encourage vitality. 29 Improve business-tobusiness communication and raise awareness of what’s going on in Chelmsford, not only to this sector but also within the wider community. 30 Tap into the economic potential of Chelmsford’s history, places, streets and natural environment by providing information packs in hotels, public buildings and on the Internet.
31 Develop more quality hotel accommodation – maybe on the Marconi site; funky bed and breakfast places – Brighton style; a hub hotel as well as an affordable Travelodge model.
42 Encourage and support more independent food shops in Chelmsford as well as specialist food shops like a butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer and baker.
32 Offer high street club cards in style of Kensington and Chelsea ‘wedge’ card or a local currency like Transition Pounds to support local businesses.
43 Develop a Chelmsford history trail to encourage an appreciation of its history, to get it ‘on the map’. Make use of the Internet and install an obelisk plan to mark the town’s seven quarters.
33 Encourage local swaps and barter forums (e.g. time banks and schemes like ‘adopt-a-granny’). 34 Develop Chelmsford as a zero carbon town as a unique selling point in the long term. 35 Encourage food led economic regeneration – with shorter supply chains, seasonal food, local and farmers’ markets, allotments, a ‘gastronomic’ landscape in both the surrounding countryside and the urban townscape – to celebrate Chelmsford as a ‘contemporary’ market town. 36 Make best use of brownfield sites in the town centre to contain sprawl and intensify the hub. 37 Expand the high street market to generate buzz in the town centre. 38 Encourage more theatre productions in the centre of Chelmsford and market ease of access to counter the attraction of London. 39 Develop more activities for children outside of school hours. 40 Develop Anglia Ruskin University as more of a cultural driver in the town. 41 Establish a good Italian deli in Chelmsford.
44 Establish community gardens in dead spaces and encourage guerrilla gardening. 45 Grow the supply of art space by starting with many small art spaces in rooms at the back of pubs and garages. 46 Transform New Street into a cycle and walking street that connects ARU with the town centre. Take out unnecessary signs and lines. Improve wayfinding and plant trees. 47 Make better use of the river edge with overlapping activities and events. 48 ‘Adopt a space’. Map marginal spaces and appropriate them. 49 Develop a ‘V’ Fringe Festival in small venues throughout the town; promoting electronic, experimental music and other creative activities. 50 Shut Parkway every Sunday for skateboarding and other people focussed activities. 51 Make small, affordable changes to improve town entrances and make them more unique. 52 Develop linkages and scope for innovation between www.changingchelmsford.org
ARU, large businesses and small enterprises.
increasing the diversity, size and affordability of mixed uses within the retail offering.
53 Increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions by making better use of local suppliers.
to move. Encourage a mix of age groups and different forms of ownership. Housing is not just bricks and mortar. Find ways to create a sense of community by creating meeting places that engender neighbourhood pride.
54 Develop a skills base that focuses on the future not the past (e.g. the space industry).
62 Explore the potential of ordinary local neighbourhood and local centres.
55 Develop the Marconi building as an enterprise hub.
63 Encourage local associations and connections (e.g. community choirs), events (e.g. street parties) and activities (e.g. open studios, allotments). Develop a temporal and spatial hierarchy for these. Explore communities of interest that are linked virtually and physically – like the Central Park skateboard community. Use different forms of technology to communicate what’s happening and where; to increase cross linkages, engender civic pride, tap voluntary activity, change perceptions and access newcomers.
69 Provide universal, free wifi of good quality in the centre of Chelmsford by encouraging businesses to provide overlapping ‘hot spots’ via existing networks like the BT Fon service.
56 Reintegrate ARU with the town centre by moving some classes and the graduation ceremony back to the historic core. 57 Create a heritage trail from the railway and bus stations with visible links and signage offering improved choice and visibility for visitors. 58 Explore the potential of the heritage triangle between Shire Hall, Marconi and Anne Knight buildings. Promote the history of these buildings, their occupants and legacies – as well as their adaptive reuse – harnessing this as an opportunity for Chelmsford’s identity and branding. 59 Facilitate the potential for lower paid workers to rent rooms in houses where offspring have moved out in exchange for domestic chores (e.g. garden maintenance, DIY, shopping errands,). 60 Ask the people of Chelmsford what they want in terms of housing – make them feel heard and welcome. Identify their needs; don’t rely on ‘market-speak’. Provide a range of choices. 61 Build quality, flexible housing that can adapt to changes in the lifestyle needs of the occupants so they do not need
64 Ascertain what events, initiatives, activities and places bring people together in Chelmsford and have the potential to make the town more distinctive or a better place to live. For example, a River Day, ‘Made in Chelmsford’ shop, ‘Lets’ or local currency or a farmers’ market with stalls enabling community groups to showcase their offerings. 65 Establish a Centre for Innovation incorporating an internet cafe, mix of flexible uses, a cultural and arts centre with private uses that make public use more viable.
68 Create a combined 4 star boutique hotel with an exhibition / concert space.
70 Create a space in the town centre for (social) entrepreneurs to work, meet, network, spark ideas, start initiatives and exchange knowledge with daily slots for different groups to meet. 71 Provide serviced, affordable, easy-in easy-out space for businesses in 70’s type buildings with a mix of smaller, larger and more formal businesses to foster peer-to-peer mentoring. Include hub spaces offering coffee and catering. 72 Encourage ARU (in conjunction with ‘olderpreneurs’) to offer innovative mentoring and training courses as well as space to support new businesses. 73 Map local, social networks in Chelmsford to capture the potential of knowledge exchange, mentoring, social capital and complementarities. 74 Do a ‘health check’ on business space and businesses in Chelmsford.
66 Instigate ‘Talk Walks’ to reveal community networks and uses, not just focus on bricks and mortar.
75 Create an innovation fund to attract people with good ideas and match them with funding and business acumen.
67 Rethink retail space in order to support emerging businesses and add vitality by
76 Stimulate the evening economy in the town centre by encouraging overlapping 35
activities over different timescales, including housing, and by improving the cultural offering to change perceptions and generate revenue in the town centre after hours. 77 Create a ‘virtual’ organisation for businesses of all scales in Chelmsford to encourage social networking via a multimedia approach. 78 Develop a new multifunctional theatre, possibly hosted by another building use. 79 Identify and develop ‘next generation’ cultural leadership and entrepreneurial skills in order to stimulate networks, to generate creative ideas and the right ‘can do’ attitude to funding. 80 Support and build on existing, indigenous arts organisations to develop a strategic vision and ‘a collective voice’ to strengthen Chelmsford’s cultural networks and identity. 81 Investigate the potential of corporate social responsibility of major Chelmsford companies as an avenue for developing a strategic vision and stimulus for ‘Cultural Chelmsford’. 82 Follow the example of ‘meanwhile space’ to provide a conduit for enterprises to secure space at peppercorn rents in vacant shops and derelict buildings. This is not just charity – it’s a business proposition. Steps in the process include developing a database of vacant or underused properties, identifying owners as well as the ‘market’ for this space. Create an umbrella organisation for the space to be collectively inhabited (i.e. a community organisation with strong leadership). 36
83 Do an audit of arts organisations and individuals in Chelmsford and map social networks to identify links and hubs. Launch this initiative and umbrella organisation with a sector event. 84 Explore potential heritage funding for Shire Hall, Marconi and Anne Knight buildings to develop asset base of venues that provide public functions in a modern sense (culture, innovation, enterprise, civic society) – maybe catalysed in response to a specific event like the100th anniversary of Marconi radio broadcast and its legacy in 2020. 85 Establish an arts and heritage trust to bring cultural organisations together. 86 Explore imaginative ideas for developing audiences in Chelmsford.
creative and cultural programme and Detroit’s ‘open innovation’ model) for benchmarking and fostering innovation. Creativity and change in these places is focussed on end users – thereby strengthening human capital by drawing people together. Their projects have a multiplier effect with simultaneous benefits for local and international links to likeminded initiatives. 92 Foster a revolution in ‘organisational change’ to support innovation in its broadest sense. This encompasses how we interact, make best use of existing social networks, how we use information and communications technology, as well as microprocessors and smart cards.
87 Develop a database that differentiates between cultural, leisure and entertainment activities in Chelmsford (like Peterborough ‘Vivacity’ which distinguishes between culture, leisure and sport).
93 Evolve towards a ‘smart town’ at the leading edge of connectivity and technology. CBC could spearhead such an initiative by fostering open networks, identifying and enrolling leading edge businesses, and generating awareness across a range of public sector services, users and producers.
88 Bring performances to the public and embrace experimentation by presenting audiences with challenge and creativity in unusual spaces.
94 Map the resources, needs and ‘slack capacity’ of Chelmsford based enterprises, community groups and key individuals.
89 Get on awareness ladder by making funding applications – for example, to the Arts Council ‘Escalator’ Fund for mid-career artists.
95 Instigate collaborative, citizen-based research about health and wellbeing (ref. ‘EpiCollect’ which links smartphones to web applications for epidemiology, ecology and community data collection.) This aggregates data to generate research that effects change and makes it visible.
90 Organise ‘pitch sessions’ to bring performers and artists together with space providers and funders. For example, £1000 seed funding can sometimes have a ripple effect. 91 Explore existing methodologies (ref. Berlin’s
96 Establish micro-finance initiatives that allow investors to select endeavours they want to support. Small amounts www.changingchelmsford.org
of investment can have large multiplier effects (ref. Grameen Bank and Zopa). 97 Start social enterprise courses in schools or establish a school run as a social enterprise (ref. Detroit Community Farm). 98 Formulate a ‘Community Charter’ or articulate a coherent set of ‘value based goals’ – by and for Chelmsfordians – around which a town vision and identity can evolve. This should allow for multiple identities and vales in different parts of Chelmsford. 99 Develop a wider offering for learning in Chelmsford including action-based research whereby participants collectively learn by doing. 100 Develop and exhibition space with associated hotel in Chelmsford as a place for innovative companies and enterprises to showcase their products and services as well as provide a performance venue (ref. London’s Excel Centre).
Report findings published on behalf of The RSA. What began as a four-month long collaborative ‘visioning’ exercise in re-imagining Chelmsfor...
Published on Sep 1, 2010
Report findings published on behalf of The RSA. What began as a four-month long collaborative ‘visioning’ exercise in re-imagining Chelmsfor...