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Shaping new places with the next generation


Cracking the code to good community engagement is key to delivering new places for the future. Whilst all contributions are important in shaping this conversation, we know that the voices and perspectives of the younger generation are often underrepresented and undervalued.

We also realise that, as the people set to be using and benefiting from these places in the future, there is a massive, missed opportunity to engage with young people in shaping urban landscapes and community spaces. That is why we went one step further in our work with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) at Sir John Moore Barracks, Winchester.

In addition to a youthtargeted social media campaign, we worked with the local secondary school to engage with dozens of young people studying engineering and geography. The Sir John Moore Barracks project gave GCSE students a live case study, right on their doorstep, on what development is. Covering everything from flooding and transport to landscape and placemaking, the sessions revealed an array of opportunities for young people to engage with the built environment.

Reaching out to the school and making the built environment relevant to young people, was more than a consultation tick-box exercise. Young people bring fresh ideas and innovative approaches to the table.

Their creativity and ability to think outside the box can inject new life into the traditional development processes and approaches as we know them. Whether it’s reimagining public spaces, incorporating sustainable design elements, or leveraging technology for smarter solutions, young minds often possess the ingenuity needed to tackle complex urban challenges.

When young people are actively engaged in the planning process, they develop a sense of ownership and pride in their communities. By participating in planning workshops, they feel empowered to shape the spaces where they live, work, and play. This sense of belonging fosters greater community cohesion and encourages young people to become stewards of their neighbourhoods, driving positive change over the long term.

The key takeaway from the session – squashing assumptions that young people only want to sit on social media and video games consoles – was the clear calls for more outdoor activities and socialising spaces for teenagers. We know that a lot of schemes focus on activities for children through the inclusion of parks and playgrounds – but what are we delivering for the teenagers and young people who are not interested in swings and slides?

These conversations came at a similar time to the publication of a National Trust survey which found three-quarters of children want more time in nature. As the people responsible for shaping places for the future generation, it’s vital we shape these places with the help of future generations. By failing to do that, we’re ignoring an entire demographic of people who may live, work or play at the site in years to come.

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