Putting place at the heart of policy
Earlier this year The Scottish Government and COSLA agreed to adopt the Place Principle. But what does it mean for you and your community?
The places we live, work, grow-up, and have fun in shape who we are – we all know the places and spaces that are important to us. Turning that approach into real policies and actions may seem daunting and difficult – but it’s a task worth achieving.
Simply and at its heart, a place-approach should be putting people and communities first and at the centre of decision making. It’s about working alongside and with communities and not doing things to them. And it’s about recognising the enormous potential of our people and communities by enabling them, supporting them, believing in them, and trusting them.
It may sound like common sense, but it requires decision makers to fundamentally rethink how things are done. And that’s as it should be in a country grappling with significant challenges: an ageing population, continued austerity, Brexit and an economy that still sees too many people unable to afford the basic necessities of life.
“More of the same” isn’t an option, and so we must reform what we do, empower where we can, act preventatively, and build better lives for the people of our country. The holistic place-based approach to policy, decisions and resources makes sense. It enables and encourages a way of working that breaks down professional boundaries, and helps us prioritise wellbeing, dignity and respect as much as economic success.
The Place Principle that we adopted is a collaborative, participative approach – bringing ideas and decisions about services, land and buildings together to improve their impact on communities and people’s lives.
It demands that all those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place need to work and plan together, with local communities, to create more successful places.
And again, while this seems straightforward and reasonable, we must recognise its importance over the alternative option, which allows a damaging, “aye been” culture to prevail.
That’s why real life examples are important to illustrate what is possible and the difference a place-based approach can make.
Place-making across Scotland
Since taking up my role last year, I’ve seen first-hand how the Place Principle and place-based approaches have been working well across the country.
At Clyde Gateway in Glasgow, a partnership of the Councils, Health Board, and local community is building upon the legacy of the Commonwealth Games to address health inequalities and to provide practical actions which can be adopted in similar communities.
Earlier this summer I had the privilege of meeting local residents who talked about the improvements to housing, the environment and access to good jobs.
Clyde Gateway has built up a positive reputation of getting things to happen, and delivering change. Not in a paternalistic way, but instead rooted in what the community want. The partnership is driving forward transformation of jobs, health, diet, activity, play, education, opportunity, transport, investment and a whole host of other things.
It recognised the need to re-build trust with a community that had for decades, seen projects drop in and out and spend money without seeing longer term improvements. Clyde Gateway’s approach is fundamentally changing that and delivering significant benefit for the whole community.
Most recently, I had the privilege of visiting Gallatown in Kirkcaldy to meet community members and local public service delivery partners: NHS Fife, Architecture and Design Scotland, Inspiring Scotland and Plan for Kirkcaldy, the local neighbourhood plan team.
What was striking was how the community and folk in Gallatown owned and shaped their vision and aspiration through genuine and visible affectionate collaboration with the council. This impressive strength of voice was a clear sign to me that this community were in charge and that dynamic is, for me, the right one.
These are just a few examples of where places across Scotland have been working together to improve and shape the future of their own communities.
I know there are many more good stories, and sharing them will help us to shape our understanding and illustrate practice that we can learn from and adapt to our own place.
With concerted effort, leadership, resource and really importantly – patience, we can all play our part in making our places more successful. Working together in this way may mean a few bumps on the road, but if we learn from that and stay focused on improving lives and enhancing wellbeing, then the prize is worth striving for.
There are tools and support to help and more can be found about the Place Principle to help you consider how this will change the way you work.
Place standard is an online tool which provides an effective framework for evaluating and appreciating our places. It recognises the link between things like green space, lighting, derelict buildings – around concepts like connectedness, isolation and amenity and whether or not people and communities feel positive about where they live.