Researchers from ippr - which on tv last night was referred to as "the government's own think-tank" - have been asking existing and prospective residents in the Thames Gateway regeneration about the growth plans for the area.
Among the findings -
- Existing residents believed that only new residents would benefit from any improvements such as new facilities and services.
- And they expressed "very negative attitudes towards prospective new residents, with some people expressing racist opinions and an expectation that new and existing residents would not integrate."
The researchers' recommendations include:
"Give greater priority to community development and invest in increasing the capacity and skills of local authorities and the community and voluntary sector to address community cohesion issues,"
"Engage with and consult existing communities to ensure that the investment in the Growth Areas reflects their needs, as well as those of new residents,"
and a candidate for No-Brainer of the Year Award,
"Invest in infrastructure and community facilities that will make places attractive to people."
Surely they're all no-brainers, I can't really believe the implication that no involvement of local people has gone on or that upgrading of community facilities, amenities and transport has not been part of the plan from the outset? Perhaps things are far worse than I thought.
It seems the need to understand community cohesion issues is pretty urgent. The report notes:
"Perhaps the most troubling insight was into the ill-informed and suspicious attitudes of the existing residents we interviewed in the outer areas of the Gateway." People's concerns "were underwritten by a general sense of powerlessness and exclusion."
How do you transform such tensions into the WIMBY principle - Welcome Into My Backyard? Obviously it takes some skilled community development, lots of work on engagement and, I suggest, an early start.
The report is here.