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30.07.15

Groundbreaking project looks to improve health and wellbeing through urban design

Councillors and ambassadors from Bournemouth’s West Howe are looking for potential investors in a series of regeneration projects as part of a masterplan to revitalise the impoverished estate.

The region – one of the most deprived in England, with 37% of residents living below the poverty line – has recently been assessed by Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset Police, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group and experts from the Design Council in a jointly-funded effort to pinpoint areas that needed improvement.

The assessment, including 17 walkabouts around 14 different areas and a ‘visioning festival’, was powered by Design Council’s new project Active by Design. It has been developed to help councils and organisations tackle inequalities and promote healthy living through intelligent urban planning.

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Despite residents from West Howe reporting a strong sense of community in the area, more than 40% of adults have no qualifications and people from the area are between three and seven times more likely to be heavy smokers than elsewhere in Bournemouth. They are also more likely to have a BMI over 30 and rarely exercise, as a result of the estate’s unsafe and derelict public spaces.

Sue Bickler, head of regeneration at Bournemouth Borough Council, said in an interview with PSE: “The role of our community ambassadors and the impact it had on them without the implementation – just the empowerment and having a say by analysing the area and seeing how it could be different, as well as their contribution being valued – has been really important.

“We can deliver some things just through mainstream activities but some require funding, and having this detailed plan might help that become available. Some of the bigger projects will actually have to go through another master planning exercise to identify how the work will be phased and how we can get the funding for it.”

More than 80 participants trained by design experts walked around areas of the estate to evaluate what could be renovated to promote better health. They collated evidence from their walks to draft seven priorities, including a complete redevelopment of the estate’s central area, new and better housing, improved parks and streets, and enhanced cycle and pedestrian routes.

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Information was then amassed by Active by Design representatives for consultation in youth centres, schools, libraries and residential areas, tied together by a larger consultation event including hundreds of locals.

Staff from public schools, housing and transport officers, youth workers and local partners helped compile a series of recommendations for a report later approved by the council.

Bickler said: “In the long term, there will be some major projects looking at the potential for bringing in some more public facilities and services, and making the area more walkable and cyclable. One of the recommendations is creating a new heart to West Howe that could involve developing more high-density housing within the centre, which will take the pressure off our housing waiting list and enable people to move from the inappropriate housing they might currently be in.”

She added that the police are particularly interested in how design can impact on anti-social behaviour given that the estate has a higher crime rate than the rest of the town.

“The fundamental approach is something we can all take through all of our work – thinking about design, about how streets and public open spaces are laid out, and how it can all contribute to wellbeing,” she said.

Read more about West Howe and Active by Design in the upcoming August/September edition of Public Sector Executive. Subscribe for free here.

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