Some 89% of 16- to 18-year-olds have never been asked about the future of their neighbourhood. Taken from a survey we conducted last year, this is a disappointing statistic given this is the generation that should benefit from developments being delivered today.
Involving young people in how places are made is in the sector’s best interests. It injects fresh perspectives and refocuses our priorities, helping us to deliver schemes that can be successful in the long term. For instance, teenagers want independence but do not always have access to a car, so they bring valuable insights for designing developments that prioritise active travel and public transport links.
So, how do we reach and engage with young people? This was a question we tackled through our youth engagement toolkit (Voice, Opportunity, Power), which we created with the TCPA and Sport England. Digital methods, clearly, are a key avenue, although they must be tailored to the audience in question.
Simply putting consultation boards online won’t cut it for Gen Z.
Engaging with digital natives requires creativity, including interactive content to survey opinion and showcase the transformative power of development.
At the same time, face-to-face conversations are just as important; introducing the people behind a brand can help build trust and demonstrates that input is valued. It also facilitates a dialogue that can enable a greater depth of discussion and mutual understanding.
Taking the time to plan workshops that can be delivered with local organisations in schools and youth centres, where young people are comfortable, helps too.
Meaningful engagement cannot be rushed, especially for the long-term projects we work on in strategic land. In Wealden, we are at an early stage in shaping our proposals for a new neighbourhood, but are already looking at how we can involve young people in designs – identifying local schools and making sure we understand which organisations are most significant for different groups.
Engaging young people in planning is something we are constantly looking to improve, but by building it into our thinking from day one of a development we can deliver better places that work for everyone.
Louise Houston is senior development manager for strategic land at Grosvenor Britain & Ireland