Photo Credit: Tessa Nasca
TCAT recently launched the next phase of our Active Neighbourhoods project, and have begun participatory planning with residents in the Brookdale neighbourhood in Peterborough. Along with our partner, GreenUP, and their NeighbourPLAN program, we are working to make urban planning accessible, community-driven, and fun! We are working in three Peterborough neighbourhoods over the next three years—Brookdale, Talwood, and Downtown Jackson Creek. On-the-ground planning activities are already underway in Brookdale, and we’re beginning to meet residents, lay the groundwork, and build capacity in the other neighbourhoods.
Following our three-phase participatory planning approach, we are engaging residents in building a portrait of their neighbourhood. We’re out in the neighbourhood, facilitating pop-up mapping activities, exploratory neighbourhood walks, and field surveys. So far, we’ve worked with over 50 people in the Brookdale neighbourhood, gathering their insights into the strengths, assets, and shortcomings of the public spaces, streets, and sidewalks in their neighbourhood—and this is just the beginning! As we deepen our work in Brookdale, we have many more tools to engage residents, and blend local knowledge with professional expertise—resulting in a co-designed neighbourhood plan that will articulate goals and design solutions for the neighbourhood.
Our participatory planning approach takes engagement out of formal spaces, and finds unique and accessible ways to engage residents in the process of reimagining public spaces. While the tools and activities we use vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, depending on local context and resident desires, there are some key principles of participatory planning that define our approach:
Principles of Participatory Planning
- Residents are experts. Residents have rich knowledge about the public spaces, streets, and sidewalks in their neighbourhoods. They know what works—and what doesn’t—in their communities. Their expertise is valuable, and it can improve planning outcomes.
- Participatory planning builds equity. Intersecting factors—such as income, race, age, gender, disability, and other identities—contribute to inequities in planning processes and outcomes. Some people face barriers to participating in traditional consultation processes, and this leads to planning outcomes that can further marginalize these individuals. We aim to engage people who face barriers to participation, building equity in both process and outcomes.
- Planning can be fun! Opportunities to engage residents should be interactive, inclusive, and fun. Our process brings planning to the places where people already gather, live, work, and play. Participatory planning makes community engagement accessible, and allows residents to develop social connections and build planning literacy in informal, familiar settings.
- Combining knowledge creates strong outcomes. We invite planning and design professionals into the participatory planning process to help translate resident visions into design solutions. Professional knowledge is essential to support and reinforce (but not override) resident visions for public space.
- Collaboration is key. Our process relies on brining residents together with strategic partners, like community organizations, municipalities, and public health units. This creates the relationships and foundations necessary to bring residents’ visions to life.
- Community plans are living documents. Our process results in a co-designed neighbourhood plan. Although the full plan may not come to life right away, we support residents to advocate for the changes they would like to see. The plan is a valuable tool to inform upcoming planning, development, and transportation projects in the neighbourhood, and we work strategically to align residents’ visions with pending capital investments.