Just Space activity June 2021

January – May 2021, posted 10 June

(This updates previous reports on 19th June 2020 and 18th January 2021)

Estate Watch

Tenants and residents from social housing estates under threat of demolition have attended meetings (by zoom) every 2 months.  Topics discussed have included: the role of independent tenant and leaseholder advisors, how do we win estate ballots, telling the stories of estates through videos and podcasts.

Thanks to LTF and Pablo Sendra’s Alton Estate project, a further 6 months funding has been obtained for estate watch, extending the project to the end 2021.

On 2nd June 2021, the Mayor of London declared a “retrofit revolution” with £10 billion to deliver “large scale low carbon upgrades to the capital’s social housing, whilst supporting the creation of green jobs.”  London will lead a new £3.5 million national centre of excellence to “help social housing providers access funding to make their homes fit for the future and protect the most vulnerable from cold, damp homes.”

Potential action: Could Just Space undertake campaign work directed at the Mayor of London/ London Assembly in support of the demands coming from Estates Watch meetings?  Can we propose a mechanism (e.g. community expert panel or London Assembly sub-group) to enable community groups to be involved in the retrofit initiatives at a strategic level.

Just Collaborate

Just Collaborate seeks greater levels of support from Universities for grassroots community groups. Registration as a limited company was achieved in April 2021, with Just Collaborate chosen as the name, since Collaborate had already been used.  The Directors are:  Mama D, Toby Laurent Belson, Shirley Hanazawa, Saif Osmani and Wilfried Rimensberger.

Just Collaborate is now setting up a bank account and various protocols.  Its first funded project is with Brunel University, to organise Action Learning Sets on decolonisation and power.  

Potential action: Is there interest by Just Space members in an Action Learning Set that looks at the experience of how power manifests itself within and between community organisations and Universities?

People’s Land Policy

A series of 4 seminars on “Land and Food” took place in February and March 2021.  The topics were: Post Brexit Agriculture, the UK food and agricultural system, urban food growing, the Global Food Justice Movement.  Just Space policy positions on food re – the 2019 London Plan EiP and the London Food Strategy were shared.  The outcome is a new chapter of the pamphlet Working Towards a People’s Land Policy (the chapter is currently in draft form).

Potential action: Policy ideas on Land and Food could be included in the Community Led Recovery Plan.  

New Lucas Plan / Climate Change Strategy

The New Lucas Plan group ran a session at the COP26 preparatory event in April, called From the Ground Up II.  Under the umbrella of New Lucas Plan, Just Space was invited to speak about the production of Community Led Plans.  

Potential action: Just Space and/or member groups might wish to formally register with the COP26 mobilisation From the Ground Up.  

Planning Aid for London

This organisation had been listed as a supporter of Just Space in our early days but became, in effect, dormant. A year ago it was re-floated, hosted by the Town and Country Planning Association TCPA and funded for the next few years at least by the Trust for London. It offers online and real life advice to individuals and groups dealing with the planning system, with a particular emphasis on building up long-term relationships with significant community organisations. At the moment these include Southwark Planning Network and Barking Reach (TWCP, where Just Space is also active).  There is a steering group with the following membership and a new web site at https://planningaidforlondon.org.uk

The steering group does seem to be listened to and is useful.  We can all help by suggesting documents and links to be added to their web site listing of resources – which is a London-specific pool of information. If you have generated useful material or come across it, please let PAL know (via their web site or via Michael Edwards)

Collective Community Action (CCA)

Launched in January 2021, this is a group of active citizens, built environment professionals, community engagement specialists, educators, consultants and social entrepreneurs coming together to discuss, communicate, provoke and propose the changes needed to ensure communities are at the heart of urban change for the better. Members include Soundings, Grosvenor, Ft’work architects, Manor House Development Trust, Creative Wick and Just Space members Hayes Community Forum and Peckham Vision. 

Much effort has been put into the glossy booklet advocating a Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement (MSCI) and Collaborative Community Training for those involved in educational, professional and public life on planning and engagement, together with good practice examples. Members then approached their known contacts within relevant ‘corridors of power’ particularly to have Mayoral candidates sign up to the MSCI.

Alongside this, Ft’work Trust funded work with Centre for London to develop and launch a ‘manifesto’ said to champion community involvement in the way London is built and managed.

CCA members tried to influence the content and Peckham Vision successfully had inserted ‘ongoing place-based audits’. This ‘Need for Change’ document was launched on 2 March as part of the policy ideas Mayoral candidates had approached the Centre for London for. An article subsequently appeared in the RTPI’s professional periodical (‘The Planner’ May 2021) featuring Eileen Conn on why ‘London needs a MSCI’.

Coincidentally, one of the ten planning-related promises in Sadiq Khan’s mayoral election manifesto was the ‘review how to further involve local communities in the planning decisions that affect them’.  London Assembly member Andrew Boff questioned the Mayor about this (Q-time 27 May) who replied that officers will be undertaking a full review of engagement processes ‘to give full effect to Policy (sic) GG1’, together with digital engagement, stakeholder mapping and learning from best practice.

Potential action: The MSCI is a long-standing ask of Just Space whose scope and content – as published in ‘Towards a Community-led Plan for London’ (PDF) and 2019 EiP – needs updating (e.g. to address digitisation) and re-proposed to the Mayor.

Grand Union Alliance (GUA)

Just Space was commissioned back in Spring 2016 by the London Tenants Federation (LTF) to help LTF deliver UCL Geography community-based research supporting the community network GUA in Old Oak Park Royal area (Mayoral Development Corporation OPDC). Since July 2019 onwards, JS inputs have continued voluntarily on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis whilst the OPDC prepared Modifications to its draft Local Plan as an attempt to satisfy the Planning Inspector’s Interim Findings in September 2019.

These Modifications are currently subject to public consultation and are being actively followed by GUA participants with a view to making representations by 7th July. Regular monthly public meetings are continuing in partnership with the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum, whose reports can be seen at its website. Co-operation has extended to corresponding with the OPDC, HS2 and various planning applications.

Potential action: Prospects of an OPDC funded community support worker have now refocused on HS2 and other construction impacts rather than planning itself. For the foreseeable future, an un-resourced GUA, in order to continue, will need voluntary support from JS. The GUA is not in a position to become appropriately constituted to find funding.

A Just Space commitment to preparing a Community Handbook on influencing large scale planning as informed by GUA experiences could form part of the MSCI review (see CCA potential action above).

Listen to Locals
This group originates from a 15 year old campaign in Mortlake and is hoping to bring together people London-wide who are affected by planning policy and large developments. The aim was to have a Hustings on planning for the Mayoral election, which happened. Just Space co-hosted. Lucy Rogers represented Just Space in the preparations. See the Hustings video edit here https://www.listentolocals.co.uk/post/local-community-hustings-video-edit-by-just-space 

Following the Hustings, which was felt to be a success, Just Space (Lucy, Eileen, Michael) met with Listen to Locals (Clare Delmar) and Collective Community Action (Clare Richards) to discuss the scope for grassroots collaboration London-wide

Discussion point: To consider the benefits of this collaboration (e.g. communications to mobilise the public to challenge City Hall, campaign against new planning laws) and whether it provides an opportunity to reconfigure Just Space network meetings.