‘What should be done about the area YOU live in?’ That’s the question Kingswood Parks Development Company Ltd and Hull City Council recently put to young people aged 13-14 living in the Bransholme and Kingswood areas of Hull, UK. They thought young people should have a voice in the development of their community. And as the youth themselves put it: ‘It’s really important to have our input because we’ll inherit this community when we become adults!’
Thirty keen young people, pupils at the Kingswood College of Arts, responded to the call to represent the younger generation in one of the largest housing estates in the UK. It was built in the 1960s and 1970s for a population of 26,000, which has now grown to 30,000. Cut off from services and opportunities by main roads and fields, the estate is quite run down as well as overpopulated.
The kids took their job seriously. Working as a team, they developed and sent out a survey to 800 of their peers. No one thought they’d get much feedback, but an amazing 25 per cent of young people answered. This was a stunning response – adults had only managed to return 300 questionnaires out of the thousands distributed! From the results, the group created an Area Action Plan to be presented to the City Council.
So – what’s the younger generation’s grand vision of their future community? To everyone’s surprise, not pizza joints and video arcades, but carefully considered, community-enhancing improvements: youth recreation facilities and parks, open spaces for wildlife, cycle paths, small neighbourhood shops, and healthier family restaurants to replace fast-food joints. Most of all, the kids amazed grown-ups with their desire to see a grocer selling healthy vegetables – as well as an allotment for growing their own!
Security was a main theme, too. The kids made it clear that the estate’s reputation for antisocial behaviour such as vandalism and drug dealing was exaggerated and mainly caused by a small handful of people, but they nevertheless came up with ideas to change both the reality and other people’s unfair perceptions. ‘More open space will go a long way towards transforming how the area looks and how Hull is branded,’ they said. Their suggestions included spruced up parks and street furniture, more facilities to give young people fun places to go – as well as CCTV and police patrols.
Most remarkably, the young people considered the needs of generations to come. They asked for housing to be affordable, for adult recreation facilities as well as youth facilities, and for retail space to provide a local source of employment. ‘We would like to help make it possible for people to look after their houses more easily,’ they said. ‘It’s not only us that will benefit, but also the people who will live here in the future.’
The team took their plan to the City Council and spent a morning presenting and debating their ideas and solutions. Of course, councillors and planners will have to take all community opinions into account, but having asked for youth feedback and received such a well-considered and comprehensive reply, Kingswood College youth voices will be impossible to ignore. As one councillor said: ‘Brilliant; very impressive!’
Some of the group are already invited to meetings on the next stage of development. They’ll join in the conversation equipped with their own results, informed about planning, and with all the skills to discuss with adults what they need – now and in the future.
Wayne Talbot facilitated the Kingswood Consultation, helping young people tell adults what they need.