Blackpool Towns Fund: Engaging the community over lockdown
By Fred Gulliford | Wed, Aug 26, 2020
3 min read
Blackpool moves closer to receiving part of central government’s £3.6billion Towns Fund thanks to Locality and Commonplace’s in-depth community engagement.
Commonplace is working closely with Locality and Blackpool Council to create a substantial bid for the fund – in the form of the Blackpool Town Investment Plan (BTIP) - which will rejuvenate Blackpool and help it grow back stronger, following the impact of Covid-19 on the town and its residents.
“Investment in our towns is needed more than ever as we move to the next stage of the economic recovery from Covid-19, and the Fund will play an important part in the kick-starting of our economic recovery and levelling up our regions.”
- Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional and Local Government.
What is the Town's Fund Initiative?
Earlier this year, as part of the government's 'Levelling-up' programme, a Towns' Fund initiative was announced that would support 100 UK towns to grow and prosper based on the success of their respective bid. (see the full list of towns here)
Blackpool is one of the areas in line for this investment, aimed at strengthening the local economy, revitalising the town and to support the recovery post Covid-19. Each town has been invited to put together proposals for up to £25 million that show how they will use the money on viable and sustainable long term projects to develop the area.
Critically, any bid needs to demonstrate how interventions have been developed with the input from the community, who should feel a genuine sense of ownership. All proposals must:
Identify and involve the people/organisations who have an interest in the proposals and developments.
Identify and show how you will overcome any barriers to involvement.
Gather evidence of the needs and available resources and use this to agree the purpose, scope and timescales of the engagements and actions to be taken.
Agree and use methods of engagement that are fit for purpose, and demonstrate engagement throughout the project lifetime/Town Deal Fund.
Engaging residents during lockdown
Blackpool Council enlisted Locality, a not-for-profit organisation aimed at helping strengthen the voice of local communities, who then approached Commonplace in early June. During a time of partial lock-down with no opportunity for face-to-face events, Commonplace's Community Heatmap and Design Feedback tools have been vital in increasing the accessibility of the community engagement project.
Commonplace’s tools have ensured that local people, community groups, local businesses and other organisations are able to share their local insights and recommendations, and contribute towards the growth of the area from the safety of their homes.
Community Engagement - in numbers
To date, there have been over 6,600 visitors to the Blackpool site, who have left nearly 2,000 ideas, local insights and suggestions relating to:
- Blackpool’s housing
- Revitalising Blackpool’s shopping and visitor offer, and supporting businesses
- Transport and other infrastructure projects that improve access to the town
- Developing skills and supporting quality education
- Ensuring that communities are healthy and happy
Whilst the project is now closed, you can still view the Commonplace site via this link to take a look at some of the responses collected.
Feedback has been hugely positive for the majority, with priorities including addressing the proliferation of Houses of Multiple Occupation through the development of quality housing into use, developing a year-round economy, improving the town centre, attracting new businesses, investing in transport, improving mental health services, and providing support for complex homelessness cases.
“We’re delighted with the response from the public, at a time when face to face consultation has been virtually non-existent. Commonplace’s digital platform has allowed us to reach more members of the local community than we would otherwise been able to do. The input has been considered and thoughtful, and is vital in helping us create a plan for the future of Blackpool. I’m delighted with the results we were able to achieve - in no small part, thanks to the Commonplace platform and the support from the team there.”
Scott Butterfield, Strategy & Policy Research Manager - Blackpool Council
The outcome of the bid has not yet been determined, but a further phase of engagement is planned looking at projects in more detail over the coming months and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Blackpool Council to ensure residents can have their say.