Sustrans Scotland worked in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council, residents and businesses, from May 2013 to June 2017 to transform a once neglected part of Dumfries into a more liveable, inclusive and active travel friendly neighbourhood. The project coincided with a regeneration programme for the area, led by the Council’s Strategic Housing Service. This was supported by residents, who were motivated to see more physical and social investment in the area.
This exemplar project illustrates the key principles of supporting community aspirations, leadership and promoting active travel outlined in Designing Streets (2010), the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (2015) and Actions 5 and 9 of the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland.
Pre-work surveys highlighted the following concerns for residents:
1) Poor sociability and connection
5) Lack of physical connection
To address these concerns, we designed an engagement programme that:
1. Worked directly with people to co-design a more active travel friendly neighbourhood by reducing vehicle speeds and improving place quality.
2. Set up events that brought people together to strengthen the sense of social connection and empowerment.
3. Identified early interventions to improve the sense of security and reinforce the place identity including street lighting upgrades and new street nameplates.
4. Positively supported local aspirations to reinforce the Victorian Heritage of the area through the co-design process.
As a key principle in delivering the project, we supported the community to develop their own solutions to the problems they raised through a co-design process. On street events, design workshops and street trails were held to develop designs that created a slower, attractive and more accessible people-friendly neighbourhood.
To champion the creative potential of the neighbourhood, we developed activities to take forward local ideas and encourage a greater sense of local ownership. Examples included a garden competition, yarn bombing and Big Lunch events to bring people together. These events have showcased the potential of the area and increased community pride.
Physically, the neighbourhood has been transformed, demonstrating a shift of priorities towards a more sociable and creative destination. The space has been redesigned, including raised tables, new materials and on-street planters to improve accessibility and encourage active travel within and through the neighbourhood.
An unexpected but welcome outcome of the project has been the strong community cohesion that has formed through the newly constituted residents group, DG1 Neighbours. This group has taken on responsibility for maintaining many of the new community assets and traffic calming measures. Residents are feeling more empowered to make positive change, ensuring the projects successful sustainable legacy.*
The project was jointly funded by Dumfries and Galloway Council and Sustrans Scotland with funding from Transport Scotland.**
*An 8 minute video, summarising the project, is available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D608I67N8as&list=PLXl-JpjfPOtpIFh7vipOXTegBdhEWFKjE
** Post works monitoring results will be available in March 2018
Supporting StatementWhen thinking about improving neighbourhoods, an often overlooked but vital element in the design process is involving those who live, work and travel through an area.
Liveable neighbourhoods are about more than just place and movement. First and foremost, they’re about people. If we want to ensure the success of walking and cycling projects, we must ensure the views, knowledge and experience local people have to offer is at the forefront of discussions.
Involving communities at the beginning of a design process right through to completion, ensures projects have a lasting legacy in the local area as it empowers those who live there to take ownership of the project long into the future.
This is a vibrant, creative and practical community with a strong desire to carry on advocating for positive change to the neighbourhood long after this project has been completed. We recognised this potential early on and have worked around a long term ambition of making our input and support redundant as the community strengthens in voice and capacity. In recognition of this strong partnership between Sustrans Scotland, the Council and residents, the DG1 Neighbours group has been recognised as an equal partner in all correspondence since forming in 2014.
We’ve assisted this process of strengthening the community leadership through practical activities with real outcomes for the neighbourhood. Activities included:
• Public votes to select artists and co-design of proposals;
• Votes on street furniture, street signage and lighting;
• Planting up sessions, tidy ups and creative activities; and
• On street seasonal events.
These activities have helped to stretch the boundaries of ownership, responsibility and ‘rights’ to use the public space with many people becoming directly wrapped up in the care of what was once would have been public space managed by the Council, such as the community garden, planters and new civic spaces.
As a result, the residents have come together to form a constituted community group, meaning they are now able to access funding and grants to help maintain the improvements to their local area. To mark the occasion, the group have been awarded a £1,000 grant by Sustrans to help kick-start works.
By becoming officially recognised as a constituted group, residents have ensured that the legacy of the Neighbourhood Street Design Project will continue long into the future. We have therefore nominated this project to shine light on the strong community cohesion and determination of this neighbourhood to make positive change.