Canklow community engagement



In 2004 a long-term process of community consultation took place in the small neighbourhood of Canklow. Through a series of steps that extensively involved local people, a collectively conceived new vision for Canklow was born.

Grass-roots beginnings

The Canklow Regeneration plan was initiated by local community members that were concerned about the future of their homes and neighbourhood. The group formed in 2004 when community members felt a need to organise demands on local authorities and other agencies to upkeep and regenerate Canklow. The group consisted of a range of local representatives, all residents of Canklow estate. Meetings typically attracted around 30 people. A large proportion of the group were women who had young families that were keen to see an improvement for their children’s futures. Other representatives included middle-aged and retired people.

While the local authority supported the development of a community vision for the regeneration of the estate, it did not play an active role in it. By forming a group (Canklow Community Partnership) and approaching community regeneration experts (U-Scape Regeneration) and public engagement experts (BDR), local people were empowered to take a stand. The project consisted of a series of separately funded small projects. The funding streams included support from the local authority – Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, The Academy for community leadership and Housing Market Renewal – Transform South Yorkshire. In the absence of one over-riding funding body, the community gained greater control over the aims and ethos of the project.

Local engagement

The Canklow regeneration plan was unique in its involvement of local residents throughout the entire process rather than the use of consultation as an early stage ideas generator. Key community members were engaged in an 8-week informal course and were paid to carry out key roles within the project. By giving local people key roles:

  • It demonstrated a sincerity in involving local people in decision making processes and reassured people of the validity of their opinions and aspirations
  • It offered the design team unique access to the wider community through faces that were already known within the community.

The wider public were also involved by offering a range of attractive involvement opportunities including community events to share ideas and plans.

Exemplar projects

As well as the consideration of a larger scale master plan for Canklow, the residents also focused on possible projects that could instigate the process of regeneration in the area. These projects were:

  • a community garden and allotment
  • a mixed used community building
  • the introduction of housing into the master plan

Aside from the housing these projects were never built but as design exercises they offered BDR the opportunity to fully integrate key local residents in a design process and highlight priorities. BDR approached these workshops as short courses where residents learnt to articulate their concerns, ideas and aspirations in a nurturing environment. It was important to the project that a shared language was used by everyone invovled, for this reason simple architectural techniques were including rough model and montage making sessions.

These sessions demonstrated the importance of key projects in the future of Canklow. A number of visits to precedent projects including the Hockerton Housing project and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, aided in raising aspirations and a communal vision.

Student involvement

BDR’s connection with the University of Sheffield's Department of Architecture offered Canklow the opportunity to access a number of more inspirational and conceptual approaches to the problems of the neighbourhood. Students concentrated on using film and video, an important tool in ensuring that architectural ideas were accessible to the community. Through interviewing local residents, representatives of local organisations and members of the council, students were able to document residents views of their neighbourhood.

Passing the project on

Considering the grass-roots nature of the Canklow regeneration plan, its success was largely dependent on how local knowledge, desires and requirements were disseminated and passed on. The Canklow community vision went on to inform the Housing Market Renewal Master plan, which included the development of 71 affordable homes by Cartwright Pickard Architects and South Yorkshire Housing Association. HMR and the Council took onboard work already completed and made it part of a bigger picture. Aside from the affordable homes in which Canklow community partnership played a very literal development role, further projects including a proposed apartment development to serve the demands of young people and young families in the area. A community hub was also highlighted by the group as a specific need (including shops, café and health facilities), for which land has been bought by a private developer.

Many of the specific ideas developed by the Canklow Community Partnership did not become realised. However there has been a very clear change in overall policy within the area, moving from demolition to regeneration.