The EC1 New Deal for Communities funding programme

Improvements in south Islington came about as a result of funding from the EC1 New Deal for Communities (ECI NDC) capital programme and partnership working with Islington Council.

The aim of the NDCs was to improve 39 deprived areas in England by community-led investment in health, education, community safety, employment and the environment.

In Islington, the NDC contributed £6 million of its budget of £53m to public space improvements and this was matched by funding sourced by Islington Council. Over six years, three parks have been completely redesigned, and substantial improvements made to two others. Five estates have seen major changes to their external areas. Thirteen streets and adjacent public spaces have been redesigned and renewed to emphasise their social importance as public spaces while also making them safer for people of all ages and abilities to move around; and work is still on-going.

Safety was identified as a priority for the entire programme, with £12 million being allocated to CCTV and door entry systems. By itself, however, CCTV can do little to make an area feel safer – it may even make it feel more unsafe unless it is accompanied by physical improvements to public space.

The combination of factors that was the key to the success of the programme:

  • a clear and agreed vision and public space strategy for the whole of the area that identified how, in organisational terms, the vision would be implemented
  • detailed frameworks and costed action plans for individual areas identified in the strategy, including plans for individual estates
  • partnership working between the NDC and the council, with joint working and shared budgets
  • employment of independent design teams with excellent design and communication skills to develop the frameworks and design projects
  • close engagement with residents.

Planting has been a key feature of all projects with residents requesting as much ‘green’ as possible and valuing colour and variety. Residents have been involved throughout the process, including some of the planting, with each project having a steering group made up of residents and stakeholders from the immediate area as well as the design team, officers, a councillor and board member.

A community gardener has worked with residents to develop horticultural skills and allotments on the estates. Training and work opportunities for young and/or unemployed people were arranged in the construction work on the estates and some of the public spaces.