Designing, Building and Living in New Communities: A workshop exploring the perspectives of children and young people

The findings of a major research project about new urban communities were presented at a workshop on 25th September 2012. The New Urbanisms, New Citizens research project – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – has explored young people’s (aged 9-25) experiences of living in new urban communities in the English Midlands. The workshop, hosted by the University of Warwick, was targeted at policy-makers, professionals and politicians. It was attended by over twenty delegates from around the UK, who included Local Authority planners, local councillors, architects and playworkers.

The workshop was opened by a keynote address from well-known childhood expert Tim Gill (Rethinking Childhood). His thought-provoking talk centred around the idea of the outdoor child as an ‘indicator species for the quality of urban environments’. He focused on potential reasons and solutions for an apparent decline in children’s freedom to roam in urban places.

The project team presented key findings from the project. They focused on four issues: the contribution of young people to the ‘liveability’ of new communities; children’s senses of belonging and participation; street design, traffic and risk; sustainable urban design and planning. The presentations led to discussion about the implications of the project’s findings for a broad set of policy-makers and professionals.

A highlight of the workshop was the participation of seven young people who had taken part in the project. The young people – aged 11 to 15 – spoke about their experiences of living in new urban extensions and villages. They focused on issues such as facilities for young people, tensions around the provision of play facilities, their experiences of volunteering and setting up youth groups, and the differences between living in newly-built communities and their previous places of residence.

A briefing paper about the workshop – including a summary of the key findings and outcomes from the discussions – will be available shortly via the project’s website: http://newcitizens.wordpress.com/. In the next year, the website will also be updated with more detailed briefing papers about each of the four key issues presented at the workshop, plus a range of best-practice guides and research summaries aimed at academics, policy-makers and the general public.

If you wish to know more about the project, please visit the New Urbanisms website, or contact Dr Peter Kraftl (project Co-Investigator): pk123@le.ac.uk, who is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester.

The New Urbanisms, New Citizens project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-062-23-1549). It has involved the collaboration of academics at three institutions: Professor Pia Christensen (Principal Investigator, Institute of Education, Warwick University); Dr Peter Kraftl (Co-Investigator, Department of Geography, University of Leicester; Dr John Horton (Co-Investigator) and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill (Post-Doctoral Researcher), both from the Centre for Children and Youth at The University of Northampton.

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