Transforming Community Spaces – What People Really Want
Communities in the UK have changed through the years. Migration from place of birth for education or work has changed the shape of families up and down the country. Whereas once there were extended families living in close proximity, people are now dispersed across the country and remote from their traditional support networks.
Historically, the main community space was the family home but today things have changed. As a result, people are looking to their broader communities to create spaces where they can meet friends and other families to connect and create networks to support them in the place of the declining extended family.
Room to live
Particularly in the urban areas where young families live to have access to work opportunities, space is often at a premium both in terms of living and community areas. When homes and gardens are smaller, there’s a greater need for people to go outside the home for some of the activities that could be done in a larger home. Even something as simple as play can be a logistical nightmare where families live in high-density housing where they have no access to a back yard of their own.
Well-designed playgrounds have space for children of all abilities to play together
A well-designed playground is always a popular choice for community spaces, particularly those where space at home is at a premium and families don’t have the room to let their children roam and play. Places that allow children of all abilities to play together are particularly good, and a combination of exciting adventure play and level areas such as sandpits and grassy banks allow children to play with others who have limited mobility.
Building space into playgrounds where adults can sit and chat while children can play also tends to be well-received. Building that sense of community with other parents in the area can help with developing a growing sense of pride in the area, which in turn feeds into keeping community spaces well-maintained and well-used.
When designing community spaces, making places that can serve a range of different uses is popular with communities. Making space that can be used for dog-walking, running, children playing and ball-games for adults and older children makes for a popular and well-used public area.
Spaces where people of all ages can play helps keep people fit and let off steam
Some other well-loved additions to community spaces in recent years has been the growth in outdoor fitness equipment. Kit that allows for resistance training alongside the cardiovascular exercise of running or cycling around a park gives people access to fitness opportunities that many people cannot afford in private gyms or even council-run leisure centres.
A number of well-used community spaces have activities that people in the neighbourhood can participate in to make their own area more pleasant and learn new skills into the bargain. Community gardens, allotments, bee-keeping and even voluntarily-run cafes help to engage local people in making more of their local area for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours.
A place of safety
Unfortunately, many public spaces in cities up and down the country are the first places to show the signs of urban decay. Parks can quickly go downhill when upkeep isn’t maintained and families are pushed out by gangs, drug users and unsavoury characters and quickly end up making regular people feel deeply unsafe.
One thing people want from their public spaces above all other things is safety. Keeping a public space clean, tidy and well-maintained is one part of the battle in keeping the space in use by families and people looking for a place to build their community and keep out the people who would turn it over to more nefarious purposes.
In communities where families are dispersed and space is at a premium, communal spaces are important to having room to live and making connections with the people in the neighbourhood. Well-managed, well designed public spaces are an integral part of the way in which communities are built in modern towns and cities.