The research findings included three headline messages from community participants. (1) the great appetite for positive action, working proactively to improve street furniture, buses, lavatory access and the asethetic landscape (2) the need to include many groups in society: the young, the older, immigrant groups and the homeless and (3) that community participants need support from council officials to facilitate improvement and change and financial support to compare best practice and innovative designs.

The project found that many aspects of place- making are not captured by the planning system.When considering new developments, planners are required to assess location, access, transport and external appearance. These questions are clearly important yet they do not capture all the concerns of local people. There is, for example, no way of engaging with how the interior of a shopping centre or a gallery should look unless you work directly with the property owner (as the Newcastle Elders Forum have done).

Creatively engaging councillors attention can work. A picture speaks a thousand words. Artistic practices can also be used to engage participants who might otherwise feel unwilling to give their view. This is particularly the case with young people who may be willing to write a script or act in a film but feel too shy to stand in front of councillors because for them this is intimidating.

Graffiti, rap songs and slam poetry may not seem to be obvious vehicles to debate place-making in a planning system reliant on paper, meetings and formal consultations. Yet these innovative approaches engage and promote participation.

Photos by Adrian Arbib

Photos by Adrian Arbib

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