In August 2019, we set up Southampton City Vision as a place for residents and those with a strong connection to the city to have a conversation about what Southampton should be like. We’d been to a Friday Forum gathering at Southampton Voluntary Services on 2 August, and heard about plans for the next phase of the Local Plan, the document where Southampton City Council sets out future development policies.
This isn’t the start of the story though. In 2015, our predecessor, Dangerous Ideas Southampton, had run an event called What Sort of City Should Southampton Be? because the Council was thinking about the next Local Plan review. As a community of proactive local residents, we wanted to discuss this between ourselves. We wrote up some of the themes that had come out of that session, which led to a submission to the 2015 Local Plan consultation on their Issues and Options paper. Our full response is here, but the key points are as follows:
- Our city needs a unique vision – one that is led by the community, not developers. People should be at the heart of ‘regeneration’.
- Adopt a new approach to economics and growth – to address climate change and be sustainable, we need a more ecologically minded approach.
- The city is seen by many as a network of villages – we don’t want the identities of different suburbs and local communities to be lost. Alongside this, we need to create a more connected city.
- The importance of locally-owned business (keeping money in the city)and jobs close to where people live.
- We need housing that meets local needs and is of good quality design.
- We need a more robust approach to education, including considering the location of schooling and student housing.
- We value highly the role of culture, heritage and creativity in our city’s future.
Things went quiet after 2015. There was no word on what was happening next with the Local Plan. So, in August 2019, when officers Samuel Fox and Helen Owens from Southampton City Council came along to Southampton Voluntary Services, we were keen to hear what they had to say. It turned out the Council had decided to rip up the previous Issues and Options paper and start again, but why?
In part it was because they wanted to be bolder, but also because they were disappointed with the very low response rate to their previous efforts at consultation. Only 250 people and organisations had heard about the consultation and decided it was worth responding. In a city of a quarter of million people, then this did not feel like a mandate for change. We agreed; the previous summary for Issues and Options had not mentioned the word ‘community’ and we thought at the time that there had to be a better way of doing this. They explained that the Council is keen to be more ambitious and put co-production approaches (where people are involved as equals in creating the plans) at the heart of the process. We certainly welcome that!
Southampton City Vision has been set up to complement, not replace, face-to-face conversations and public events where people can work through their thoughts in more detail, so please do join in – it really is open to all. As Southampton Collective, getting people talking about a healthy and sustainable city is the core of what we do. We find that from talking and sharing views with others, action follows, often in unexpected ways. We can also learn from past events and other places – we don’t need to reinvent the wheel – this is about new, ambitious ideas.
Through this group and its events, we hope to develop a clearer sense of the key themes that matter to people. It’s a place where people who care about the city can go to find out how they can get involved in helping it develop. We recognise there are other places where people are talking about Southampton’s future, and all sorts of related events. Our list to the end of September 2019 is below.
If you’d like email updates about activities and events from The Southampton Collective, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to our mailing list. Otherwise, simply join the discussion on our facebook group, and don’t forget to tag us with #SotonCityVision when you’re using social media. Come and join us on the journey!