People need to feel they’re in it together – my Great Places experience

Great Places commissioner, Ian Wardle, shares his views on the programme and first visit to Liverpool.

Ian Wardle, Chief Executive of Thirteen Group and Great Places commissioner

Ian Wardle, Chief Executive of Thirteen Group and Great Places commissioner

28 March 2018

The Great Places Commission visited Liverpool on 26-27 March. The Great Places programme is exploring what makes a place great to live and how housing associations can work with other local partners and communities to deliver this. Ian Wardle is one of the 12 Commissioners leading this work. Here he shares some of his views on the first visit and the Great Places programme. 

I joined the Commission because my background is in regeneration and house building. I've seen the positive impact this can have, but I've also seen where it can go wrong – I've learnt from bitter experience. So the chance to work with peers with different backgrounds and perspectives is extremely valuable. I hope the outcome will be some clear steps we can all take as a sector to create great places to live. 

I was struck by the scale of what we're trying to do when I first met up with my fellow Commissioners. But having seen some of the places now for myself, it's clearer – there have definitely been aspects where I've thought, yes, this could work in other communities. 

The Granby Triangle is a powerful example of an intervention that's been led by the community. If you multiplied that, and had more people pulling together in the same direction with a clear objective, this could make a real impact. 

People need to feel they're in it together. This was clear in Liverpool and it's the same in my part of the world. There are lots of people working in lots of places, but they're not pulling in the same direction. We need to pool our resources and have a clear idea of what we're trying to achieve. 

You need to do things to get the community's support. People will believe in partnership and will trust you when they can see what's getting done. If it's all talk, master planning and vacant sites, it detracts from what you're trying to achieve. It needs to be a phased plan and there need to be quick wins. 

But don't overwhelm people. It has to be an iterative process. You've got to continually talk to the community and decide carefully when you push and when you pull back. It might make sense for certain partners to lead on different aspects – you may have the resources, but don't be precious about it and do make sure you hold others to account. 

Feeling contented and connected is what I think makes a great place to live. You might be happy because you feel safe, or you can see greenery, or there are things to do, or because you can access a good education or find a job. 

There's so much best practice across the sector and I'm keen to take some of this home and see if we can replicate it in my area. The visit has already got me thinking about things I'm doing and some of our schemes and developments. 

To find out more about the Great Places Programme, visit the Great Places website or follow on Twitter via #GreatPlacesCommission. 

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