/ Peter Smith / Places to live

Conflict is inevitable. Housing has long been at the forefront of policy for successive governments; more, better, cheaper. But new housing is often achieved at the expense of stable communities, breeding discontent among those most affected.

The 2011 Localism Act was a response to the dissatisfaction of successive generations at the receiving end of vast, sweeping changes in the residential landscape – the pernicious air of ‘your government knows best’. A confusion of high-minded ideas, low budgets and clumsy implementation left our country littered with fractured communities and a legacy of sub-standard housing where nobody wanted to live.

Consultation is now legally enshrined within the Planning process. We are obliged to involve local people in the process. At Page \ Park, we have an understanding that for communities to work, people must be invested in the idea, and we have used the Pre-Application Consultation process to our advantage, but this is not universally the case. The process can be easily skipped over; implemented as a token gesture with no real meaning, highlighting the fact that legislation cannot solve the problem.

But that is to miss the point. Used properly, we can involve communities to the benefit of any development and there is a foundling wave of organisations looking at alternative ways to engage people and give them the means to understand new development and how it will affect them. From the converted ice cream van of IceCream Architecture, to the ‘consultation café’ at the Deptford Project, understanding The People is as important as understanding the site. This is contextual analysis and a fundamental part of the environment in which we work; we undervalue it at our peril.

'A city is based on human beings. Unless it’s built on a participatory, democratic principle, the city will not have a future.' Daniel Libeskind