Community Insights: Tang Hall Big Local Project

Sociology lecturer Daryl Martin recaps the Big Local team’s presentation on campus

Did you live in Tang Hall while you were at York?  If so, you may be interested to learn more about what’s going on in the area and who’s behind the community-driven project, Big Local.

Tang Hall Big Local is a National Lottery funded and resident led plan in which a £1 million grant will be used to seed small-scale community projects over the next ten years.

On November 18th, 2015, the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI) and Centre for Urban Research (CURB) welcomed Anna Bialkowska and colleagues from the Local Trust and City of York Council to the University to give a talk on the recently launched plan.

Through the variety of individual schemes the plan funds, the aim is to enable empowered resident groups that can create a strong sense of ownership in identifying specific local needs, crafting its own responses to wider patterns of social change and making lasting differences in their communities.

Anna introduced her colleague, Sonia Bussu, from the Local Trust’s national body who explained that Tang Hall is one of 150 projects across England in which current and future neighbourhood plans are driven by local populations.

Sonia is the Research and Learning Co-Ordinator for the Trust, and she offered a summary of research methods being used to evaluate the programme, as well as emerging new research projects in collaboration with locally-based universities in the areas of green space and transport, for example.

Next, Mora Scaife from the City of York Council offered a fascinating account of how the Tang Hall area was mapped in preparation for the bid to the Local Trust. The Council was heavily involved in planning for the project, setting up the boundaries in line with existing administrative areas and within the funding requirements for population size.

Mora is part of the Council’s Communities & Equalities team, with particular responsibilities and interests in ensuring community consultation and participation across the city. The talk then turned back to Anna Bialkowska, who offered an analysis of the socio-demographic profile of the area, and how the project’s priorities have been shaped in collaboration with local residents in light of their particular needs.

big local

Current priorities will involve projects in the area of well-being, enhancing existing community facilities and environmental resources, practical programmes of support for young people and families, and making connections between the community and wider city and business networks.

Anna talked through the lessons learned already: food is always good, not least in areas where people often go without, for bringing people together and canvassing their views on what is happening in their communities.

Community gardens can act as a kind of social glue, and Anna noted various current plans within the project and potential for working together in the area of green infrastructure. The event ended with a combined panel discussion involving Anna, Mora, Karen Bloor, the University’s Research Champion in the theme of Health and Wellbeing, and Steve Cinderby, an expert from the University’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

The panel considered issues of community resilience, green infrastructure and participatory methods. A good dialogue resulted on the challenges and opportunities for communities and universities to engage with each other, not only in terms of externally funded projects but also through directing and connecting existing ground-up schemes with student involvement, such as Edible York.

Initiatives like these can be places of closer encounter between neighbours, helping to bridge gaps and allowing for better understanding, working and living together in the future.