Since our formation over 25 years ago, JTP has been at the cutting edge of co-design Charrette processes, putting the knowledge and creativity of the local residents and business community at the heart of shaping visions and plans to create new places and breathe new life into existing ones. In this Monologue piece, JTP Community Planner, Leigh Yeats reflects on our practice's strategies and processes looking back on a recent Charrette undertaken for Bodmin Town Centre.
Hands-on Planning Workshop
If we all have the same vision, it’s a way to move forward!
In March 2022, the Bodmin Town Centre Charrette was an open invitation community planning and co-design event, led by JTP on behalf of Cornwall Council, with partners Bodmin Town Council, Bodmin Town Team and Bodmin Chamber of Commerce. Around 350 people from the local community took part in a series of workshops, walkabouts and hands-on planning groups to create a new Vision for Bodmin Town Centre.
What is a Charrette?
A Charrette (aka Community Planning Weekend) is an intensive, hands-on, co-design workshop that brings members of the community and stakeholders together with professionals from different disciplines to create a Vision and action plan that is specific to a place and community. The multi-day format, with proximity working and a deadline for the final Vision presentation, stimulates creative debate, accelerates decision making and encourages people to "think outside of the box”. Originating in the United States over sixty years ago, the Charrette process has been a tried and tested method for involving communities in generating consensus visions and plans internationally.
Bodmin Town Centre, like many other towns across the UK, has suffered with a decline in footfall due to the rise of online shopping and out of town retail centres, coupled with high business rates and the Covid pandemic forcing many businesses to close.
The town centre, despite its historic character and plethora of listed buildings, has lost its significance as a focal point for the town and the community. Today, the town centre is characterised by uninspiring public realm, empty units, poorly maintained buildings, a car dominated high street and a lack of greenery which does not entice people in to explore the town centre, dwell and spend money in the local economy.
We’ve got some fabulous buildings. If you look up, you can see the beauty, but we’re not making the most of them.
Kick Back Street Kids [local community group] need a big space that’s permanent, the kids need continuity. There would be a hell of a lot of disappointed kids if this had to stop.
Many Bodmin residents must cope with the challenges of living on low incomes and there is a need for more investment in skills and training, youth work and social care, as well as a need for more provision and access to appropriate, affordable community spaces.
JTP were approached by Cornwall Council to create a town wide Vision for Bodmin using the Charrette process, to help deliver the long-term ambitions for the town, as identified in the Cornwall Local Plan (2016) and the Bodmin 2030 and Beyond Vision (2019).
The Bodmin 2030 and Beyond Vision is to create “an attractive, thriving town centre which has evolved into a community hub offering a variety of daytime and evening meeting places and experiences as well as retail opportunities.”.
Bodmin Town Centre Charrette
The Charrette process was an opportunity for local people and businesses in Bodmin to co-create a clear and achievable Vision for the town centre, as well as how they can work together to deliver it.
On Friday 18 to Tuesday 22 March 2022 the local community were invited to the Bodmin Town Centre Charrette to create a new Vision for Bodmin Town Centre.
A typical Charrette spans over five consecutive days with public workshops held on Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday, followed by a period of intensive team working from Sunday to Tuesday to assess the outcomes and draw up the Vision, with the final public report presentation of the Vision taking place on the Tuesday evening.
In the weeks leading up to the Charrette, hard copy and electronic publicity ensured that local people were made aware of and invited to attend the Charrette. Flyers were sent to residents' households; letters and emails sent local stakeholders; a website set up with download capability, Freephone number, press advertisements and press releases were issued to the local media; banners were put up in the town centre; and event details posted to social media channels.
Meeting and “animating” the community prior to the Charrette was also important to ensure that local groups and key stakeholders, including schools, youth clubs, and neighbourhood groups were engaged and encouraged to spread the word and participate at the event. For the Bodmin Charrette, workshops were held with Bodmin College and St Mary’s Primary School workshops. Meetings were also held with local groups including Kick Back Street Kids (KBSK) Performing Arts, Poly Rhythm, Bodmin Jail, Bodmin and Wenford Heritage Railway and St Petroc’s Church.
The first morning of the five-day Bodmin Charrette started with a team tour of the town and surrounding areas so the Charrette team could start to understand the wider context, existing facilities and issues relating to the town centre. The tour was then followed up with a team briefing, with a member from the client and consultant teams each taking turns to brief the rest of the Charrette team on planning, transport, environment, urban design etc.
Team Tour looking across Bodmin
The event then brought the public together in dialogue workshops to openly discuss problems, dreams and solutions for the town centre. The resulting ideas were then further explored in themed hands-on planning sessions and town centre walkabouts facilitated by Charrette team members. Each group reported back to everyone present to ensure the sharing and cross fertilisation of ideas.
Young people’s workshops were also held to give a chance for young people to talk about the site and to draw ideas for the future. Students from Callywith College and Bodmin College took part in themed hands-on planning sessions and also reported back their ideas to the rest of the group.
Hands-on Planning, young people’s workshop
Throughout the Charrette process, the Charrette team showed the community what can be done and how hungry they were to get this to happen. Their extensive research and dedication to ensure that our community was involved and heard throughout the process will undoubtedly result in Bodmin having a stronger community supporting what really matters.
Kick Back Street Kids Performing Arts
The Vision for Bodmin Town Centre
After the two days of public workshops, the JTP team, working locally, drew up a Vision for the town centre, including an illustrative masterplan, which was presented back to the local community on Tuesday 22 March at Shire House Suite. In addition, a summary broadsheet was printed locally and distributed at the end of the presentation for people to take home.
Key elements of the Vision included making far more of Bodmin’s unique Cornish cultural and built heritage; co-ordinating the array of visitor attractions to focus on Bodmin and encourage more people into the town centre all year round; reducing the dominance of the car in Fore Street (High Street) and generating a diverse and vibrant mix of shops, cafes and residential, community and business uses; bringing more greenery into the town centre and improving the look of buildings and shopfronts; creating an accessible network of streets and alleyways with a range of quality places and spaces to linger and enjoy through the day and into the evening, and; improving local education, skills training and job opportunities for the local community.
Artist’s impression of Fore Street looking east
You captured so many existing gems within the town and highlighted some really exciting opportunities too. It’ll be great to work with the town to see how we can try and make some (if not all) of these a reality.
Very exciting times for Bodmin! Really pleased to see so many people taking part in the process! Very grateful to the team at JTP for taking us through the Charrette process! Brilliant way of working!
Next Steps and Conclusion
The Charrette work and illustrative Vision will be used to inform a Town Centre Action Plan and the ‘Reimagining Fore Street’ work, funded by Cornwall Council’s Town Centre Vitality funding and led by the Bodmin Town Team.
The Town Centre Action Plan and Reimagining Fore Street work will use the revenue funding to identify how the ambitions outlined from the Charrette can be delivered and identify ‘meanwhile’ uses to revitalise the town centre. The work will be considered by the Neighbourhood Plan Group, Bodmin Town Council and local Cornwall Councillors. Partners will then work together to develop business cases for individual elements of the scheme which will be used to support future bids for funding.
Key priorities identified from the Charrette process have informed a number of baseline studies and potential projects that Bodmin Town Team will hope to take forward in 2023.
Students from Callywith College and Bodmin College
I just wanted to say that the Charrette is proving to be such a valuable process and is quoted or referenced regularly.
Into Bodmin CIC