The topic of redevelopment is often met with responses varying between enthusiasm and scepticism. Local residents and businesses grow to feel a sense of ownership over their area and many are hesitant to endorse changes that could alter the familiar. This is further fuelled by fears regarding overcrowding; sharing space/ local amenities with an unknown other; the displacement of small and independent businesses, rising costs, the loss of community services and other key assets that can significantly change the fabric of a community.

Fear is what gets people talking, fear is what makes people speak up and question what’s happening in their area. But fear isn’t exactly the best place to start when it comes to communities getting involved in their area’s future development.

The Localism Act has brought in new requirements for public consultation on certain developments. Developers are now required to consult local communities on the proposals before submitting planning applications. This is meant to give communities a chance to have their say before plans are finalised, so they have a genuine chance to influence and make changes to the proposals. But can this alleviate the fear of change and of a force outside of a communities control?

Mapify recently carried out such a consultation, prior to planning permission being submitted on development plans for the Old Tram Depot in Clapton, Hackney. Through our public engagement we found a passionate community who care deeply about their area and its future. But we also found a fearful community. Fearful that their voices would fall on deaf ears. Fearful that this was a publicity stunt to get them onside. Fearful because they’ve seen it all happen before.

The consultation went someway to put the communities fears at ease. Discovering that we were actually one of them, based in the Tram Depot ourselves, its future affects us just as much as it does them. Finding out that we weren’t a PR agency but a social-enterprise established to give communities a voice during development and regeneration. Realising that we wanted to hear everything they had to say and that actually we would put everything into our report for the architects, developer and council to see, good or bad.