February’s blog is by Emma Robinson, the Town Centre Manager for Barnes Community Association, who reflects on the Big Barnes Ponder 7 years on:
“The process highlighted that the community is best placed to shape and direct its own destiny and that projects delivered with full community involvement are inevitably going to deliver the best results.”
It has now been almost seven years since the Barnes charrette of 2013 and what a journey it has been! At the time I embarked on the Big Barnes Ponder, as we called our charrette, I had no idea the impact it would have on me as Town Centre Manager, on our team of volunteers and on Barnes.
Our charrette visioning day in October 2013 enabled us to harness the ideas of the community to create a resident-led vision for the future of Barnes. It was a successful event that brought residents of all ages together to think creatively about the future with the support of planning experts. These residents were passionate about the future and gave up several hours of their time to help us plan. The process highlighted that the community is best placed to shape and direct its own destiny and that projects delivered with full community involvement are inevitably going to deliver the best results.
The charrette was just the beginning of our journey. Over the last seven years we have seen many highs, as projects have come to fruition, and many lows as we have come up against delays and challenge, but what has kept me going is the enthusiasm of our many volunteers for the projects they work on. Our volunteers have changed over the years but a few have stayed with us on the journey and have given so much time and energy to our community projects.
The key to our success so far without a doubt has been our ability to harness the support of residents for the projects they identified. This has enabled us to influence key decision makers, whether that’s the Council or TfL, our MP or our ward councillors. We have also been able to benefit from the extensive skill sets of our local volunteers to enable to us to tackle even the most challenging engineering problem.
Persistence is also incredibly important. We wouldn’t have got where we are today if we took no for an answer. Most of our projects have taken many years to come to fruition and would no doubt have disappeared many years ago without the dedication of our volunteers.
Our successes so far have been many and include the realisation of projects for a new community playground and a footbridge and also the realisation of a vibrant high street despite the economic challenges. We have been recognised nationally for the work we have done in Barnes and I have spoken about the Ponder charrette experience in Parliament and at conferences. Barnes was a runner up in the Great British High Streets competition of 2018.
We have still got a long way to go but we have established a reputation for the quality of the work we do and for delivery and so the future looks positive. I’m sure there will be many more great projects delivered in Barnes by the Big Barnes Ponder team.