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The Power of Youth Engagement in the Built Environment – from bulb planting to pump tracks

17.04.24 | Written by Jenny Cooper

From championing climate action to social justice, young people today are driving conversations and inspiring change on a global scale. However, one area where their influence can often be overlooked is in matters closer to home: neighbourhood planning.

We see young people as integral. Our Communities and Placemaking team at Cratus Group has a wealth of experience in engaging children and young adults throughout the process. We spend time in schools discussing the role and purpose of town planning, hold hands on planning sessions, and host tree and bulb planting sessions on new developments to get pupils invested in their environment. We firmly believe engaging youth throughout the planning journey can have long-term benefits to both the developer, individuals and wider communities. Successful engagement with children also often extends to their parents, expediting the processing of reserved matters planning applications. 

Engaging young people from an early age not only empowers them as active citizens and, more immediately, ensures that their perspectives and needs are considered in shaping the places where they will live, learn, and play. This approach not only fosters a sense of ownership and belonging but also lays the foundation for a more inclusive and sustainable environment to grow. This is especially important when you consider larger developments or Local Plans which span several decades.

Picture this: a group of young people, armed with coloured markers, cut outs of different styles of homes, shops, playground equipment and a whole lot of creativity gathered around a red line boundary map. The outcome? A NASA rocket ship in a playground… While this might not be possible, we learned what a ‘pump track’ is (a skate park but for cycling, rollerblading and that can even be used by wheelchair users) and that it is highly popular and something younger people actually want. In another session students designed their own hang-out space which is now under construction – with benches,  shelters and climbing frames for teenagers of all ages and genders. So why not build them what they will actually use?

At its core, youth engagement in neighbourhood planning is about recognising children and young people as key stakeholders with valuable insights and contributions to make. By involving them in decision-making processes, whether that’s through community workshops, school councils or creative, game style activities, planners and architects can gain fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that may have been overlooked otherwise, by us adults.

Get in touch with Jenny Cooper, Communities and Placemaking team if you’d like to find out more.

The Power of Youth Engagement in the Built Environment - from bulb planting to pump tracks