Story of Participation
Setting a Vision for the South of Ashford Garden Community
Between March 2019 and January 2021, Ashford Borough Council organised a series of consultation activities to help write a Five Year Vision & Strategy for the South of Ashford Garden Community (SAGC). Local people in the Wards, Parishes and wider areas most likely to be impacted by the proposed developments within the Garden Community were asked to take part.
The aim was to produce a Vision & Strategy which could join up the proposed developments with the existing communities, including the new residents currently moving into Chilmington Green. Through workshops, surveys, focus groups, webinars and a dedicated webpage, local input was collected and used to build up an illustration of this new community.
An example of the questions being asked included: What does the future hold for rural Ashford, its towns, villages and the growing communities of new housing? How can this growth be nurtured and sustained for the benefit of all residents, new and old? What kind of governance arrangements should be in place? How will this new community be low carbon and exemplary in terms of health and wellbeing?
Two public workshops that considered a masterplan for all three developments with developers in the room proved to be a useful exercise. Participants had plans in front of them which they could layer their own drawings and ideas. Common themes and priorities were put together in a Report Back document which went on to influence changes to the developer's proposals. View report on SAGC workshops of September 2019 [pdf] 6MB.
Further engagement continued during 2020 when the Covid-19 Pandemic was sadly becoming part of daily life. Ashford Borough Council asked local people to share their stories of lockdown, how their lives were impacted and what they felt needed to improve in response to the pandemic. This became the starting point for a series of focus groups and a one-off live event held entirely online. At this event, some of these stories where shared alongside presentations about the South of Ashford Garden Community and a discussion about how a vision can bring together different partners to ensure our communities are better designed to meet all needs in the best and worst of times. You can watch a recording of the event here.
Key themes from the online activities and the earlier workshops became the building blocks of a Five Year Vision & Strategy to guide developments such as Chilmington Green and any future proposed developments within the area as a form of quality control. It set the bar for quality placemaking, ecological preservation, healthy living and community-led governance.
Ashford Borough Council officers pulled this input together with the themes and illustrations to produce a Five Year Vision & Strategy, which was formally adopted by Cabinet members in December 2020.