Housing to 2040 voices: the community contact’s experience | Dunbeg

A workshop with a large group of people sitting around a table looking at plans and drawings
Published: 17/01/2020

As part of our work on Housing to 2040, we spoke to five people involved in recent affordable housing projects in Paisley and Dunbeg. Moira MacVicar is Partnership Lead at the West Highland Housing Association. Here she talks about a partnership between the housing association, developer and Dunbeg community. The project also engaged learners from the local school about the landscaping and play areas.

In my role as Partnership Lead with West Highland Housing Association (a subsidiary of Link Housing Association), I liaise with different partners, particularly health and social care and the community of Dunbeg. Prior to joining WHHA in 2017, I was a housing manager for Argyll and Bute Council. Part of my role was in housing development, so I have been at the coalface, so to speak, with this development throughout.

There is almost a new community being created in Dunbeg, with the 300 houses currently under construction forming the third and largest phase. I have been working on the planning consultation events within the existing community. There has been a lot of community consultation over the extended period of the project. With it being so many years in the making, residents of the original village felt somewhat ‘consulted out’.

Connecting with the existing village

Initially, residents of the original Dunbeg were primarily interested in how the development was going to impact their existing village. Some of their concerns are difficult for the housing association to resolve alone. They can only be tackled with real partnership working between the strategic bodies: those at the delivery end – the housing association and developer – and the community.

A new Dunbeg development group was recently established. Now that residents can see things happening, it is motivating a new group of people to come together and take advantage of the opportunities for improved facilities. There had previously been a development group that fell by the wayside over time.

The first meeting of the new group took place in late November 2019, comprising members of the new and existing community. The council’s community development officer and I have worked to support the group. We have also managed to get a local charity interested in taking forward proposals for the community woodland around the new development.

The new development group is very enthusiastic about getting improved facilities and amenities for the whole village. It would like a village hall and would like to see concerns about the current school addressed. These include the age of the building, its capacity, and its congestion-prone location at the end of a cul-de-sac. The phase four proposals do mention provision for a new school and for community facilities. But at the moment nobody really knows exactly what shape those should take.

Phase four also includes a roundabout to provide a second access into Dunbeg; the community has always been very keen on that happening.

Landscaping and play areas

Recently, we have engaged pupils from the local school about the landscaping and play areas. We are arranging for them to visit the site now that some homes are nearing completion. We are helping the school incorporate the development into the curriculum, with topics on the different jobs and skills needed to build homes. The development consultants have supplied some learning resource materials to the school.

Of course, when the children get involved, the parents take an interest too. I think this has been a brilliant way to get community buy-in, to flip the discussion around and talk about the benefits the development could bring to the existing community. When I went to speak to the school – we have been twice – the kids were really enthusiastic and had the most insightful questions! It was fascinating to hear their viewpoints.

I would like to see real progress made towards making sure the community, existing and new, gets the additional facilities it has identified it needs. One option is a new-build school on a different site, incorporating good community facilities like a community hall space and playing fields available for wider community use. I hope that we manage to get in the alternative access and that the issues with the trunk road are sorted out. I will continue to work with residents and the development group to help shape their input to plans for the next phase. The funding for seeing through these things will be critical.

Housing to 2040

In 2019, the Scottish Government looked at what Scotland’s homes and communities should look and feel like in 2040, and the options and choices to get there. We supported the Housing to 2040 consultation with a series of workshops, interviews and a travelling exhibition.

Headline image: Kevin McGlynn

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