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Project Description

This Consultation is to provide extensive community input to ensure a new community Big Hub fits with local need and community buy-in towards a vibrant and well-used new centre.

Colin New Big Hub is to be located in an area of high deprivation with unusually high levels of suicide amongst young people. The area suffers long term capital underinvestment but has significant social capital, ‘People Rich - Amenity Poor’.

The Reason to Consult

The reason to consult has been to scope a brief promoting quality and innovation towards the preparation of Tender Documentation by CPD and SIB. This forms part of a Planning Application for Colin New Town Centre. 

The 5 strands guiding the CTC tender and which need to be considered are:
1. Social sustainability within the built environment
2. Principals of integration and shared space
3. Best practice design
4. A world-class digital infrastructural provision
5. Connectivity and effective transportation links

This Consultation follows on from the Colin New Town major Consultation, which established clearly the shape and content of the resultant masterplan. The ‘Big Hub’ (as the new community Hub is known) is the first phase build of the New Town Centre.

Much has been learnt too from recent Consultation work with Saints Youth and Boxing Clubs in the area, informing the approach to the Big Hub as an exercise in listening, promoting aspiration through quality and innovation in design as well as the provision of a context for further development of social sustainability strategies.

The Consultation activity is part of a continuing process to inspire continuing participation, towards building stewardship and community empowerment.

Currently DCAL is piloting an information point (mini Hub) targeting DCAL intervention and providing additional people on the ground to help consolidate activities as a result of Consultation work and prepare for the New Town Centre.

This Consultation takes into consideration the valuable link between the mini Hub as a laboratory for experimentation around which events, activities and shared space work, to feed into the longer term procurement process of the completed building.

Overcoming Consultation Fatigue

Colin area suffers Consultation fatigue with pockets of multi-generational cynicism around achievability of outcome, directly due to the long term nature of underinvestment in the area.

The Big Hub’s real potential to be built and the Consultation exercise as direct input into tender documentation have been emphasised.

Creative thinking lies at the heart of this facilitation striving towards innovative use of space, overlap of spaces and a strong digital presence. A full dialogue around innovation has been embedded into every stakeholder engagement activity.

Working visually, it has been possible to encourage break-throughs in thinking. Design excellence and innovation has been promoted through the use of dialogue inspiring visual presentation, highlighting best practice worldwide.

Speed of Delivery of Consultation - Timing versus Quality

The speed of delivery of this exercise has been fast tracked due to financial year end. The Consultation for a Hub which genuinely responds to a ‘fit’ with local needs for a population of 30,000 and with a preliminary high level Consultation programmed to take 5 weeks, runs the risk of failing in quality.

However, as Colin has a highly active community with Colin Neighbourhood Partnership (CNP) at the centre, a strategy of implementing the Consultation mainly through CNP and through existing groups e.g. Footprints Women’s Centre made the process efficient without sacrificing quality.

The pre-Christmas start was compensated for by issuing an ‘invite’ to Consultation to take place after the Christmas holidays (using graphics related to CTC already familiar to the people of Colin), in other words to plant the idea of involvement in advance of the actual Consultation. A timeline for Consultation activities and delivery became central to implementation.

Sharing Space and Co-location

Currently in Colin a mini Hub is being developed in a shop unit purchased by DSD to allow piloting of activities in shared space which can inform the development of the Big Hub in use.

This Consultation has taken into consideration the valuable link between the mini Hub as a laboratory for experimentation around which events, activities and shared space work, to feed into the longer term procurement process of the completed building.

As part of the initial plans for the transport provision for the Big Hub, a Park and Ride Lounge has been proposed to co-locate into the building. The Library currently located in the Dairy Farm is also proposing to co-locate into the new Big Hub. 

Co-location success is predicated on the successful sharing of spaces e.g. shared cafe with Hub and with Park and Ride, shared WCs etc, where public sector expenditure is maximised and potential for shared interest is realised to the benefit to the people of Colin and surrounds.

Key One-to-One consultation activities took place to fully inform co-location strategies.


Scoping Consultation has highlighted the need for the accommodation to be primarily well-being orientated, as the largest interest category amongst the community groups. The consultation has highlighted that the key challenge for the Hub is to develop a design which is welcoming, akin to a ‘living room’ where services can be accessed without stigmatisation, where accessing areas and spaces associated with well-being support such as help with addiction, counselling etc can be done ‘without people knowing your business’.

World Class Digital Infrastructural Provision

A key delivery strand for the Hub is a world class digital infrastructural provision to enable the people of Colin and users of the building to be ‘ahead of the game’ digitally, harnessing the power of the internet and innovation to empower people out of deprivation, attract investment, create skills and to maximise on the potential for community groups and cross agency / cross departmental working.  Learning is a key outcome of need for the new Big Hub.

Immersive Briefing for Consultation

A representative lead group from DSD, SIB, CNP and DCAL have visited Google HQ Dublin as part of an immersive briefing with a view to Phase 1, the ‘Community Hub’ using innovation in built environment to enhance both Well-being and Learning. 

Thinking outside the box, blurring the edges of conventional use of space, overlap of uses, open and accessible, trailblazing in terms of use and integration of digital strategies to enhance community use, are all present in Google HQ. These are innovative devices it is hoped will be used in the new community Big Hub.

The regeneration area concerned has little or no amenity and suffers a high number of suicides amongst young people, so creating a strong identity of place, to which these young people feel a strong sense of belonging and nurturing, is paramount.

Google’s environment has immense appeal to young people and the resulting understanding and insight into this by the lead group will be hugely beneficial to the ongoing development of this part of the regeneration and indeed to other projects the team may be involved in.

Learning Outcomes

  • Where time is short it has proved critical to use timeline and Project Management software to ensure maximum efficiency and increase quality of outcome.
  • The process of discerning and differentiating between agendas of different individuals and groups i.e. when something may be important to a group or individual but may not be of strategic importance to the wider community or specific relevance to the Consultation itself, has been important.
  • To take more photographs of the Consultation and to make that process an integral part of each session, allocating a 'photographer' in the room as well as requesting permission to use the photos for the digital toolkit at the beginning of each session would have been useful.
  • Previous Consultations have been fully used where relevant to inform the existing Consultation.
  • Visual inspiration for dialogue has proved invaluable in this case using an iPad and projector with some use of digital as well as paper sketching on wall.
  • It is essential to brief fully any persons joining field trips particularly at late notice to maximise on the benefits of the trip.
  • Finally it has been important to listen carefully not just to what is being said but also for what is not being said.