Development of the Greater Ballysillan Masterplan in North Belfast involved an extensive and varied process of community consultation and participation.
A key objective behind initiating this DSD led plan was to coalesce several, largely deprived neighbourhoods that had become disconnected from one another over the years. Therefore a consultation strategy was required to bring the people of each neighbourhood together, enabling them to meaningfully contribute to a shared vision for the future of the greater area.
The project was structured in a manner to facilitate the input of many stakeholders. A Project Board comprised of representatives from several central and local government departments and agencies. A Community Engagement Group comprised of representatives from each neighbourhood area, as well as agencies working at community level. Planning and facilitation of the consultation process was undertaken by a consultant team led by The Paul Hogarth Company, who met with both groups on a regular basis.
Consultation took place at all stages of the project. Stage 1 Information Gathering & Analysis involved Community Walkabouts where residents gave the consultation team a tour of their neighbourhood; schools workshops where young people openly discussed and recorded their thoughts and aspirations; and numerous stakeholder meetings with key administrative and community organisations.
Stage 2 Visioning involved a workshop with the Project Board and Community Engagement Group, plus participation in the Embrace Ballysillan Fun Day. Stage 3: Design & Masterplan involved an extensive process of public consultation on the draft masterplan. Leaflets about the project were delivered on two occasions to all 7,000 properties in the study area. ‘Drop In Sessions’ and workshops were held in 12 different locations (community centres, churches and schools), where information boards were displayed for a 12 week period. Information was also posted online and feedback given via a dedicated Facebook page and email address.
The Public Consultation period culminated in an outdoor Family Fun Day. This served to test and demonstrate the potential of an underused space which the plan proposed to be a public square. Even more importantly, it also sought to bring together people from each area in a shared celebration of hopes for the future. Finally, Stage 4 Implementation, where an Action Plan for Delivery was produced, was carried out through further workshops and meetings.
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