One of the features of the My Castle Gateway process has been the use of different “platforms” to provide a variety of ways for people to engage. All have been productive in terms of getting different kinds of responses.
The Masterplan Ideas Launch Event on 25th/26th November suffered from a short lead time and a bitterly cold weekend, but still got useful attendance of around 80 people. In partnership with Coaching York, who ran Imagination walks to explore the different Masterplan Ideas, we were able to elicit rich and thoughtful responses and videos from individuals and groups with a particular interest in the area.
A number of groups made formal comments; all of these had been involved at earlier stages of the process and had contributed to discussions, in some cases organising events. These included York Civic Trust, The River Foss Society, York Cycle Campaign, and York Blind & Partially Sighted Society. We also received specific alternative visions for aspects of the development from retired planner David Barratt and from York Tomorrow.
Through the council’s Castle Gateway Masterplan Ideas website we set up online surveys for each idea. The surveys were designed both to gather responses and to encourage rich and reflective engagement. 251 surveys were completed. In general people who contribute via the surveys were keen to be constructive and specific. The vast majority of those that used the surveys to respond were interested in taking the opportunity to offer detailed and imaginative feedback.
We have used social media throughout the process (Twitter and Facebook) including “Twitter Hours” to encourage discussion around the “Challenges” events. This has been useful in gaining publicity for events and also for casual input (all of which has been incorporated into the Flickr database). During the masterplan consultation period greater activity was stirred, particularly on the general council Facebook group. The responses here was very mixed; there was a considerable amount of positive (if sometimes sceptical) contribution, but also a lot of very wide-ranging and negative posts on anything from potholes in Huntington to the proliferation of student accommodation. There was clear evidence among many of a mistrust of both the process of engagement with the public, and with the competence of the council as a whole. This is an issue we will return to at the end of report in a section outlining the My Castle Gateway next steps.
The council ran three drop-in events at 29 Castlegate in late November and early December. Approximately 110 people attended (a total of 14 hours consultation), and around half of those were already familiar with the project. There was a significant number of local residents who came either to express issues they experience in the Castle Gateway area and ensure any ideas addressed these, or those who simply came to find out more. People passing by were encouraged to come in, resulting in introducing several young people (under 25) and visitors to York to the project and again capturing their comments. All age ranges have contributed, including those with young families. Some wanted to feedback online, but on the day feedback generated 90 Post-it comments and 8 Questionnaires providing 169 separate comments (all added to the Flickr database).