Last night saw about 60 people gather in St Paul’s Parish Church to hear about ‘Shaping the JQ’ the JQNF project to get people ready for
a possible Neighbourhood Planning process. I spoke about the unusual nature of the process; that ‘normal’ neighbourhood forum activities often consisted of responding to Local Authority consultation or asking for more/better/different public services, whereas this process involves the people who live and make a living in the JQ creating something for themselves, a framework for life in the place we’ve chosen to call home. People were given the opportunity to choose ‘development characteristics’ that they’d like to see more or less of, (for those of you who couldn’t make it last night, an e-version of the questionnaire will be available next week) and maps to indicate (using the inevitable ‘stickies’) where the ‘beauty’ and ‘beast’ bits of the JQ are – as well as placing wishes. The Twitter god decided that one of the key phrases was ‘not top-down consultation, but bottom-up creativity'; and who am I to argue? To help give the creative urge a bit of a push, we enjoyed a 20-minute presentation from Philip Singleton, JQ resident, JQNF Committee member and erstwhile architect of the Big City Plan. Philip showed us the potential for creating a JQ every bit as interesting, vibrant and prosperous as places like Shoreditch and Hoxton. For me the sobering statistic was that, if the JQ was a housing estate, the level of voids (that’s empty buildings to you and me) would make us a failed ‘sink’ estate. We have the capacity to retain the important industrial and craft heritage, nourish the vital living industry and create a beautiful place to live with many of the benefits of a village, plus the added spice of being a ten-minute walk into a vibrant city centre that even the New York Times thinks is a cool place to visit.
I think we have the capacity: the JQ is knee-deep in architects, urban designers and other creative people – all we have to add is some community effort, engagement with a process no-one has fully traversed yet and the intelligent flair that drips out of the brickwork in this particular bit of Brum. Get with us – get involved and help with the sweet, sweet task of ‘Shaping the JQ’.