Gresham Neighbourhood Plan

Thursday, 10 December, 2020
Gresham Neighbourhood Plan on Miro

Isabel Lima

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Gresham’s Wooden Horse (2017) was a project initiated by artist, Isabel Lima, bringing together disparate communities living in Gresham, Middlesbrough (UK). Many of Gresham’s terraced houses had been demolished or boarded up; its population diverse yet social deprivation discouraging local people from finding mutual commonalities and with different communities rarely interacting. Against this backdrop, Gresham’s Wooden Horse initiated an informal forum for cultural exchange – for old and new Gresham residents to establish a sense of ownership of their neighbourhood.

This participatory, place-based project was originally commissioned by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and supported by Arts Council England, Platforma Festival/Counterpoints Arts and the Thirteen Community Fund.

A Neighbourhood Plan is the continuation of Lima’s engagement with the area of Gresham and her on going collaboration with residents.

A Neighbourhood Plan is a statutory (legal) document led and produced by local communities in Gresham, Middlesbrough (UK), which sets out a vision for their own area and contains policies for the use and development of local land.

In 2018 a group of residents and stakeholders constituted the Gresham Community Forum and designated a Boundary Area Map for the development of their Gresham Neighbourhood Plan. In line with regulations, the designation of both the Neighbourhood Area and the Neighbourhood Forum was submitted to the Local Planning Authority for consultation and approval; and was granted in February 2019. Since then, ‘progress’ has been slow and affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The Gresham Neighbourhood Plan interactive board is presented here as a visual representation of our past and future collaborative work. Developing a neighbourhood plan is extremely complex and can seem daunting. Learning a new language (such as, planning language), engaging every resident/neighbour, researching, collating data, reaching consensual decisions, are all difficult tasks at the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped our engagement work, but, on the other hand, has allowed us the time to map what we have done so far and what work is ahead.

Navigation instructions

Suggested navigation starting from Top Left Corner going Down and Up moving towards the Right, finishing at the Bottom Right Corner.

General:

Using a trackpad: move through the board by sliding two fingers across the trackpad.

Using a mouse: find an empty area of the board, click and hold the left mouse button and drag.

Zoom in and out: hover or click over the Zoom Percentage Square at the bottom left corner of the board which will expand to reveal the + and – symbols. Click on the symbols to zoom in and out.

Videos, PDFs and Docs:

Videos: click on the Play symbol to watch the video

PDFs and Docs: click on the document, above it will appear a bar with arrows pointing back and forward. Click on the arrows to move through the pages of the documents.

What you are going to see

This interactive board is an archive in motion (created via the open source MIRO platform), constantly evolving, being edited, adapted, revised and added to. It is comprised of selected documents, photographs, reports and videos.

The background image of this board is a photograph of a demolished house I took in Gresham in 2016, when I first visited the neighbourhood. At the time many of the boarded up houses were demolished.

  • Starting on the top left-hand side of the board and moving down, you can find a brief Context Background, the forum constitution, and an intro to Streets Ahead (the charity leading the Neighbourhood Plan) for Information.
  • Moving down, we have a video from a conversation between Kim May the Operations Manager at Streets Ahead and myself during lockdown.
  • Next to it, we have the Final Community Action Plan Report developed by Streets Ahead in 2015, which gathers amongst other things, statistical data of the neighbourhood such as Types of Tenure, Education, Employment, Ethnicity, etc.
  • Just below, we have a Resident’s Charter, which was produced in 2007 by Social Regeneration Consultants on behalf of Community Sounding Board and Middlesbrough Council aimed at providing a set of commitments to residents (none of which came to fruition).
  • To the side we have a little bit of the history of Gresham, which was the first place in the North of England to have a Settlement House in 1896. The Settlement movement was formed in the East End of London in 1886 and in Gresham, in 1892, when Miss Lizzie Harris arrived in Middlesbrough to take her appointment as Lady Superintendent of the newly formed Women’s Congregational Settlement.
  • Moving on to the Post-it notes on the right is the research and work we still have to conduct for the Neighbourhood Plan in order to form a Background Document. Producing a background document allows the Neighbourhood Plan to focus on the policies, with a summary of evidence.
  • Moving to the right-hand side of the board we have documentation of our residents’ engagement process. We conducted a group Body Mapping of the neighbourhood where small groups of residents come together to present and discuss their views on the neighbourhood, their vision, aims and possible solutions for the issues they wish to address. This exercise was based on the work of Javier Sanchez Rodriguez a community organiser/researcher based in Wales.
  • Below that, the text on the green wall represents a sample of responses to the questions raised during the Body Mapping
  • The board finishes with the possible structure and content of our final plan. Once ready, it needs to be submitted for independent assessment/scrutiny via a referendum in the neighbourhood; and approved by the Local Authority. Only then will it become a statutory planning instrument, which we aim to be in place for 15 to 20 years.

Isabel Lima

Isabel Lima is a Newcastle-based artist whose practice addresses the overarching themes of Identity, Culture and Place. Her own family history of displacement is the catalyst for her research. Isabel develops artist-led projects in collaboration with groups of people who have systematically suffered injustice and/or oppression caused by capitalism and colonialism, namely refugees and people seeking asylum. In her current research Isabel is approaching socially engaged art as a site of production and transformation that goes beyond representation and contains within its scope the possibility to enact change. Isabel construes her role as an artist and that of the artwork as fundamentally linked to openness and vulnerability in a constant process of becoming. This process of becoming is relational and flexible in order to remain committed to place, context and lived experiences.

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