Discussing what planning can do for Destination City

This evening’s City of London workshop on Destination City was well-worth attending – even though it turned out that it wasn’t much about Destination City. It was about a Plan.

I should have paid more attention to the invitation page, which was clearly headed City Plan 2040 engagement programme. It said that workshops would run on “key topics, transport issues and areas in the City that are likely to experience significant change over this period”.

I signed up for the one on Destination City/Culture, thinking – as I wrote yesterday – that it would provide a chance to talk about the nature of the £2.5 million programme, that includes a £1.3 million Spectacular Bartholomew Fair in September.

I should have realised that it was about how planning – and development of the City Plan – can help achieve Destination City objectives. These were spelled out as:

  • Drive footfall that encourages spend
  • Deliver a commercial ROI
  • Reappraise perception and drive desirability
  • Enhance destination profile and leisure credentials
  • Improve the customer experience and keep audiences coming back for more

So no chance to ask for more detail on what will happen in September, and how residents might join in and benefit.

However, after initial high-level presentations about cultural, planning and transport strategies, we split into groups for discussion around some practical questions. These were:

  • How effective do you think public realm improvements, temporary events and the delivery of interesting spaces through planning will be at making the city a more desirable place to live, work and visit?
  • Do you think some areas in the Square Mile are more in need of cultural investment than other?
  • What is your experience of being in the City? What type of uses and spaces you value the most? – what works and what doesn’t?
  • How can transport and street environment contribute to improving cultural activities and the experience of spending time in the Square Mile?

Opinions were aired, anecdotes shared, ideas floated, post-it notes written. It was most enjoyable.

Back in the day I’ve been involved in running consultation exercises, and so know that the key issue is who makes stuff happen. It’s no good collecting a lot of good ideas if you can’t pin down who is going to deliver. If you don’t deliver people naturally become disillusioned.

The management and facilitation of the workshop was excellent, so I have high hopes that in this instance ideas will be taken seriously. My suggestion is that the organisers transcribe the post-it notes and then feed back an analysis of what may influence the City Plan, and what will be done with the other ideas. There could then be follow-on workshops with those responsible for particular issues.

Oh, and please run a workshop about Destination City.

Update: the results of the workshop are now available: see City planners report on residents’ priorities for Destination City, which also includes information about Community Forum events. First one is January 15 2024.

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