The Borough of Kingston upon Thames faces unprecedented planning pressures:

  • Mayor of London Housing Target – 964 homes a year + Opportunity Area Status
  • New Local Plan and other measures, e.g. the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
  • Impact of Covid
  • Climate Emergency: Environment Act 2021 + Emergency and Biodiversity measures

Yet there is no dedicated space where individual development schemes or a strategic overview for the borough can be presented and communicated to the public.  Nowhere the public can discuss and debate their future neighbourhoods.

Involving the community  has become more important than ever since a purpose of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is to “improve the planning system to give communities a louder voice, making sure developments are beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing”.

A neutral forum

What is desperately needed is a neutral forum where residents can positively contribute to change.

That is the role of an ‘Urban room’; to provide a space where proposals can be discussed, ideas generated and plans developed.  The urban room has been described as a place to foster meaningful connections between people and place, using creative methods of engagement.  All to encourage active participation in the future of our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods.

An urban room can also provide a rich educational resource for local schools and higher education students.  After all, today’s young people will have to live with the outcome of things we decide today.

What does an Urban Room look like?

The urban room is a flexible concept.  The important thing is that it should be a space where the widest possible audience can be engaged, ideally on a high street location.  It need not be permanent; pop-up urban rooms have been successfully set up in unused city centre shops.  There has even been an experiment with a mobile urban room, to reach outlying areas.

One version is a space with model of the local built environment, highlighting future developments and providing historical context.  However with the development of virtual models, this offers another possibility. For young people, digital means of engagement will be crucial.

(shown below Watford’s Urban Room)

Next Steps

The Kingston Society supports the idea of an urban room for Kingston since 2017. Other potential supporters/partners have been approached, including RBK and the University of Kingston, and we now have a working group to exploring the feasibility of the proposal, and its aims and objectives, and what form a Kingston Urban Room might take.

Come along an see what progress has been made.

Peter Karpinski


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Last Updated on July 22, 2022 by Kingston Society