The neighbourhood group Bouwlust in The Hague contributed their views and ideas to an urban development project in their district. The houses in the post-war district, The Hague South-West, on the outskirts of the city are in urgent need of renovation. Some homes will be renovated, but many will also be demolished and replaced by new constructions. The large nursing home next to the meeting centre on Randveen in Bouwlust will also be replaced.
The municipality organised consultation meetings to inform people about the various phases of the project. However, as these meetings took place in the evenings, hardly any older people attended them. Older people feared that their voices would not be heard.
For this reason, the Dreamlike Neighbourhood group invited policy officers and project managers from the municipality and the housing corporation to one of their group meetings.
Before the meeting, the framework conditions were jointly defined. The exchange was planned as an open group discussion. It was agreed that there would be no lecture with PowerPoint slides or similar. The project leaders were asked to come into the group with an open mind and with the intention of learning from the older people.
The project managers brought prints of the plans to the meeting and explained them to the participants. They had the chance to bring in their perspectives and give feedback. Issues discussed were inter alia “safety” and “accessibility”. For example, participants considered that the planned semi-underground parking was not age-friendly or safe. Furthermore, participants made suggestions regarding the planning of facilities, such as the health centre, day nursery and the cafeteria. They were planned to on the outside of the apartment building with the entrance on the main street. Participants said they would rather see these on the inside, facing the neighbourhood. From their perspective this would give more of a neighbourhood feeling, security and ease of use. This approach was very new to the project staff. It turned out that they think more in terms of financial feasibility than in terms of an empathetic living environment for residents.
The meeting was an example of how dialogue between the municipality and the residents can be improved. In a small setting, almost everyone feels safe providing an input and being heard. The project managers came to the residents instead of the other way around, and residents were given the stage.