The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, in partnership with Green School Runs, recently held a series of workshops that gave primary schoolchildren the opportunity to express their views on our area. This is part of the Forum’s efforts to consult the community as widely as possible as we revise parts of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan.
The project was led by Francesca Agostini, and her report is below. She also wrote about the project in the Ham&High.
Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan: consultation with children at local schools
What we did
The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum’s area is home to eight independent and three state schools, employing an estimated 500 teaching and support staff. The schools represent an important part of Hampstead life in terms of business, transport, housing and general use of the area.
As part of our engagement with the community on revision of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan, the Forum decided to consult pupils of local schools. All the schools were invited, and three agreed to participate in this project - two independent and one state. In May and June 2023, we held workshops involving pupils of the three schools, Christ Church school, Devonshire House, and UCS Junior Branch.
We thank the staff and pupils of these schools very much indeed.
Why this matters
In July 2021 the Royal Town Planning Institute said it was important to include children and young people in planning processes. It provided practical advice on how to do this.
There are many reasons why it is important to engage with younger generations on aspects of town planning. Children’s development is considerably affected by how towns, neighbourhoods, and common spaces are planned. There are several ways in which considerate planning can positively affect children’s lives:
• Travel and Independence: the distance that British children travel independently has decreased in recent years. To address this, towns and cities need to be made safe for independent travel.
• Play: free play is fundamental to children’s healthy development and the well-being of individuals and communities. Free play used to happen mostly outside the house, but opportunities for this have diminished. It is important to provide places and occasions for free and “accidental” play in our communities.
• Environment: well-planned neighbourhoods are walkable, with lower car use and therefore lower levels of air pollution. They also include green spaces which provide opportunities to play and also increase biodiversity and wildlife. Neighbourhood plans may have scope to introduce child-friendly policies at a local level.
How the workshops were run
The Forum partnered with the local charity Green School Runs to run the workshops, which focused on areas of the Neighbourhood Plan that are more relevant for children, such as vision and aims for the area, the natural environment, as well as traffic and transport.
Children may not know about town planning, but they often do hold strong views on what they like and dislike about their local area and what improvements should be made. The aim of this engagement was both to enhance their knowledge and learn about their opinions and ideas.
The workshops started with learning what the Forum is and what it does. Pupils watched a short cartoon on town planning. Then, they got to work: thinking about the area immediately outside the school, and what they liked and did not like about it. They wrote their thoughts on post-its and added these to a map of the surrounding area. The workshops lasted up to an hour.
What did the children say?
Christ Church School Year 6 group, 28 children
What do you like?
Nature: The majority of children indicated that they like how green the area around their school is.
Among their comments: “I like the amount of green space in Hampstead”, “I like the trees and the Heath”, “I like the heath, flowers and trees”, “I really like how friendly and green the environment is”, “I like the Heath because it has got more nature than man-made structures”, “I like the flowers and the smell”, “I like flowers and trees around the school”, “Trees around the school”, “I like the trees and flowers and wildlife”, “I like the trees”, “I like that there are green areas”, “I like being near the Heath”.
Quiet and Kind: A good number of children showed appreciation for the community feel.
“It is very quiet, that is good”, “I like the community, it can be peaceful”, “I like how quiet it is”, “the area is quiet and friendly”, “I like that it is peaceful and friendly”, “I like the community, I find it friendly, and the area can be quite peaceful”, “I like the community and how nice people are”, “I like the quietness”.
Four children said they liked it that people can walk in the area
“I like that people mostly walk”, “I like how not many cars drive by and it is quiet”, “I like that there is not much traffic”, “I like that the roads are small which means not many cars can fit”
“I like the trees and nature, and I also like that there are lots of shops near”, “Shops and other services close”.
Church “I like the Church”, “the best part is the Church”
What don’t you like?
Traffic and roads
Traffic was overwhelmingly the number one thing that children don’t like about the area. Other comments were about how narrow the streets are. One child commented that there are not enough parking spaces.
“I don’t like narrow roads”, “the area is a nice one but with so much traffic”, “pollution on Hampstead High Street”, “I don’t like idling cars because they release fumes when they are not moving”, “I don’t like when there is a small path next to the road and you can smell the cars”, “The pavement is too small for the people and there are too many cars”, “I don’t like that there are lots of cars”, “I don’t like how the roads nearby are so quite narrow so it is hard to drive though”, “I don’t like the traffic on Heath Street”, “I don’t like to amount of traffic on the roads going off White Stone Pond”, “I don’t like that the roads are really narrow”, “Don’t like traffic and not enough parking places”, I don’t like all the traffic and loud cars”, “I don’t like that it is busy”, “I don’t like the small street”, “I don’t like how many hills there are”, “I don’t like the amount of pollution”
Dog waste “Dog poo is quite common and owners don’t clean it up”, “I don’t like how dog owners let their dog poo everywhere”, “Dog poo and people not cleaning up after their dogs”, “I don’t like the dog poo everywhere”, “I don’t like how there is dog poo and trash on the street and in the park”
Devonshire House School — Eco Committee, 15 pupils
What do you like?
Nature and transport were the two main themes: children like trees and green spaces and traffic calming elements such as traffic lights.
“I like the trees that are around the place”, “I like that we have a little garden with a horse on the roof: the best part is that it’s real grass”, “I like that there are bushes around some buildings”, “I like that it is not too busy”, “I like that more and more people don’t take the car”, “I like that we have a traffic light so the cars don’t go too fast”, “I like that a lot of people walk to school”
What don’t you like?
Traffic was mentioned first when thinking of negative element in the children area
“The amount of diesel cars”, “So much pollution”, “I don’t like that 1/3 of students use the car and idle that is really bad”, “Don’t like lots of pollution”.
“Fake grass and traffic on Finchley Road”, “Fake grass in the playground”
UCS Junior branch — ECO Committee, 10 pupils
What I like
Transport: children highlighted the proximity of their school to public transport, and expressed appreciation for the Healthy School Streets scene
“I like that there is a train line”, “I like that there is a road outside our school where you cannot park until 8am”, “I like that there is public transport”
“I like that there are lots of trees and wildlife”, “I like that there are shops nearby”, “I like that there are enough places to rest”, “I like that there is a large community”
What I don’t like
Traffic: the comments revolved more around safe travel. Children felt the need for safer streets, with more crossings and slower speed.
“I would like more crossings please”, “I don’t like how many cars come by”, “I think there should be more buses”, “I don’t like the way people drive”. “Lower speed limits”. “More zebra crossings”, “More enforcement of the Highway Code”, “I don’t like how people tend to go over a red light”
“I don’t like that there is not a lot of grass on roads such as Finchley Road”, “I don’t like how there is not enough green space”, “I don’t like how all the roads are congested”.
Shops/ businesses: children seemed to notice a lack of diversity in the shop offering.
“I don’t like how many schools there are”, “I don’t like how Hampstead has multiple, similar shops and stores on the same streets”, “The amount of bakeries in comparison to other commercial activities”, “The amount of litter: please have more bins”