Novel Tool Will Help Understand Community Views And Needs

by Alastair Hamilton -

A new tool, designed to help public authorities understand community views and identify needs and opportunities, is now in use in Shetland.

The tool, known as “The Place Standard”, provides a framework for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of places, so that action can be taken to improve them. It was developed by the Scottish Government, working with major public agencies, and it’s being introduced across Scotland, with Shetland Islands Council having been involved in some of the development work. It can be used at any scale, from a hamlet to a county, or indeed a nation.

"...it can be used at any scale..."

The place standard can be applied using a questionnaire or through discussion in workshops, and measures perceptions of the quality of a place on a series of factors. The scores on these factors can then be plotted to give a graphical representation of the results. In the diagram below, which is an example provided by the Scottish Government, it can be seen that the place used in this case scores highly on several factors, such as public transport, housing and community and feeling safe, but less well on facilities and amenities, social interaction or influence and sense of control.

The new approach has already been tried in Shetland. For example, the Place Standard has been applied in the early stages of designing a substantial new housing development. However, the Council, in partnership with other local agencies involved in the Community Planning Partnership, has also undertaken an assessment that extends right across the isles. It’s expected to reveal a wealth of information about residents’ feelings towards the place they live.

The Council says that the early survey returns were reasonably representative of all districts and age ranges. However, it seems that men were a little reticent about filling in the online form, accounting for just a third of the responses. Before the consultation ended on 10 July, Councillor Alastair Cooper – who chairs the Development Committee – appealed for more men, and also more younger and older folk, to take part.

"...it’s expected to reveal a wealth of information..."

The findings of the Shetland Place Standard, expected in the autumn, will be used to inform a wide range of Council strategies from housing and transport to development and community planning.

As Mr Cooper pointed out, “the information gathered by this project won’t just be available to the Council – the data collected could and should be used by, for example, local community councils and development groups to strengthen arguments for things like grant applications. So, obviously, the more responses we get, the better for everybody.”

Posted in: Community