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Volunteer Blog

A Reflection on our Edmonton workshops

As part of our 2023 grant from Trust for London we are building on our current outreach programme by holding workshops in areas of London undergoing high levels of development. Our volunteers are an integral part of these workshops. Read below to find out about the experience of one of our volunteers at our workshops in February 2024.

Volunteering with Planning Aid London has been a truly enriching experience. Over the recent weeks, I was glad to have the opportunity to participate in two remarkable workshops in Edmonton. I am always passionate about engaging with community work and curious about how planning is perceived at the community level, which motivated me to sign up for the events. I admit before the event I was unsure about how I could manage such engagement, especially for the children, and how I could inspire them to talk (what if they are not interested in planning?). However, later I found everyone was very enthusiastic to express their ideas about their community.

A whiteboard with text that people have written about their ideas for a better Edmonton

cardboard models of highrise housing and rooftop gardens in Edmonton

The Future of Edmonton according to families in the area

The first was a simple yet innovative event, designed in partnership with Doodle Designs, aimed at parents and children under 10 years old. With only cardboard and paint crayons we invited them to construct their own vision of Edmonton town centre in the future. The results were astounding. The children unleashed their imaginations and designed skyscrapers, airports, cottages, cinemas, new swimming pools and even car factories. By the time the workshop concluded, there was even an impressive mega-structure akin to a brand-new town centre.

While we might not know if the children would choose to inhabit the worlds they created, their designs clearly expressed a yearning for more surprises, joy, energy, and growth in Edmonton. While the children were working on their ideas, I spoke to their parents about their memories of the area and what would like to see more of in the Town Centre. I was disheartened to hear that some thought the area was in decay with little to offer for families with young children.

Children's designs for Edmonton Green

More green spaces for older Edmonton residents

The second workshop I joined was designed to engage the senior community members aged 65 and above. Using clay modelling, this session provided an opportunity to discuss thoughts on the local area. I even took the chance to create a small clay house myself, which was a very relaxing experience. The participants, many of whom have called Edmonton home for over 25 years, exhibited a profound connection to their neighbourhood and a sincere concern for its future. They had practical suggestions on topics ranging from traffic management to the potential for more green spaces and activities for older residents.

However, it also revealed some conflicts and misunderstandings among different community groups, highlighting the inherent challenges and disputes in town planning. For example, there were misunderstandings between community groups of different cultures, and between homeowners and tenants. As Enfield Council has recently concluded consultation for their Local Plan, I am curious to see how these complexities will be addressed.


Photo by Diamond Geezer on Flickr

Reflecting on my involvement in these workshops as part of Planning Aid London, I feel immensely grateful for Denean's patience and support. The knowledge and skills I've acquired from her in facilitation and communication have been invaluable. This experience has not only been educational but deeply fulfilling.


QingYuan guo, Volunteer, Planning Aid for London