The Benefits of Using Community Use Agreements

01 Dec 21

The new project is driven by the need to increase women’s participation in STEAM fields; which is acknowledged as being a key driver for UK Government.

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Having attended the Science and Innovation Conference this Autumn, it was fascinating to hear about some of the innovative developments that are happening throughout the UK. As part of the panel discussions it was acknowledged that these activities are sometimes happening behind what can feel like very closed doors (often due to security and confidentiality concerns). However, there can be missed opportunities when innovation operates in this siloed way.

It was acknowledged that there can be tremendous benefits if mechanisms can be found to create linkages with local communities, in ways which work for all parties. Iceni recently secured planning permission for North London Collegiate School in Harrow, who are investing heavily in their Innovation, Design, Engineering, Arts and Sciences offer through the development of a new purpose built facility designed by award winning architects Walters and Cohen. The new project is driven by the need to increase women’s participation in STEAM fields; which is acknowledged as being a key driver for UK Government.

Given the location of the site in Metropolitan Open Land (which is similar in planning terms to the Green Belt), part of the Very Special Circumstances case was the overall benefits arising. A Community Use Agreement secures an extensive range of workshops, initiatives and projects specific to the science, tech, engineering fields, delivering a significantly wider public benefit to the local community. This approach was supported by Harrow Council and the Greater London Authority.

The community use of the new spaces is enabled in a way which maintains security and safe access, and facilitates local schools to benefit from subject-based collaboration. These activities are to include speaker events, conferences, staff development and teacher training, and will create specific support structures to partner schools in the local area. This will increase the reach from the Schools’ new innovation, science and technology facilities, extending the benefits of the development well beyond the initial parameters of education.

Examples such as this can also complement universities, science and innovation facilities and bio-quarters, and assist with other key initiatives, such as local recruitment and apprenticeships scheme formulation. They can create a shared understanding and awareness of the local learning and business community, thereby increasing local collaboration.

We all need to look at ways of breaking out of the siloed ways in which we have traditionally operated and see where more synergies can be created for maximum benefit. Community Use Agreements can be a useful tool for these exciting initiatives.

Gill Eaton Associate,Planning