The City of Salisbury in Adelaide, Australia enabled community members to participate in redeveloping the park area of Heyford Reserve to better suit their needs.
Problems and Purpose
The community engagement project was set up to facilitate the redevelopment and rejuvenation of Heyford Reserve, a park area and reserve built by the community in the 1960s in the City of Salisbury in Adelaide, Australia. The council went directly to local residents for their ideas and suggestions for ways to redevelop the reserve in ways that would benefit them and encourage them to use the area.
The use of community engagement allowed them to consider a wide range of ideas and was useful for making sure that the area would be used after the work was complete, thus ensuring that the investment would be worthwhile and a benefit to the community. The council was able to ensure that the majority of the community’s ideas/suggestions were met, allowing them to try and minimize potential conflicts of interests within the community. Using participatory planning and community engagement here was paramount as the area was initially created by the community. Giving residents input into the planning stage ensured that a consensus on the plans could be met and that the local community would be more supportive of the final decision.
Background History and Context
The area was discussed during a city council meeting in 2011 and council members deliberated on what should be done with the reserve; they knew something had to be done, but were unsure whether to redevelop the area or sell to housing developers. One member suggested they get input from the local community and consult with the people who lived in the surrounding area. Other members agreed and so asked the Recreation and Open Space Planner (ROSP) to write a report on timelines and potential for engaging with the community.
There were no formal parameters set for the consultation, other than the boundaries of the reserve and that certain trees within the reserve were to be preserved, hence one of the reasons why this project was dubbed “almost a blank piece of paper” by the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IOPD).
The City of Salisbury has a history of involving local communities in the planning process and have a dedicated Community Engagement Officer. The Community Engagement Officer’s job within the City of Salisbury is to develop and execute plans for involving the community with city planning and to encourage them to participate in these activities. The council members are elected by the community and most of them live within said community, therefore they are more obliged to take into account the wishes of the people living there.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The initiative for getting the community involved was initially created by the City of Salisbury during one of their council meetings. The ROSP created a report on the timelines of community engagement for the council, which provided insight into how much funding this project may cost, and how they would engage with the local community. After this was received by the council, a community engagement plan was developed by the Council’s Community Engagement officer in coordination with the ROSP and a Landscape Architect. This plan was set into three stages, in order to allow time for ideas to be thought through, and for a clear preferred course of action for the redevelopment to come forward.
The City council of Salisbury also funded the initiative and set aside a small budget from their total budget. The funding was designated for the redevelopment of Heyford Reserve as well as the community engagement project itself. According to the City Council, the redevelopment cost around $350,000 AUS, roughly $254,000 US.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The community engagement project was open to all members of the local community, as well as visitors to the reserve and local shopping district. The methods used to allow participation in the planning stage ensured that people would be engaged and had the opportunity to engage.
The community engagement plan was designed to allow and encourage the most amount of participation from the local community as possible. Leaflets and flyers were handed out on the streets as well as being delivered in the mail, ensuring that everyone had the opportunity to participate. The local newspapers and the “Salisbury Aware” publication also made residents aware of the public consultations taking place and encouraged people to go along and input their ideas.
Methods and Tools Used
The community engagement plan utilized several different tools and methods in order to gain the most insight into what the community wanted as well as to ensure as high a level as participation as possible. Most of the methods used were very informal and no real major deliberation took place. The community was encouraged to write their suggestions on “almost blank pieces of paper” around Heyford Reserve and the local area. This method allowed the community to have a degree of creative planning, a method which relieves practical or analytical constraints on participants to allow free-flowing idea generation. The City of Salisbury council employed the use of social media to reach out to more people and get them involved with the process. It could also be argued that there was a form of community-based monitoring used here, since the participants were regular users of the area and so could reduce the ‘local knowledge problem’ as described by Hayek.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The community engagement plan began its execution in mid-2012 and gained traction with the community at a very fast rate. They used very Informal methods of participation, the council set up stands where people could go along and write down their ideas and engage with employees of the council, this allowed the community to be involved with the planning process right from the start. Community input was first taken through the use of a simple question and answer period, the community was asked: “what do you think should happen to the [Heyford] Reserve?” Where the community was asked if the council should sell the area to property developers or keep it and redevelop the area for the use of the community. They did this through online opinion polls, and through face-to-face data gathering around Heyford Reserve.
The next stage of community engagement was to have the community write their ideas for how to change and redevelop the reserve. The council erected stalls which had leaflets for their ideas on how to redevelop the reserve but also included very loose ended and informal ‘forms’ for the community to write their ideas. The use of these forms helped establish the nickname for the project “almost a blank piece of paper” as this was essentially what they were, the community had free reign to suggest what they wanted. The City of Salisbury Council also implemented social media engagement strategies, the council posted regularly on sites such as Facebook and Twitter encouraging people to ‘Have Your Say’. They created posts that encouraged people to either visit the area and write their ideas down or access the “Have Your Say” section of their website and give their input there.
The final stage of the planning process was for the council to consolidate the community’s ideas and to produce a ‘shortlist’ for the most suggested ideas, and for the community to then vote on which ones were most important to implement.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The community engagement plan was very successful, and community input was integral to the draft plans drawn up by the city council. Their input was listened to, and the community responded and welcomed the idea of being involved. As a result of the initiative, more members of the community have become involved with similar projects and are now more outspoken about their support or rejection of the City Councils plans.
Residents from the surrounding area of Heyford Reserve created the Friends of Heyford Reserve Group. The group was established for the continued care and upkeep of the reserve, they also organize social events for the community as well as liaising with council about issues with the reserve.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Heyford Reserve community engagement project was very successful in its application and reception within the community, it achieved its aims in allowing the community to engage and to have a constructive and active influence on the City’s development. The residents were mostly happy with the renewed and redeveloped Heyford Reserve. Allowing the community to be involved with the planning process helps to generate “feelings of ownership, and builds a strong base for the intervention in the community” which helped to ensure that participation was as high as possible. It also means that the community will be more inclined to make use of the space once the development is complete as this feeling of ownership will encourage the community to “do what they can to see their work succeed." The project also allows for “the continuous inclusion of substantive citizen input”, which Smith argues is important for participatory planning as it helps to provide legitimacy to the planning project. It has done this through allowing groups such as the Friends of Heyford Reserve Group to remain in contact with city planners, and other city employees responsible for the upkeep of open spaces, and advise them on any action that may need to be taken in order to allow the Reserve to be still be used.
The plan laid out by the City of Salisbury was very successful and their use of different methods and tools allowed for the most input from the community as possible. The use of the ‘Blank pieces of paper’ was very successful and allowed the city planners insight into what the community wanted. Hayek places importance on the use of others knowledge and states that “practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information." This is evident with the redevelopment of Heyford Reserve, as many citizens wanted fruit trees to be planted so that they could use them as a resource.
 “Salisbury Aware” Winter 2014 Issue, Page 27, Available at: issuu.com/cityofsalisbury/docs/aware_july_2014_web_version
 “Heyford Reserve – almost a blank piece of paper”, International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IOPD), Available at: oidp.net/en/experience.php?id=699
 “Have Your Say” City of Salisbury, Available at: www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Council/Have_Your_Say
 “Council Meeting Agenda”, for the date 27.10.2014, page 3 and 14, Available for download at: www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Council/Council_Document_Search_Results?dlv_DLV%20Public%20Minutes%20and%20Agendas%20Search=(keyword=heyford)(pageindex=2)
 “Have Your Say – Heyford Reserve” City of Salisbury, Available at: www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Council/Have_Your_Say/Heyford_Reserve?fbclid=IwAR2ywxs1oYnrfS4z7qxc5GvlHLfIxeoz-Jf9kW94hJ-HLvpQkc1PCdVmcbE [broken link]
 “Salisbury Aware” Autumn 2013 Issue, Page 25, Available at: issuu.com/cityofsalisbury/docs/aware_march_2013_low_res
 Hayek, F. (1945). The Use of Knowledge in Society [Online] Available at: oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hayek-the-use-of-knowledge-in-society-1945
 “Participatory Approaches to Planning Community Interventions (P.A.P.C.I.), Chapter 18, Section 2 [Online] Available at: ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/analyze/where-to-start/participatory-approaches/main
 Smith, R.W. (1973). A Theoretical Basis for Participatory Planning. Policy Sciences, 4(3), 275-295.
“Salisbury Aware” Autumn 2014 Issue, Page 19, Available at: issuu.com/cityofsalisbury/docs/city_of_salisbury_aware_march_2014_
“Works and Services Committee Agenda”, for the date 20.10.2014, Item 2.5.1(5), Available for download at: www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Council/Council_Document_Search_Results?dlv_DLV%20Public%20Minutes%20and%20Agendas%20Search=(keyword=heyford)(pageindex=2)
Observatorio internacional de la democracia participativa/International Observatory on Participatory Democracy Report