Blackbird Leys Community Centre: Shaping the future centre with people of the Leys

Blackbird Leys Community Centre Community Engagement

Transition by Design are appointed as the community engagement consultants for the new Blackbird Leys Community Centre. For the past 60 years, the existing centre has been a cornerstone of the Leys community—both Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Now, with the collaboration of Oxford City Council and Peabody, a comprehensive regeneration of Blackbird Leys is underway. It includes building over 200 affordable homes, retail spaces and finally a new community centre (at the existing community site) to breathe new life into the heart of the Leys with new community facilities. The masterplan has been approved, but the design work for the new community centre is just starting. With the outline planning application for the new centre, this means the City Council has agreed on the idea, but not all the details or the design. This is where the people of the Leys come in.

We need to hear the thoughts from the people of the Leys. Our engagement strategy has the following aims:

  • To generate, collect and analyse the needs and views of the community
  • To synthesise the information gathered and to integrate this with the RIBA construction work stages
  • To inform the public of the project’s progress
  • To activate the building
Blackbird Leys skyline (existing)
Aerial view of the approved District Centre hybrid masterplan
(note: the community centre design is shown for illustrative purposes only)
[Image produced by JTP]

As the design is to meet Inclusive Design standards, from the outset Transition by Design has ensured that all engagement is as accessible as possible, reaching a wide range of people across the Leys from all demographics of age, gender and disability.

One way we’re doing this, from the first step to the last, is by setting up a Leys Community Review Panel (LCRP). This group is made up of people who live in the area. We launched a recruitment process for the panel members in August 2023 to ensure that the final panel members were demographically representative of the Leys. The Community Review Panel will act as an independent, advisory role during the design process. They will discuss issues such as the brief, materials and spatial design of the community centre. T/D are facilitating each of the LCRP meetings and coordinating the panel (you can read about the first event here).

As well as the LCRP we are engaging with a range of people in the Leys including:

  • Key stakeholder engagement: Including Blackbird Leys Parish Council, key local organisations (previous tenants of the community centre)
  • User group engagement: Including grassroots organisations, community groups and partnerships
  • Youth engagement: Partnering with key Oxford City Council partners
  • Resident engagement: Engaging with residents across the Leys ward
  • Community group engagement: Attending local community group events such as FriendLeys (seniors), Parent & child group and African Families in the UK Homework Club. Note: if you are a community group interested in meeting us, please get in touch.
  • Coordination between the design team, community engagement strategy and the client (Oxford City Council & Peabody as well as a range of professionals in the project team)
Photograph taken during one of the key stakeholder engagement workshops

But it’s not just about the design; it’s about connecting with people. Our plan isn’t one-size-fits-all. We meet people at local events, make special one-off workshop events, and also use online forms and meetings. Together with the project team, we want to make sure they feel listened to and that their needs are being accounted for. We strongly believe in meeting people where they are at. We are also spreading the word and giving updates about the engagement in various ways including:

  • Monthly newsletter updates
  • Social media updates
  • Press release content and publication
  • Event flyer design and publication

The project is currently in the middle of its front facing public engagement as the project will look to have its designs submitted for WS3 planning during the spring of 2024. There will be continued engagement after the planning application has been submitted.

You can read about our past events across November and December here.