Story to Now

In January 2020, Gwyrddio Penarth Greening held a well attended community meeting to discuss actions local people could take to tackle the climate and nature crisis. From this meeting a range of project ideas emerged, including Penarth Growing Community, Benthyg Penarth, a Community Energy group, and a Town Centre Group. Discussions around the town centre continued through the summer of 2020, and included discussions between Penarth Town Council and Penarth Civic Society about the town centre, post-covid.

In October 2020, a group of local people connected to various community groups got together to talk about ways to push forward a set of ideas about how to improve Penarth Town Centre, in response to a series of proposals put forward by Penarth Town Council.. In July 2020 Penarth Town Council produced a survey, and a Town Centre Proposal document. Discussion also took place with Penarth Business Group.

The community groups involved in what I am coming to understand as an ‘Alliance for Change’ are Penarth Civic Society, Gwyrddio Penarth Greening, (at one point Penarth Climate Action), Penarth Living Streets, Penarth Business Group…

To a large extent, the project can be framed around our pursuit of public realm improvements. 

The group met on Monday 12th October 2020, and set about planning ‘coherent, purposive action’. 

AE wrote a letter to the Penarth Times (Oct 2020)

And so, a series of actions were planned and implemented. The name decided for this cooperative venture was Penarth UNLOCKED.

On Tuesday 12th January 2020, a Zoom meeting was arranged to update on progress. This was the moment when my involvement began. In the weeks and months that followed, there were meetings with local councillors, conversations with a range of traders, letters to Penarth Times and lots of discussion in a WhatsApp group about what was possible. Plus, a whole lot of posting on social media to generate discussions, that from this place of writing now (Aug 2022), turned out to be provocations. 

On 2nd March 2021, I wrote a piece for the Nub, asking why pedestrianisation of the town centre hadn’t happened yet.

In April 2021, we thought about doing a petition, we gathered 80 signatures on a Saturday morning in the town centre.

In April, I pulled together a simple survey, which I shared on social media as a way to spark conversations. We had 77 responses to this survey. We also invited people to join us for an open meeting on Zoom on 18th May, to talk about what next. This is when Francesca Sartorio joined in. 

The Sustrans/Vale of Glamorgan Active Travel map gave us our first visual representation of the nature of the town centre as walkable. 

In June we wrote to Lis Burnett, who at that time was Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

In July we wrote an open letter response to Vaughan Gething’s article in the Penarth Times.

We created a FAQ response to comments on social media.

In August, AC and SH met with Lis Burnett (then Deputy Leader, VOG, now Leader) and Peter King (Cabinet Member for Transport and Neighbourhood). 

We also met with Allison Dutoit (Architect, Urban Designer, Gehl Consultant, local resident). 

We created a Cribsheet/letter to support ongoing discussions with traders.

I put together a range of ideas about what the high street of the future might look like.

We went to the Fairfield Sustrans engagement event, where we met Rhiannon from Living Streets. 

On 5th August 2021, we met with Penarth Business Group in Bar 44. We were joined by representatives from Penarth Town Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council. I prepared a report in anticipation of this meeting. 

After this meeting it was felt by the group that the best way forward for Penarth Unlocked was for us to become a Living Streets group. In September, we were invited to a Wales Living Streets group webinar. And so, Penarth Living Streets was born. 

Meanwhile, Francesca Sartorio approached us with an idea to do a ‘Penarth Lab’ live research project with her students.

The students began their research projects, and alongside this Penarth Living Streets arranged a lecture series. 

The research findings were shared in an open event at which the students presented their work.

Penarth Living Streets had a launch event…

Then, I was away on yoga retreat, and in the evening as we sat around enjoying each others company and the summer sunshine, we got talking about Penarth Unlocked and the town centre. One of the women who had been involved in the initial discussion in October 2020 said that she would like to know more about the research findings, and we concluded in that conversation that others in our community would likely be interested too. This is where Design 3 began.

Meanwhile, Fran had an idea to apply for a funding pot from the VOG for a series of conversations and group projects. After talking to all involved, we just didn’t have the mechanisms or capacities to do that in time for the September application deadline. It became clear that a lot of conversations had been happening:

*with Lisa Elliot, the VOG Active Travel Officer

*with PTC about the Town Plan

The aim now is to bring the group together for a meeting in September.

The questions now are, how can we engage more widely in our community, to strengthen the capacity of Penarth Living Streets and the town centre project, to inform people about what’s possible around the esplanade consultation process, and, how can we best share the findings of the town centre research with the community???