There were around 24 to 30 people in the room and by far the great majority were over 50 (I'm not even sure that anyone there was under 40).
The fact is, if we are talking about a design framework for the future of Camden then it seems that those people who are most likely to be affected by this future should be represented and heard.
I think there are fairly clear reasons for the lack of representation of people in their teens, 20s and 30s – but let's get this straight early, it's not because they don't care.
Firstly, the consultation was not particularly well advertised. It was very difficult to find on the Camden Council website. This meant that only those people closely focused on Camden Town Centre were likely to be aware of it. By default we ended up with people engaged with heritage, some of the local action groups and a few individuals who were very focused on how Camden was changing.
It bothers me that this is exactly the group that has been described as "old Camden" and that this lack of diversity may create the opportunity for certain members of the Council and community to dismiss this consultation as being the ideas of a few who do not want to see Camden change.
In sitting through the discussions, I know this is not a true characterisation of these people.
Make your voice heard
The timing was awkward as well for the members of our community under 50.
The business discussion on Friday, May 19, ran from 7:30am-9am. That automatically cuts out those who work in the cafés. They are already working. As it stands, only around a dozen people turned up for the business consultation.
The broader community consultation ran from 9:30am to 1pm on Saturday. This is when parents with young children are taking them to sport. As for those who have children in their late teens or 20s, everyone knows that after a Friday night the chances of seeing them rise from the bed like vampires before 1pm are pretty slim.
I know it is very late in the consultation process but it would be extremely useful if the community consultations extended out to social media, in particular our Facebook noticeboards, and also directly into the Camden Chamber of Commerce. A focused meeting in the Chamber would certainly bring more businesses and may have the added bonus of bringing in new businesses to the Chamber as well.
In the meantime, there are still avenues available for residents and local business owners to engage in the consultation and have your voice heard.
- Anyone in the community can take part in the online survey about the Design Framework. You can find the survey online here.
- You can also directly contact the people managing the process with your ideas at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- To find out more about the project and the process, go to this webpage on the Camden Council website.
- The consultation and the process are a follow-up from "Our Future Camden: Camden Town Centre Vision 2014. This document is not on the webpage but you can find it here to get a better understanding of the direction of the consultation and what it hopes to achieve.
The draft report that comes from this document will go before the Council before it is then publicly exhibited. This is an opportunity to influence the process and for the younger members of our community who will have to live with the final decision on Camden Town Centre to have their say.
I would also recommend that Camden Chamber of Commerce contacts the consultants and arranges a special business briefing for its members and any other concerned businesses. The decisions made at this juncture will also directly affect them into the future.
It's time for us to hear the voice of the businesses and young people who are also a part of this town's future.
NB: I will report on the community consultation meeting at a later date.