We’ve been running small group round table discussions with our volunteers to how explore place, planning, and engagement are evolving during the current COVID situation. The second of these workshops was themed ‘Place from Home’ and we talked about how we are newly experiencing our places as a result of the restrictions on movement.

Since the government advice to stay at home came into force in March, individuals and communities have had to start making the most of what is on their doorstep. PAS volunteers who took part in our ‘Place from Home’ discussion noted that they had discovered new routes nearby to walk and run.

Time outside seems to have purpose in itself and isn’t just a means to get from A to B. One participant noted how this year we feel extra fortunate to have spring and with fewer cars on the road, we are able to enjoy silence and bird song which has a positive affect on mental wellbeing.

Other points of the discussion included:

  • Places are being adapted to accommodate physical distancing, however perhaps we want to review our understanding of what we need from a place. This should include better access to spaces good for our mental wellbeing and being able to support local businesses.
  • With play parks being closed, children without gardens have taken to the streets as their play space. Going forward how can we ensure that there are spaces available for children to enjoy being outdoors safely?
  • We should be thinking creatively about what a space serves. For example, could derelict land be repurposed as places for activities good for mental wellbeing including gardening?
  • The purpose of people’s homes has also changed. Living rooms now serve multiple purposes from yoga studio to office. This could permanently affect our understanding of what a house serves.
  • When thinking about community engagement, participants considered if communities were newly engaged with their places and had a renewed sense of ownership of their place.
  • Finally, we also explored how we build on that going forward. Communities could potentially be inundated with engagement opportunities once public gatherings are permitted again. Perhaps the best approach is to try and test new approaches alongside celebrating that we are able to come together again.

We’ll be continuing to explore how the sector is adapting with discussions around the digitisation of planning and how we are experiencing place from home. Thank you to the PAS volunteers who took part in this conversation. If you are a planner and would like to find out more about volunteering with us, please get in touch with Erin Fulton, Volunteer Manager: erin@pas.org.uk.