Placecheck is the simplest way of finding out what a place and its people can tell us, and starting the process of making change happen. A Placecheck can be carried out for a street, a park, a neighbourhood, a town centre or any other place. Placechecks have been carried out in the early stages of neighbourhood planning and a wide range of local initiatives. Wandsworth Council used a customized Placecheck to add to its local list of valued buildings and spaces. Gardencheck is a special type of Placecheck for assessing the impact of a street’s front gardens.
The Placecheck web app
You can use the Placecheck web on your a smart phone, tablet or computer, walking about the area or at home. This builds up a set of markers on an online map, and a downloadable online resource of information and opinion on the place, its strengths and weakness, and what needs to be done.
The app is easy to use: there is nothing to download, you just click on the link that we give you when we set up your map.
A Placecheck consists of one or more walkabouts, followed by discussion of the information and opinions they turn up, and some serious thinking about the next steps and who needs to be involved. Using the Placecheck app enables you to extend the Placecheck over several weeks, if that is appropriate, with the results being available permanently online.
Placecheck’s simple idea is that much of what needs to be known about a place can be seen and understood by looking at it, or is in the heads of the people who live, work or play there. Placecheck is the simplest, quickest way of finding out what the place and its people can tell us, and starting the process of making change happen.
Placecheck gets us asking three questions:
- What do we like about this place?
- What do we dislike about this place?
- What do we need to work on?
Organising a Placecheck
Anyone can organise a Placecheck. People who run Placechecks learn how to use the method by hearing a presentation, taking part in a Placecheck, or reading the information on this website.
If you do have a facilitator (a person who is experienced in planning and running events so they run smoothly and achieve their aims) to lead the Placecheck, you might get even more out of the event. But the point of Placecheck is that it is so simple that this is not necessary. Placechecks have been organised successfully by – among others – local residents, shopkeepers, teachers, schoolchildren, leaders of neighbourhood forums and their advisers, local authority officers and staff of regeneration agencies.
Whether you have a facilitator or not, make sure that you have a clear plan of how you are going to organise the Placecheck. Make efforts to involve everyone in the discussions as you walk about, and be sure to note everyone’s views and insights.
You do not need other experts – such planners, architects, engineers or urban designers – either. But having them on the Placecheck may help you in thinking about the potential of the place, and help you get things done. Placechecks often involve a wide range of people whose expert subject is the place itself: people such as residents, traders, the police and members of local organisations.
What (and whether) expert advice is needed, and at what stage, will depend on the aim of the Placecheck. Don’t let professionals take over: the point of the Placecheck is to enable a wide range of people (non-professionals and professionals) to decide for themselves what needs to be done.
Choose the area
Choose an area that seems to have either a common identity, opportunities or problems, or obvious boundaries. It might be an area that has already been identified as a neighbourhood. Choose one that you will be able to take a good look at in around an hour. In the case of a large area, decide if you want to look at it in one or more Placechecks, perhaps with different groups of people or on different days. You might do this if different parts of the area have different characters or needs, for example.
Who should be involved in the Placecheck?
It is up to you to decide who should be invited to take part in the Placecheck. Sometimes just a handful of people will take part in the first one, and more people will take part in later Placechecks of the same area. A Placecheck is not a means of making a democratically representative assessment of an area. It is a way of getting the ball rolling, and of getting people talking and thinking. It can feed into democratic and representative structures later.