Commonplace, Purley

This case study is an example of using the online community consultation platform Commonplace to consult with local people on the planning and design, in this case of a new development called Mosaic Place in Purley.

Location: Mosaic Place, Purley


Commonplace is an online community consultation platform, which aims to “reduce the risks of regeneration, housing, transport, and infrastructure projects through more open, trusted and diverse community engagement”. (2)

This engagement is through an online platform that allows for a broader reach of people, as well as involving a wider demographic and age group to planning consultation. Their focus is in helping developers, councils, city managers and their communities to understand each others’ needs and communicate better. Instead of adopting traditional consultation often time consuming and providing only a one-off snapshot of a place or conversation, the platform aims to provide an ongoing channel for understanding and collaboration between local communities and developers, planners, etc. Using this interactive platform, Commonplace allows users to focus their outreach, develop plans, simplify reporting, as well a build a stronger case for their proposal by reducing the planning risks through robust engagement and consultation data.

An example of this engagement is through the case study of Mosaic Place. Commonplace was used for the Mosaic Place development in Purley. The developer Thornsett, together with the Purley Baptist Church, developed plans that complied with planning guidelines but was met with stiff initial local opposition because of the height of the building.
Commonplace worked with Thornsett to create an open dialogue about the plans, and to help mobilise beneficiaries of the proposals. Croydon use a staged pre-planning application process, which encourages, amongst other things, evidence of strong community engagement. In using Commonplace and the evidence it produced, Thornsett made a strong case of listening to the community. (5)

Project details

Purley Baptist Church has been serving the community of Purley for over 1000 years. The development of Mosaic Place was identified as an opportunity for the Church to revolutionise the benefits it delivers to Purley. Mosaic Place was pitched as a new state of the art facility delivering new community infrastructure, fit for the 21st Century and beyond. (3)

Mosaic Place provides significant new facilities for Purely Baptist Church and 114 new homes, set within a low to medium rise courtyard blocks as well as a 17 storey building.

Purley Baptist Centre aimed to create a new enlarged community facility within the heart of the town centre, providing a meeting space within which activities can take place. The new facilities will have ground floor spaces that include a large double height entrance and exhibition foyer, a community cafe, a large multipurpose hall, a youth centre, the Purley Cross Centre (a drop in resource centre for the community) and a lettable retail unit.
However local opposition to the development was strong because of the height and density. Before plans had been published, the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate had launched a petition against the project with 4,000 signatures. (5)

Commonplace tools aim to provide ongoing channels of understanding and collaboration, and can be used to reveal issues and suggest solutions, as well as for statutory consultation and formal planning applications. Commonplace can help communities plan their neighbourhoods, co-design solutions and analyse the social impact of new developments. By making local participation easy, it reaches wider audiences and provides real-time dashboards to see ‘the heartbeat’ of an area. (2)

Key Details

Who are the key stakeholders involved?

● Purley Baptist Church
● Residents
● Thornsett
● Proctor and Matthews Architects
● Philip Cave Associates

Who are the key stakeholders involved?

Community engagement included the use of Commonplace, as well as local consultations.

Commonplace helped Thornsett present the proposals in a way that was clear and credible, which increased trust amongst the community. This was important to ensure the community did not feel the height of the building was being hidden, which could have discredited the whole proposal. (5)

● The masterplan was split into themes and schemes that respondents could comment on individually. This helped to identify which specific elements residents supported and which needed improvement.
● The Commonplace before and after feature was a simple but effective way to bring a proposal to life in an area.
● The public can see from the same viewpoint what the area looks like now compared to a completed project visualisation.
● Viewpoints can also be added to an interactive map to show where these views are taken from.
● The interactive map also shows the boundaries of the schemes.

An important Commonplace feature was the ability to update plans during the process. This enabled Thornsett to be clear about how they responded to community feedback through their design and to collect comments on the new designs.

Commonplace supported the feedback of different aspects of the development with local people, soliciting comments about; the tower appearance, south site, overview of centre, ground floor areas, the auditorium, sports hall, outdoor space, car and cycle parking for the centre and residents, living in Mosaic place, courtyard apartments. It also acted as a platform to show what the different sites would look like, notably: view of South Site, Banstead Road, Purley Gyratory, Brighton Road, and Russell Hill Road.

Impact: What are the outcomes? Who benefits?

Following extensive consultation with the public, local stakeholders and other interested parties, Thornsett made changes to the appearance of the tower, designing a tower that was:

– “A tower for Purley”, to identify what people love about Purley and how that might become a part of a tall building
– Not ‘corporate’ or ‘office-like’
– Elegant – reduce the footprint of the tower, so that it looks more ‘elegant’
– Green, and lively

Using the leafy character of Purley as their inspiration, Proctor and Matthews Architects, and Philip Cave Associates (Thornsett landscape designers) developed a new design which proposed a canopy of trees set at the top of the tower and set within a framework inspired by the stone ‘tracery’ detailing of some of the early buildings in the centre of Purley. (4)

So what?

Key learning

Commonplace enabled transparent and clear dialogue, acknowledging people’s fears and objections and explaining the benefits of the proposal. Digital tools always need to be matched with offline consultation and activity to provide a range of ways for people to communicate their views. Digital forums are very good for reaching some people who would not get involved in traditional consultation, and work best on a very focused proposition, like this project in Purley.

They are not generally accessible for people who are more distant from agencies or who are unused to using digital tools to engage with agencies, in practice they may exclude older people and people who are more disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Source/s of information:

1. Commonplace website, Mosaic Place (Purley) case study;
2. Commonplace website “Great places come from understanding and responding to the needs of their people”;
3. Mosaic Place project on Commonplace website;
4. Tower Appearance sketch for Mosaic Place project on Commonplace website;
5. REPORT: Commonplace Case study Mosaic Place;