Pupils from Ninian Park Primary School working on A Grangetown to Grow Up In. Credit: Dr Matluba Khan

We should listen to our youngsters, says team looking at improving Grangetown

‘It is their future city that we are planning and we need to hear their ideas,’ say lecturers

RESEARCHERS behind the Grangetown to Grow Up In project have stressed the importance of involving young people in planning the future of their neighbourhoods and cities. 

The Cardiff University team asked schoolchildren aged eight to 18 what they liked most in Grangetown and the things they want improved, with the proposals passed on to Cardiff Council.

Fitzalan High School pupils working with Dr Khan on the project.
Credit: Dr Matluba Khan

Project-lead and urban design lecturer, Matluba Khan, says the aim was to develop a post-Covid recovery plan focusing on young people who, she says, are often sidelined from the process. 

Speaking to the Royal Town Planning Insititute, she said: “Consulting children and young people in urban planning is not new. However, it doesn’t happen as widely as you’d expect.”

“In many instances when children’s views are asked, the consultation remains tokenistic and rarely feeds into plans and policies.”

Dr Khan’s colleague, Neil Harris, who was also involved with the project, stressed the importance of listening to youngsters.

“They are residents of that community – they deserve to be engaged as much as anyone else,” said Dr Harris.

“We need to make sure that any plan-making activity – at neighbourhood scale through to city scale – is framed in a way that makes it possible for children and young people to get involved.

“It is their future city that we are planning and we need to hear their perspective and ideas,” he added.

A map showing how youngsters feel about parts of their local area.
Credit: A Grangetown to Grow Up In
Children from Ninian Park Primary making models of their area.
Credit: Dr Matluba Khan

Pupils from Fitzalan High, Grangetown Primary, Ninian Park Primary and Ysgol Gynradd Hamadryad were invited to creative workshops where they made maps, models and visited local sites where they wanted to see improvements. 

Green spaces like Grange Gardens and Sevenoaks Park, and shops like IKEA and Asda, were well liked, whereas parts of Grangemoor Park and places such as Taff Embankment were said to be unsafe and restrictive. 

Concerns ranged from the areas being too open, quiet and dangerous, to fears of conflict with older children who loiter there. 

To overcome these issues, the children came up with solutions (below), sorted into four categories and with a timeframe ranging from the immediate future to five or more years down the line. 

Better play equipment for disabled children and young people, and better mental health support for youngsters are two of the suggestions which are immediate.

Greener streets and making the Taff riverbank “prettier” are two of the longer term recommendations. 

Eleeza Khan, 16, was happy to be involved in the project but also wants to see action. 

“It was a great way of learning about the different areas and spaces in Grangetown and to get involved in my community and voice my concerns, as well as the concerns of those around me,” she said. 

Ninian Park Primary School pupils exploring nearby Sevenoaks Park.
Credit: Dr Matluba Khan

“I would now like to see these ideas implemented and the children of Grangetown’s voices heard. I look forward to a more child-friendly environment to live in,” she added.

The suggestions have been welcomed by Cardiff Council which is considering them in more detail as it works work towards becoming a Unicef Child Friendly City, which means placing children and young people’s rights at the heart of decision-making.

Grangetown councillor Ash Lister told The Cardiffian this was not just a listening exercise.

“Council officers in various departments have been asked to review the plan and to explore how they can implement real change based on the views of the children and young people of Grangetown,” he said.

Some of the suggestions the youngsters involved in the project put together.
Credit: Alfie Reynolds

“I’m looking forward to working on the plan with Child Friendly Cardiff, Cardiff University and council officers so we can feed back on how we’ll implement the plan for our children and young people.”

Dr Khan believes that children and young people in Grangetown should be proud of what they have achieved. 

“Their views are integral to this vision of a better Grangetown, one which is inclusive for all. 

“We think planning professionals can learn from how we engaged with the children and the different creative approaches we used,” she concluded.

  • An exhibition displaying A Grangetown to Grow Up In can be found on the third floor of Cardiff Central Library until March 31, or can be viewed online here.