Enagaging residents of Castle Vale on the future of our homes

As we move towards more net zero friendly neighbourhoods we truly need to ensure that parks are not just used but the kind of places local people feel safe and actually want to be active in.

This is why we wanted to hold a community day to bring residents together to learn about what is important to them, integrating fun and engaging activities that children can get involved with asking the questions that can help us form important evidence of the need of our communities so we can ensure our priorities are on point with our residents on going with The Climate Room project.

If you didn't know, The Climate Room is a community fronted climate change outreach project facilitated by Places in Common supported by a broad based collaboration of agencies engaged in energy transition, climate action, and inclusive growth in East Birmingham such as the University of Birmigham’s Energy Institute and The Cadent Foundation.

After our first attempt to hold our park event was rained off due to our incredibly unpredictable British weather, we rescheduled our event to the 21st of April and thankfully the majority of residents still interested in coming, with a headcount of 48 people of all ages.

In this short data blog, we’ll talk you through what we did on that day and the feedback from all of our workshop activities.

For our first exercise, Georgie Nott, a member of The Climate Room team ran an activity on some truth and false questions on what contributes to climate change. Did you know cow burps contribute to global warming? With luck, the majority of our young people got the correct answer, thankfully without the belching.

We then moved on to our first question based activity, we got everybody into a big circle and then we asked if we had a superpower that could add one realistic thing to our parks that will make them more engaging and interesting, what would it be?

Residents said they would like to see interactive art insulations in parks that people could interact with and enocurage those people to use different areas of the park to utilise the whole space, dog poo wardens were raises as in Castle Vale they felt there is a lot of dog mess left in their green spaces, some of the children said they would like to see spaces for wildlife such as squirrel houses, more activities (such as an out door swimming pool), an urban farm integrated into parks, more areas for activities such as gymnastics, more useable equipment for actual babies to interact with, some resdeints make a point that the parks seem unclean and they could do with revamping, more excisers equipment but instead of just installing gear local authroetes should engage with resdeitns to see what equipment they would like or actually use, more innovation with nature such as ‘bug cases’ so residents could teach their children about their local insects and why they are important, finally on that point, a resident said it would be nice to have a pound to learn more about insert and aquatic life - self education about nature was a running theme with conversations around this certain active.

Now it was time to learn more about our indisguous insects, how important they are to our ecosystem and what we can do to help them. To do this we made up some bee bombs and took a walk around the park to throw them around along with explaining how to make them. We explained how bees are vital to both pollinate the food we need to survive and pollinate many of the trees and flowers that provide habitats for wildlife and us as humans can do a lot to help our little yellow and black friends.

The children absolutle loved the concept of the bee bombs and we hope with the help if the activity sheet we provided to show them how they could make their own at home, and judging by their throwing arms, if Castle Vale ever started a baseball team in the future, they will definitely not have a shortage of good players - if this is something you would like to do at home, you can download our how to guide, here.

For question activity 2, we asked what they feel their homes should look like in ten years in order to keep in line with net zero related pressures on the people who live there?

On this point, the parents we talked to stated that they’d like local authorities to revisit their widows, even though double glazed heat is still escaping via gaps and they said that one of the reasons they do not have their heating on as much.

Living in a Castle Vale new build, one resident she felt her home was not built to last and future energy needs to have more consideration when building new homes in the area - this resident also said it would be good if homes came with solar panels but she had anxiety about providers putting rent up to facilitate that, these residents we spoke to on this point said it would be good to have built in methods in the garden to encourage you to grow your own fruit and vegetables such as planter boxes with guidance.

In ten years they would want to see more attention to social housing build quality and more follow up with repairs, better maintenance to properties.

A resident made a point that she felt that the older homes were built better than newer homes in the area, and there are lessons that they could learn from those.

One resident stated that insulation needs to be far better, she said she can see her curtains move when there is wind outside, and her home currently is very hard to heat, this was actually raised by a lot of residents, including loft insulations.

On a side note, a lot of the narrative from home owners shined a lot on the anxiety of affording new energy equipment such as heat points. All of the participants who owned their home said it would be ‘impossible’ for them to afford, even with grants that would partly pay for it.

The is so much pleasure in growing your own food, so for our next activity we wanted to show our young friends just how easy it can be on a smaller scale by planting their own herb to take away with them which the young people really enjoyed, even all the soil was used so there wasn't even any mess, so we’ll take that as they had fun.

We also ran a small activity on how you can use old plastic bottles to make planters in the vein of urban farms - we used recycled plastic bottles, cut them, added string to hang them and then filled it with soil and herbs to make our own mini urban recycled farm, maybe it’s something you could try at home?

The final question asked one thing you like and one thing you would change about green spaces in Castle Vale?

The residents we spoke to said there is a massive need for better lighting in our parks and better thought of blocking entrances due to people riding motorbikes on the parks. More youth centres or at least activities young people can attend to attempt to deter them from spending time drinking alcohol and doing other things in the parks at night which stops people feeling safe in local parks after sundown - a point was made that initiatives there were here in the past have just disappeared, there is no legacy to a lot of community projects.

More CCTV was also mentioned a lot, with a need for more around park spaces that are not well lit and are high crime spots, on this point multiple residents said they would like to see a ‘park warden’ role created in Castle Vale who could to a walk around parks on the evening before they end their shift so parks can stay a little safer before 9pm, as nearly every resident who have older children to early teens said they would never let their children out to play when it is dark as they do not feel it is safe.

One resident said it would be good to see some more enclosed places in the park with different activities so it is easier to keep an eye on children - a side note was raised that there used to be a lot of ‘carnivals’ in Castle Vale which is still something that residents look back on fondly and a thing a lot of people resonate with, some residents said it would be interesting to use that method as a means to engage more people on this issue of using our green spaces more, they consisted of fun runs, dancers and etc.

A resident reflected on that her 13 year old son would say that going to the park on his own would be a no go due to the people that hang around in the green spaces and he would rather stay home and play on his games console.

If you live in Castle Vale, why not pop down to central park and try out our worksheet, but don't forget to send us what you have done and we will showcase it on our website - you can download it, here.

Finally, from all of us at The Climate Room, we would like to thank all the participants for making it not just a meaningful event but also fun and really interesting. We will most definitely be back, you can keep an eye on our social media channels to stay up to date, or visit for more information.