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Agenda item

Your Merton - Presentation by Rob Francis from Traverse


The Commission welcomed Rob Francis from Traverse to present the findings of the ‘Your Merton’ engagement exercise.


The exercise sought to understand the views, experiences and ambitions of local people (including residents and also those who work and study in the borough) and had three main areas of interest as follows:


1.    Experiences of living, working and studying in the borough: Merton wanted to know how people felt about living and working in the borough – what they liked as well as what they found frustrating.

2.    Experiences of the pandemic: Merton wanted to understand how the pandemic had impacted different communities in Merton – what they found most challenging, as well as any aspects of life they wanted to maintain as the local area moved into recovery.

3.    Priorities for the future: Merton wanted to know what residents wanted the Council to prioritise in the recovery – what did they want their local area to look and feel like in the immediate and long-term future?


Traverse undertook four separate engagement activities to involve local people in different ways:


·         A representative survey of the borough gathered the views of 1,000 residents reflective of the population.

·         Around 500 residents contributed via an open access engagement website.

·         Focus groups run through 13 local community organisations

·         A two-stage deliberative workshop


The key findings of the consultation were:


·         Green spaces and a supportive, vibrant sense of community were the things that residents most liked about their local area. Residents grew to appreciate these more during the pandemic, and wanted the vision for the borough to be built upon them.

·         Litter and traffic were key frustrations to be addressed.

·         Residents highlighted the impact of isolation and social distancing on their wellbeing. Health, education, finance and work were also concerns for some residents. Accessing support from the local community was the main positive aspect that residents wanted to build upon in recovery.

·         High street regeneration was a shared ambition for residents across the borough. Including a Community Hub.


Commission Members asked questions of clarification about the findings and answers were supplied by Rob Francis and Frank Dick, Head of Recovery:


We aimed for a spread in terms of age, ethnicity, social background and ward which matched the borough


With regards to the immediate next steps and actions – the full findings have been published for exploration and comment by Cllrs. We are beginning to engage with other stakeholders (Merton partnership, health organisations, Merton chamber of commerce) to continue these conversations and these will also extend to the voluntary sector and local businesses.


Short term - Officers are looking at initiatives around street scenes and health advice etc.

Medium to long term planning - Plans for high streets will be a 5 year timescale and the long term strategic vision and how to meet the issues is yet to be decided.


Figures highlighted in bold show where the change is greatest on past data or where the gap is biggest (so something stands out in this data).


An initial workshop was held with the Merton Partnership before the detailed work was commissioned and there was a good level of interest and engagement from the partners. A follow-up meeting with the partnership was held this Monday to really start getting to grips with delivery ideas. 


A Commission Member commented on the outcomes of the findings as being rather obvious - The fact that the frustrations were litter and traffic, there is pride in the community and the green spaces, and there is a desire to reinvigorate the high street. Whilst there is nothing wrong with a report confirming what we already know but what in this report, if anything, surprised you?


The Head of Recovery agreed that litter, fly tipping, crime and safety will indeed be seen in every London borough though it is useful to have these things confirmed regardless. The surprises were the sense of pride and importance of high streets within neighbourhoods in terms of the community.


We delivered grants during the covid crisis to tackle the street scenes and we specifically focused the grants from central government on micros and small business. The addition of parklets has also been utilised.


Further report goes to Cabinet on 22 January 2022. Prior to this, the Chair asked Members to think on these questions:


·         A place-based vision is essentially local - how scalable is it from the high street to Merton as a whole?

·         How will bridging the gap and addressing east - west inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic be incorporated into the new vision?

·         Do the findings represent a snapshot of Merton at an exceptional point in time i.e. during the pandemic? Will they still be valid as behaviours driven by the pandemic revert towards the pre-pandemic "norm"?