All posts by Nick Wates

Tools for Community Design project timeline

Compiled as a tribute to the late John Thompson and to the coronation of King Charles. Includes photos not seen before as well as some favourites.



Nick Wates joins the Project Office at The Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture under the direction of Mel Agace, Dr Brian Hanson and Professor Keith Critchlow.

The Tools for Community Design (TCD) Research Project is launched by the Institute, led by Ros Tennyson, John Thompson and Nick Wates. The idea was conceived  at the Duchy of Cornwall’s 1989 community planning weekend for Poundbury which the three took part in.

The Institute’s Research Projects, 1993

Download Research Projects (Part)


Some new community engagement approaches are piloted and evaluated in practical projects supported by the Institute

 in London Docklands……..

Mother with baby taking part in a community planning weekend at West Silvertown, 1993 (S1712).
Group photo at West Silvertown, 1993 (S1606)

… and in Scotland.

Site walkabout or reconnaissance at a planning weekend at Blairs College, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1994 (S1584)


Practitioners participate in an Editing Day on a draft Action Planning book at the Institute.

Workshop at an ‘Editing Day’ held at The Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture in February 1995. Thirty-three practitioners, designers, editors and potential readers helped to shape the first edition of the book using felt-tip pens on wall mounted page blow-ups; a process adapted from community planning. (Clockwise from flipchart: Sue Hargreaves, Rod Hackney, Chris Lakin, Jeremy Caulton, unknown, Debbie Radcliffe, Nick Wates, John Billingham, John Worthington.) (S0901) Credit: Richard Ivey


Action Planning book launch at St James Palace

Briefing pack for those invited for the book launch at St James’ Palace. Download pdf.

See message from Prince Charles

See address by Nick Wates

Action Planning front cover- English edition 1996



Series of evening forums on action planning held at the Institute

Some photos of staff, students and members of the public at forums held at the Institute.

(ref 2346)
(ref S2353)
(ref 2357)
(ref 2358)
(ref 2529)
(ref 2534)

1994 – 1999

Pilot community engagement activity organised, recorded and evaluated in live projects in places including:

Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Open forum in Richmond, Virginia, USA, at the Institute’s first American Summer School, 1996 (S1954).

Krakov, Poland

Sandwich board with posters inviting people to take part in an interactive exhibition about the future of the Jewish quarter of Krakow. Organised with the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum,  May 1996 (S1858).
Local residents discussing improvements  with Ros Tennyson (left) using a model supplied by the Institute, May 1996 (S1723).

Bath, UK

Institute students organise a street stall to engage with shoppers in Bath, 1997 (S2379)

Liverpool, UK

Design workshop at a John Thompson & Partners planning weekend in Liverpool, 1997 (S2440).

Viterbo, Italy,

Engaging with local politicians at the Institute’s European summer school in Viterbo, 1994 (Photocredit: Richard Ivey)

El Cerrito, California, USA.

Finding out local views on the city at an Institute American Summer School in El Cerrito, California, 1998 (Photocredit: Richard Ivey)

Sidon, Lebanon;

Post-it note workshop facilitated by John Thompson in Sidon, Lebanon, 1999, (S3340).

1996 – 99

Translations and adaptations of Action Planning published in Chinese…

Chinese edition cover, 1996


German edition cover, 1997

…and Czech.

Czech edition cover, 1999
Chinese delegation of architects and planners from Taiwan visit The Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture, 28 June 1995 (1995062815).
May Hsu, editor in chief and Ming-Cheu Chen, president of the Chuan Hsing Publishing Company discuss publications, 1995062804).
The Czech organisers of the translation of Action Planning at the book’s launch in Prague, 1999 (S3674 and S3673)



Publication of The Community Planning Handbook after extensive consultation, participatory editing and testing.

English first edition cover 2000



Community Planning Training and Development programme launched with 17 modules.

Flyer for the Community Planning Training & Development Programme 2001/02 Download pdf

Some photos from training sessions at the Prince’s Foundation’s converted warehouse in Shoreditch, London, 2001/02

Miffa Salter (S4015)
David Wilcox presenting, left, John Thompson in the front row, right (S4010).
Rob Cowan facilitating (S4077)
Session 6 (S4016)

Website launched, independent but supported by The Prince’s Foundation and others

Website screenshot, 2017. Link to website


Translations of The Community Planning Handbook published in Chinese and Korean

Community Planning Handbook Chinese translation cover, 2002
Community Planning Handbook Korean translation cover, 2008



Publication of The Community Planning Event Manual, an updated edition of Action Planning

English edition cover, 2008



Publication of Concertation citoyenne en urbanisme; la méthode du community planning, by Eléonore Hauptmann and Nick Wates, a French translation and adaptation of The Community Planning Event Manual

French edition cover, 2010



Publication of a Second edition of The Community Planning Handbook

Second edition of The Community Planning Handbook cover, 2014



Publication of 20/20 Visions: Collaborative planning and placemaking by Charles Campion of John Thompson & Partners; a collection of case studies of charrette style events

20|20 Visions cover, 2018


2000 – 2020

Prince’s Foundation uses Enquiry by Design process in numerous new developments. JTP conduct numerous community planning  events. Numerous training workshops delivered by Nick Wates  Associates in the UK and abroad.



This was a great project. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.  A rare example of joined up action research. More should be done.

Details of the publications mentioned in this blog can be found at:

Our books page

and /or

The NWA Shop

The John Turner legacy

John F C Turner died this year at the age of 96 and it was clear from reaction to the news that he meant a great deal to a great many people in many parts of the world. Here are a few photos from my own interaction with this influential practitioner and thinker.

United Nations Habitat conference, 1976

Demonstration at the Habitat United Nations conference in Vancouver, Canada, 1976, to protest against the eviction of shanty town dwellers in the Philipines by the Marcos regime. John Turner, second from the right, is holding up a banner saying ‘PROGRAMMED HOUSING – NO! SELF HELP HOUSING – YES!’ (ref 10483)
John Turner (ref 10490)

International Design Participation conference, 1985

John Turner at the International Design Participation Conference, Eindhoven, 22-24 April 1985 (refs: 21026, 21028)

Kensington Palace dinner, 1985

John Turner (left) arriving at Kensington Palace, London for a black tie dinner for architectural educators hosted by Prince Charles, 15 July 1985 (ref 21719)

Habitat Forum International Conference, June 1987

John Turner presenting the results of a Habitat International Coalition project about self help housing worldwide which would later be published in the book Building Community edited by his wife Bertha Turner, Berlin, 1 – 11 June 1987  (ref 23602).
(ref 23607)

Poundbury planning weekend, 1989

Team photo for the Poundbury planning weekend, Dorset, 15-19 June 1989. John is in the second row, third from left in navy shirt (ref S0420).
Outdoors workshop at the Poundbury planning weekend. John is far left in brown trousers (ref S0473).
John Turner at the Poundbury Planning Weekend, 1989 (ref S0475)

Hastings regeneration, 1990

Group photo of Hastings Trust staff and volunteers outside the Conservation Shop in the High Street, Hastings Old Town, 1990. John Turner is one third in from the left with his wife Bertha in front of him (ref S1079).

Community planning, 2011

(John Turner with Bob Hart at a community planning masterclass, 26 October 2011 (ref D20111026028).
John Turner taking part in a community planning masterclass organised by Nick Wates Associates, Creative Media Centre, Hastings, 26 October 2011. From left: Penny Precious, Judy Dewsbery, John Turner, Graham Hodgson (Ref D20111026035, top D20111026028)

Legacy London seminar, 2017

On the train from Hastings with Mauricio Vicenti (ref D20170221948)
At a seminar titled ‘Towards an autonomy of housing; Legacy and topicality of John F C Turner’s work in Latin America and beyond’, Development Planning Unit, University College London, 21 February 2017.  From left: Geoff Payne, Hans Harms, John Turner, Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, Mauricio Vicenti, David Satterthwaite (ref D20170221959) .
At the reception afterwards (ref D20170221011)

A roof of my own, 2019

A screening of ‘A roof of my own’ during the St Leonards International Film Festival, Blackmarket VIP (George Street Hall), Hastings Old Town, 27 January 2019. From left: John Turner, Beth Turner, Heidi Berry (Ref: D20190127529)
John during the Q & A, 7 January 2019  (ref D20190127535).

Team  celebration, 2019

The Beacon, Hastings, 6 December 2019. From left: Beth Turner, John Turner, Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, José Luis Oyon, Kevin Carias, Volker Zimmermann  (ref D20191206300).

Some links to further info

Guardian obituary by Geoff Payne

From the JFCTurner archive

Housing Agency, by Cassim Shepard, Places Journal, November 2023

Conversation across the ages

Fascinating conversation in Leila’s café in Shoreditch in February 2018 organised by the dynamic East End Preservation Society.

Great to see veteran activists from the Tolmers Square campaign in the 1970s sharing experience with those campaigning over 40 years later on remarkably similar issues.

Plenty of scope for more such events to save people from having to continually reinvent the wheel.

In the photos below by Susie Clapham you can glimpse Patrick Allen, Martin Argles, Charles Campion, Sacha Craddock, the Gentle Author, Frances Holliss, Liz Jellinek, Leila, Ken Morgan, Will Palin, Mimi Romilly, Barry Shaw and Nick Wates amongst others.

More information on Tolmers here.

Tolmers conversation 3
Tolmers conversation 2
Tolmers conversation
Tolmers conversation 4

Back to school

I have enrolled to do a PhD by Publication at the University of Brighton, starting 1st April 2018. The working title is ‘Engagement in Placemaking’ and it will give me the opportunity to review the five main books I have produced over the years, assess their impact, reflect on their contribution to relevant academic fields and identify future initiatives needed.

All very exciting.

Academic focus on 5 books and their translations, adaptations and new editions: ‘The Battle for Tolmers Square’ ; ‘Squatting, the real story’; ‘Community Architecture’; ‘Action Planning’ and ‘The Community Planning Handbook’.

Spring 2020 Progress report – Dr Nick Wates

My doctorate was conferred on 2 March 2020 and you can see my thesis, Making Places Better here.

Also achieved:

  • Training in the latest research methods and online resources;
  • Sorted my archives and digitised some of them;
  • repaired and back in service;

Crowdfunding has made it possible. Thanks everyone. The crowdfunding page is now closed.


And here as promised is the small print:

Direct costs: 

  • Tuition fees £2,310
  • Train fares to Brighton £150
  • Repairs to database £415
  • Digitising £138
  • IT support £420
  • Printing and postage £50
  • Replacement laptop £350
  • Total £3,823

Funds raised:

  • Just Giving donations:  £1,600
  • Offline donations. £2,135
  • Total £3,735

Plus a fantastic contribution specifically for scanning Tolmers archives of £3,772 (only indirectly related to my PhD).

What shall we do with

Great logo.

The Community Planning Website was first conceived by Michael Mutter at DFID. We were completing the first edition of The Community Planning Handbook in 1999, which DFID supported the research for, and at one of the final editorial meetings, Michael suddenly declared, ‘“You do know that this book is really a website don’t you.”  He was right and DFID subsequently funded its design and construction.

Other enlightened organisations later sponsored various aspects of its development. Kelvin MacDonald initiated a tranche of case studies funded by The Royal Town Planning Institute, The Academy for Sustainable Development helped with a major update and English Partnerships, The European Union, The Prince’s Foundation, The Environment Agency and the Building & Social Housing Foundation all helped with specific features.

Its a great website and still well used. Its been Google’s Number 1 for ‘community planning’ for a decade and a half, despite determined efforts to unseat it. It has been praised for its design and content (see About this website).

There are many good new websites dealing with the same subject matter with more bells and whistles (e.g. Community21Community Heart and Soul) but remains an unrivalled resource of basic how-to guidance and listings.

Succession planning

But needs investment to update it, technically and editorially. The original business model of securing funding from advertising is no longer sufficient (as many other idealistic web publishers have found) and Nick Wates Associates, which owns the copyright, no longer has the necessary resources to subsidise it. We are therefore looking for a partner or partners to invest in it and take it forward.

Any takers please get in touch.

Nick Wates

Screenshot of the Home page, 2017, The site now contains 52 universal principles,  60 engagement methods, 22 development scenarios, 14 in-depth case studies,  7 special features, 205 publication listings, 125 website listings, 892 glossary items and much more.

40 years on

The 1976 United Nations Habitat conference in Vancouver was a significant moment for many of my generation. Human settlements were being discussed at a global level and public participation in their creation and management was the dominant theme. In my file of the event I found an unpublished article I wrote about it at the time which you can see here. It will be interesting to see if the conclusions on Habitat III – taking place in Quito, Ecuador this week – will be substantially different. I doubt it but live in hope.

Unable to get to Quito, my modest contribution to Habitat III has been supporting an initiative on John FC Turner’s work which you can see here.

And here are two archive photos:

Nick Wates at Habitat 1976
Address to Habitat Forum 1976 by (I think) Barbara Ward.


How it started for me

In my early teens I had the good fortune to live by a wonderful Lakeland river where I spent a great deal of my spare time. When it rained up the valley the river became a raging torrent, in a drought it almost disappeared. Over the years I got to know every rock and stone. I knew exactly where to jump across with different volumes of water. I knew which stones became treacherously slippery when wet, under which stone one might find fish and when it might be possible to use a canoe.

The River Sprint, Cumbria
The River Sprint, Cumbria
The River Sprint, Cumbria
The River Sprint, Cumbria

Every now and then a local property owner or statutory body would make an intervention; constructing new fences, repairing a weir or cutting down trees. And it was amazing how often these interventions seemed to have a negative effect on my use of the river and also seemed to me to be a waste of resources which could have been spent much better on something else. I had lots of ideas of what could have been done to improve my local environment but of course nobody ever asked me.

This was my awakening to the simple truth that the people who understand a piece of environment best are the people who use it and if you want to make it function better then these people need to be involved in generating the solution.

Later, at university in London, I discovered to my amazement that this seemingly obvious principle was not part of the practice of modern day architecture and planning resulting in the most horrendous acts of destruction and people being condemned to live in the most appalling environments.

But I also discovered that all over the world there were people exploring new and creative ways of involving local people in the creation and management of their environment. Exploring this phenomenon has become the focus of my work.

Nick Wates