“Food is our common ground; a universal experience.” James Beard

The experience of sharing food is perhaps one of the most basic of human pleasures. Whether it’s an intimate dinner for two or a festive feast for many, the consumption of food is the ultimate bonding experience. It encourages connection and conversation. The dinner table can act as a powerful unifier; a place of community.

With this in mind, what better way to engage with a local community, than a pizza-making event? Sixteen of us from Planit-IE recently headed over to Homebaked in Anfield, ready to chop, mix, roll, cook, chat (and of course, eat!) with members of the local community.

The visit stemmed from our recent involvement in the regeneration of Walton Breck Road in Anfield. Homebaked (formerly known as Mitchell’s) is a co-operative bakery and Community Land Trust, located on a plot of land that falls within our wider masterplan. The tiny bakery sits within the shadow of the world-famous Liverpool Football Club. As the home of LFC, Anfield is internationally-reknowned for its role as a host to the game of two halves. But over the past few decades, Anfield itself has also become a place of two halves: a fan-filled football destination on match-days; a neglected, dilapidated and frustrated neighbourhood for the rest of the year.

Anfield’s decline began in the 90s when the city of Liverpool suffered a severe economic crisis. The problem was exacerbated by the Housing Renewal Scheme in the early 2000s. During this period, rows of terraced houses were emptied and boarded up, ready to be cleared or refurbished. However, these improvements never materialised, leaving Anfield in a half-demolished limbo for over a decade. Homebaked was born of the desire to reverse this neglect. In an innovative process, led by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, the bakery became the base for a Community Land Trust (CLT), utilising funding from the Liverpool Biennale. Sick of broken promises and years of uncertainty, the Homebaked CLT sought to take the transformation of the neighbourhood into their own hands.

Since then – utilising the bakery as a unifier – Homebaked has become a hub of the community. It is a place where local people can buy fresh, affordable products, but beyond this, it is a place where people come together to discuss the future of their neighbourhood. Over the past few years, Homebaked has run numerous workshops and events exploring opportunities to transform the area. Viewing the end-user as a co-producer of space, they have actively taken the design process into their own hands. Working with local architects Architectural Emporium, they generated a series of ideas for the bakery and its surrounding plot. The resulting scheme envisions a new shop front and kitchen, a community space, growing space and flats above the bakery.

Coinciding with the rise of Homebaked, a number of other projects have recently taken place in the local area, including the regeneration of Stanley Park and the LFC stadium expansion. After decades of decay, a momentum is finally beginning to build in Anfield.

Our vision for Walton Breck Road aims to build on this momentum, embracing Anfield as a world-class football destination, but – first-and-foremost – placing an emphasis on the needs of the local community. Our proposed masterplan is structured around two key concepts: the regeneration of Walton Breck Road and the introduction of a new green spine. Alongside a series of streetscape improvements and new high quality public spaces, the vision seeks to stimulate a mix of new retail, leisure, office, residential and community-based opportunities, incorporating the Homebaked plot.

As creators of places, we understand the importance of effective engagement with local communities and see this as a valuable part of the place-making process. This is particularly true of blighted urban areas, such as Anfield, where communities have suffered severely from economic deprivation and years of neglect. We hope the pizza-making event will be the first of many future discussions between Planit and the Anfield community, as the transformation of the area begins to take shape.

Written by Helen Buckle, Graduate Urban Designer