Millom  – Iron Line

In 2021 Millom Town Deal Board, working with Copeland Borough Council, secured an offer of £20.6 million to fund 4 transformational projects in Millom, Cumbria. One of those projects is the Iron Line, a project to sensitively enhance an RSPB nature reserve and coastal lagoon to provide more accessible paths, visitors’ building/facilities, and other route enhancements.

To being the design process for this exciting project a global search was launched. A public consultation showcasing the 5 shortlisted entries was held and a winning entry to was selected. Layer Studio and team were selected, including PLACED.

What we did

PLACED have led on the community engagement within the design team and used our experience to create multiple ways for local people to have meaningful input to shape the emerging design.

Community engagement is always important, but we felt especially keen to make sure local people could shape the design because the Hodbarrow Nature Reserve and surrounding lagoon are highly valued green spaces and carry considerable heritage value.

As part of our engagement we developed an interactive engagement website which included a survey, as well as an ideas wall and interactive map. The online engagement enabled easy, traditional engagement through a survey, but also more creative engagement as participants could share ideas, images, and pinpoint locations of importance on the map.

We also took the opportunity to be present in Millom and offer several face to face, informal drop-in events. Over two months we held four events, popping up in a local community centre and Tesco. We shared the latest designs and collected detailed feedback – including learning more about the history of the site and the memories of local people.

The third strand of our engagement was to give voice to young people. We worked with local primary schools to offer a creative exercise which teachers could lead their classes through so that local young people could tell us more about what they thought was important for the future of the Iron Line. We received many beautiful drawings and learnt so much about the importance of play, cleanliness and how the site feels for young people. We also went into Millom School to work through a rapid design process with a Year 10 Design and Technology class. Their ideas for the site also showed the unique perspective of young people.

We returned to Millom in March 2023 for another pop-up to give updates on the designs and work since and providing another space for feedback.

This report helps tell the story of the project as it evolves and serves to capture that in real time – so my thanks to the work that has been done and is a credit to you and your supporting team.”

David Savage, Millom Town Deal Board, Iron Line Project Champion


From the engagement we were able to act as an advocate for community views directly within the design team. We could advise our design team colleagues on local knowledge about the site, how people use certain parts of the site, their concerns and priorities.

We were also able to report back to the Town Deal Board and Copeland Borough Council. Making sure that they were also aware of the community views and perhaps any wider concerns.

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