As part of the USE-IT! project, a group from Birmingham attended a conference in Toulouse called by URBACT. The group included Localise’s Karen McCarthy, who reports on the trip below.

While part of the time was spent on sharing experiences from our own cities, it was the two field trips that really made an impression.  We were well prepared for our visit to the Guillaumet site: originally the site of Napoleon’s veterinary college, when he decided that good equine care was the key to military success, more recently it had been a military aeronautics site.  When the Concorde programme was based in Toulouse, it contributed key research to this.

The site is now surplus to military requirements and has been sold for development.  What impressed the group most was the level of consultation and engagement undertaken by the developer, and the part that their plan for this had played in their selection for the project. We heard this described before the site visit, and afterwards this was confirmed by residents who formed part of a panel so that we could ask more questions.  They included our “tour guide” for the site visit, who had worked there when it was the centre of French aeronautical engineering.

The wind tunnel (soufflerie) will be incorporated into one of the public buildings and there will be co-operative elements including housing and growing projects. Our second site visit was to a co-operative housing project which was part of a much larger regeneration scheme.  Three blocks of the four were ownership co-ops, with shared facilities such as art and music rooms and a well-equipped bricolage (DIY)room, as well as a recognisable community room for meetings and social events.  The fourth block was a rental co-op, with shared spaces including a roof garden with views of the Pyrenees.

For a more in-depth view of the visit and more photos, see Katie Kershaw’s blog:

Image courtesy of