Creating new avenues

Jennifer Manuel

26 Apr 2017, 12:15 p.m.
Room 9

Neighbourhood planning in the UK was created by the Localism Act 2011, which gave new rights to citizens. It gives direct power to local citizens to organise together and produce their own planning policy which will be adopted by the local authority and will shape the future development of their area.

Despite its potential for communities, neighbourhood planning is a long and complicated process, taking groups, on average, between three and four years to complete. The need for extensive citizen participation also means that the ‘usual suspects’ are engaged throughout and traditional engagement methods such as town hall meetings, forums and drop in events are still the preferred methods.

Despite the ubiquity of technology, the use of digital tools is confined to online surveys and websites with very few groups using social media. These current methods of engagement only allow participation on the narrow terms of the town planning framework – comments must be given in certain formats and can only address 'material planning considerations': a set of prescribed criteria taken into account when making planning decisions in the UK.

However, citizens do not experience their place through such a narrow framework but via experiential narratives and stories.

Working with two neighbourhood planning groups, this research explored the use of Bootlegger, a synchronous participatory media tool, to capture everyday stories, contributing to the production of a neighbourhood plan.

With a total of 382 videos captured by citizens across two areas, the technology emphasised the potential for a new media neighbourhood plan. Not only did the process of producing the media through synchronous story capture influence policy development, it facilitated a more democratic discussion highlighting the plurality of citizens’ stories in civic life.