It’s good to see that community engagement in planning is making the national press – Scotland’s Sunday Herald is now getting in on the act too, with an article about the fashionably named Sustainable City Visualisation Tool that has recently been developed at the University of Abertay, Dundee.
This new computer-based technique enables planners and the public to map out future developments, using architectural models to create an accurate simulation. Data on traffic, pollution or the carbon output of buildings can be displayed visually, with inefficient structures glowing red or emitting smoke and streets snarling up with traffic. Apparently the program will eventually incorporate simulated crowds, who will nod with pleasure at architecture they like, or shake their heads when entering an ugly, busy or polluted area…
Projects like this deserve to be supported, alongside other innovative uses of IT in planning – one I particularly like is the Macaulay Landscape Institute’s Visual Landscape Theatre, a wonderful way of engaging people in land use decisions from the strategic to the local.
Critics will say that not everyone has access to IT, these approaches don’t suit everyone, and so on. But the point is that we should be developing many different ways of communicating to people what planning is about, and how it can influence their lives – going way beyond conventional paper-based consultation to use broadcast media, drama and the arts, and many many other techniques. People like to learn and be engaged in different ways – we’ve got to respond to that positively.