Reporter 422, 8 June 1998


Model system lets locals have their say

The people of the West Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite were given a greater say in local planning as part of an experimental project last weekend.

Public participation in planning meetings is typically low but geographers at the University of Leeds have developed a computer system using the World Wide Web to increase local people’s involvement.

On Saturday, 6 June, residents were able to view a ‘virtual’ model of Slaithwaite in the local sports centre and make their own suggestions about the future development of the village. Computer terminals were set up alongside a 3D model built by planning consultants with the help of local school children.

The local planning authorities will now use the results to guide their decisions on development issues, and the researchers will be able to measure people’s reactions to on-line participation.

“Planning meetings often have a ‘them and us’ feel,” says Dr Steve Carver, director of the research. “We’re hoping that by using the internet people feel directly involved and more comfortable about having a say on issues affecting their everyday lives.”

This experiment is one of a series being held by the University’s School of Geography to assess the viability of ‘cyberdemocracy’ on the World Wide Web. The Economic and Social Research Council is funding the £106,000 project as part of its Virtual Society? research programme.

The ‘Planning for Real’ exercise in the West Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite was organised in conjunction with Colne Valley Trust.

Further details are available at http://www.ccg.leeds.ac.uk/slaithwaite/

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