Launching Create a Town in the heart of Derbyshire
Find out how we launched our innovative new feature for this notoriously hard-to-engage community, and won them over with a unique virtual experience.
Thanks to the Department for Levelling Up and Housing’s Proptech Engagement Fund, The Future Fox was able to continue our engagement work with our clients at Bolsover District Council, and launch a transformative new feature for our digital engagement platform, PlaceBuilder. The Future Fox and the Council worked closely together to launch the new feature, which enables residents to create and submit their own vision for a new, cost-neutral part of the town.
What is Create a Town?
Create a Town is a mobile-first, easy-to-use and fun web-based tool, designed for a modern, mobile and time-poor audience. The tool aims to bring communities into the challenging discussions on the trade-offs in designing new developments, via a fun, 5-minute experience on their mobile phones.
Using the tool, users can choose from a variety of amenities, shown as isometric icons, like solar farms, housing and green space, and position them on the map. Each item either makes money, or costs money, based on local market values. Users are encouraged to use a variety of items to make the new part of town sustainable, and balance the budget to create a cost-neutral masterplan that is realistically feasible. An interactive moneybox is there to help them along the way.
Following our initial consultation in March of 2022, the council wanted to explore what future growth in Shirebrook might look like, and how this might address the concerns the community have raised about the town and its town centre. To do this, the council identified an area to the north of Shirebrook which was large enough to accommodate a variety of land uses and presented one logical way of growing Shirebrook.
We were tasked not only with engaging the local community, to imagine how this area of land might best be developed, but to present the results in a first-of-its-kind Virtual Reality event.
Here’s what we found!
With over 100 submitted designs from a notoriously hard-to-reach audience, and a 72% satisfaction rate, the Create a Town feature clearly struck a chord with Shirebrook’s community. Submissions hit the budget balance target overall, and there were clear spatial trends in the placement of the options. For example overall, the preferred spot for the recycling centre was along the main road and far away from the existing town, not too unsurprisingly!
What did they decide upon?
After considering the many interesting and varied responses the council used the aggregate results to take forward for modelling. The design featured a generous strip of housing just to the north of Shirebrook, with a large park situated in the centre of it. Further north, some of the most requested amenities, including a doctor's surgery, shopping mall and primary school, were present, surrounded by a large, open parkland area.
The community vision for Shirebrook in VR!
The winning entry was subsequently rendered into stunning virtual reality, thanks to our partners at Digital Urban. The Future Fox team made their way down to Shirebrooks BLAST community centre, where we were delighted to meet with members of the local community and guide them through the Virtual Reality experience. Participants were virtually transported to a hot air balloon ride, taking them from the current Market Square, high over the proposed new development, before landing in one of the parks.
As far as we know, this is the first time the community vision has been portrayed in professional VR, marking a leap forward in how local planning authorities use community-led design.
What’s next for Shirebrook and The Future Fox?
Thanks again to the newest round of funding from the Department for Levelling Up and Houses, The Future Fox is delighted to once again be planning new work with our clients at Bolsover District Council. We’re in the early stages of developing new technologies to ease the process of collating data from a Growth Plan Consultation (which we will also be creating for the council).
We’re excited to continue our innovative work with our partners at the council and look forward to this exciting new phase in our partnership.
The new feature is available to all clients with a mapping subscription, just ask us if you want to get it launched in your community.
Article from Bolsover District Council website:
Bolsover TV coverage of The Future Fox’s Create a Town feature: