Neighbourhood planning through a new lens

This year I’ve been working with Berwick-upon-Tweed’s neighbourhood planning group to capture the process they’re going through on film. This is part of a larger vision to create a media representation of a neighbourhood plan to supplement the lengthy policy documents usually created in town planning.

By using Bootlegger, a mobile app developed by Open Lab, I worked with the neighbourhood planning groups to film the local area with the intention of raising awareness of the work of the group and using the footage in future consultations. Bootlegger allows the use of templates and graphic overlays to plan and organise a film shoot. Although originally developed for live band recording, it could have many applications beyond this, one of which is neighbourhood planning.

Giving power to local people

Neighbourhood planning is a significant change away from local authority created planning policy. It gives power directly to local people to create their own policies for the places where they live and work, but is a long and complex process which can sometimes take groups a number of years to complete.

post it notesOne of the problems with the process is the lack of public participation in neighbourhood planning, which means the plans are created by a fairly small group of people within the community. Although consultation is carried out, it often relies on traditional formal town hall meetings and fails to take into consideration the way many people now communicate – through new media.

I worked with six out of the seven working groups in Berwick, each of which are focusing on a key planning topic and are in the process of compiling evidence and starting to think about potential policies. I stayed for a week in Berwick and continuously met with the groups. We met in local cafés and, as we chatted about the area, we began to create a storyboard of what they wanted to film.

Once we’d completed this, I introduced them to the app before handing the phones over to the groups. The citizens enjoyed the process and, in total, 330 video clips were captured in one week! Many individuals within the groups also downloaded the app onto their own phones and continued to film and contribute to the footage outside of the workshops.

Once the groups have captured all the footage they would like to have included, they would like to create short films of the key issues and ideas to share on social media and to showcase to the community. They want to encourage other citizens to contribute footage and to give their views and opinions through this visual method. Moving forward, I’ll be staying involved with Berwick and, hopefully, I’ll help them begin to build a media representation of their neighbourhood plan.

For more information please contact Jen Manuel.

Author: Jennifer Manuel

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