Background Information

The people of the West Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite in the UK are being given a greater say in local planning decisions as part of an experimental project taking place in June(1998). Residents, and any one with internet access, will be able to view a 'virtual' model of Slaithwaite and make their own suggestions about the future development of the village. This will compliment a physical 3D model built by planning consultants with the help of local school children.

A 2km2 area of land centred on the village is currently the focus of a community led consultation process which aims to examine the sustainable environmental regeneration of the village and the wider community within the Colne Valley. The idea behind the Planning For Real Initiative is to involve the local community in the future regeneration of their village. Planning for Real is designed to allow local communities to voice there opinions often through the use of a physical model which they can use to redesign and make suggestions and develop ideas about how they want their community to develop. This is being co-ordinated by the Colne Valley Trust who are working in partnership with Kirklees Council to develop a strategy for the village and its community. The Planning For Real Initiative has involved building a 3D physical model of the area allowing local people to identify issues and problems and put forward suggestions in an attempt to bring about improvements to their local community.

The Planning For Real Initiative provides this research project with an ideal opportunity to test out new methods of public participation by running this parallel initiative over the WWW. Using the same 2km2 area of land centred around Slaithwaite these web pages are developing a virtual model of the village which will allow the local community to interact with a virtual Geographic Information System (GIS), a form of computerised mapping system which provides social, physical and environmental information related to the geographical features on a map.

This experiment is one of a series being undertaken by researchers at the University of Leeds School of Geography to determine people's reactions to on-line participation and 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 their Virtual Society? Research Programme. The other case studies, concerning reforestation of national parks and the location of nuclear waste disposal facilities, are due to come on-line early next year.

Go to the Slaithwaite Virtual Decision-Making System