Cultural Planning for Sustainable Communities

Lead Research Organisation: Middlesex University
Department Name: School of Art and Design


The research project aims to use cultural planning as a way to explain and value the relationship between the arts & culture and the environment in the UK. Ideas of behaviour towards the natural environment, the countryside and 'ecosystems' - whether urban or rural - tend to lack a cultural dimension, or include the cultural sector of arts organisations, centres, artists and other creatives. This includes community cultures and local cultural amenities, amateur groups and activities. By using cultural mapping, where cultural 'assets' of all kinds can be mapped using local knowledge and various data sources - social/demographic, land-use etc and their catchments/usage, with accompanying visual images and comments 'from below' - a rich landscape of an area's culture can be developed, visualised and appreciated. This inclusive cultural base, which will be developed by this project, will be used to express how community cultures relate to their environments, how they are used and contribute to development and growth decisions and processes e.g. land use development (e.g. new housing, industry), recreation/tourism, heritage, conservation and resource use (e.g. water).

The project will build on cultural mapping and planning techniques and data/maps developed for area-based 'Living Places' case studies in London, Portsmouth and North Northants, and consult with these local communities and cultural organisations using GIS mapping-Participation workshops in order to test out and articulate this culture-ecosystem relationship; how the two fields inter-act and opportunities for culture-based sustainable development might be taken forward.

It is hoped that by applying cultural planning and mapping to the planning and ecosystem assessments undertaken by local and national government and their various environmental agencies, that the value of local and regional culture, cultural facilities and activities can be included in decisions over the environment and how we express our relationship and aspirations towards 'nature'. The project seeks to develop detailed guidance on how to incorporate cultural planning within environmental decision-making and assessment using the results from case studies, consultation and practical data mapping tools.

Planned Impact

Non-Academic impacts from this Follow-Up project will be targeted at policy-makers, delivery and other end-users in the environmental planning and ecosystem assessment systems in the UK (England). This includes national government departments: DEFRA, DLCG and DCMS, Environment Agency as well as cultural agencies and NDPBs such as Arts Council England, English Heritage and local authorities/county councils. Impacts will be manifested in terms of the adoption and validation of policy guidance, the uptake of cultural mapping and planning toolkits and meta-data systems (sources of, and standards of data classification, compatibility and coverage) and the incorporation of cultural planning models and principles in environmental and ecosystem assessment.

Mechanisms to achieve and deliver these impacts are firstly embedded in the research project through early and subsequent consultation and engagement with end-users in central and local government, professional bodies, and through focus groups and iterative presentation of findings and recommendations arising from the research. Exploitation of existing stakeholders in the cultural mapping and toolkits and area-based Living Places case studies will serve as the basis for the project development, transfer and exchange of knowledge, validation and in the design of impact paths and opportunities for take-up of the research findings and resources.

In order to maximise the take-up of research outputs in the form of guidance, policy and tools including case study material and datasets, these will be 'co-designed' and formulated in 'environmental' terms for easy inclusion in official policy and guidance, data protocols/metadata systems - including websites, blogs, advice notes, briefings etc. Full use will be made of online media and networks including KTNs (Environment), third sector and environmental advocacy groups, to raise the profile and interest in culture and sustainable development and the role of cultural planning in environmental awareness and land-use planning.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/K00414X/1 01/02/2013 30/06/2013 £31,734
AH/K00414X/2 Transfer AH/K00414X/1 01/07/2013 30/06/2014 £19,750
Description The value of cultural mapping as a consultative and scenario engagement tool and the ability to synthesise scientific/ environmental knowledge and data, and capture/visualise the perspectives of users and their behaviour in the environment. Also the importance of cultural input and engagement in ecosystems valuation and narratives.
Exploitation Route Cultural mapping method and tool being developed and applied in AHRC Hydrocitizenship project e.g. Cultural Ecosystems Mapping. See final report submitted to AHRC in July 2014
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description By local communities and agencies in pilot/test bed sites and development areas - LLDC (Olympic Park), Bioregional (environmental awareness/behavioural change), e.g. in urban design, accessibility and community safety. Acknowlegement of cultural mapping/GIS-P as a consultative and cultural tool in National Ecosystems Assessment (NEA) updates (Cultural Services).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Connected Communities
Amount £1,183,346 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L008615/2 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 04/2017
Description Cultural Planning for Sustainable Communities in Hackney Wick 
Organisation Hackney Wick Cultural Interest Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Creative Wick are a social enterprise and Community Interest Company (CIC) and network operating as Hackney Wick & Fish Island Cultural Interest Group (CIG). Attendance at monthly meetings (May 2014- to date/ongoing), advice and support given the organiser and member organisations on a range of subjects and issues including, funding, strategy, research/surveys, policy
Collaborator Contribution Creative Wick and chairman Will Chamberlain have enabled this partnership and facilitated exchange and introductions to the network and members. Joint events, festivals and advice sessions have been held.
Impact Minutes of monthly meetings, 4 day festival (2015), design feasibility (waterside heritage buildings), funding bids/drafts, new partner website
Start Year 2014
Description Hackney Wick Connected Community Festival, June 2015(AHRC Anniversary) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Community Festival incorporating cultural mapping workshops, project stall, exhibition of design schemes, visitor surveys, debates/film screenings and art installation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015