Planning Creativity: Participatory Heritage and Decision-Making

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences


Planning Creativity will transform the potential impacts, audiences and legacy of the AHRC Changing Landscapes network grant, 'Decommissioning the Twentieth Century' (AH/T005971/1). An innovative digital platform will reveal the cultural capital of decommissioned sites to mathematical modelling, spectacular co-created art alongside high-quality print material will empower communities to engage with and challenge assumptions about the heritage value of large industrial complexes, and a legacy network of stakeholders in sites of decommissioning will build the capacity of communities to understand, participate in, and where relevant challenge planning processes.

Digital humanities - industrial heritage - decommissioning - 3D modelling - participatory research - co-creative - interdisciplinary - data-driven planning - empowerment.

We will build an online, interactive 3D model of Chatterley Whitfield Colliery as a proof-of-concept to engage communities, speak to the mathematical models now often used in landscape change decision-making, and offer a new tool for heritage organisations managing inaccessible or dangerous sites. As well as enabling a virtual tour of the physical site, the online model will enable us to digitise and map at a structure-level the data derived from the original project, relevant historical documents and records, and online submissions of memories, documents and images by wider public stakeholders in the site. This process will encourage community participation in planning by making such participation more accessible, but also results in a flexible and data-rich research tool which retains the complexity and diversity of arts- and humanities-derived material, yet enables, for example, the use of heatmapping or culturomics to derive data suitable for data-driven decision-making. We are aware that such processes have the potential to disempower communities or replace genuinely participatory planning by 'black-boxing' decisions within models that appear arcane. In order to reverse this possibility, the project first seeks to increase the capacity of community stakeholders in decommissioning to understand, participate in, and challenge decision making by building a legacy network of such communities, brought together, alongside decommissioning contractors, heritage representatives and planning experts at a large 'Creative Decommissioning' event in June 2021. Second, we will demonstrate how publicly-exhibited co-created art can encourage and deepen community participation in planning processes. Working with co-creative artists, we aim to project original artwork derived from the data of the original project onto the remaining structures of Chatterley-Whitfield Colliery, and produce a high-quality artistic pamphlet to bring the outputs of workshops at Fawley Power Station and West Burton B Power Station. The process and projections will be photographically documented and exhibited at the 'Creativity in Decommissioning' event, alongside the interactive 3D model.

Planned Impact

The key goal for this network project is to engender a long-lasting impact upon the process of decommissioning large industrial sites for all stakeholders. It will enable policy-makers and planners to use virtual 3D modelling and participatory engagement tools to analyse local community views and needs much earlier in the process than at present. Specifically, it will impact on the following groups:

Academic beneficiaries

1. Mathematical modellers, especially those within the broader UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Landscape Decisions programme.
This project will use digital mapping software alongside digital heritage as a proof of concept to a) render data gained from the original project into a format that can be manipulated and utilised by mathematical and geographical modelling tools and b) increase the representativeness of such data by reaching new stakeholders.

2. Heritage Studies and Digital Humanities. The interactive 3D site model provides a proof-of-concept for local community engagement in inaccessible heritage sites.
Industrial historians of the 20th and 21st centuries. The digitisation of archival material, and collection/production of supplementary material will provide a valuable archive for historians interested in large industrial infrastructure and its decommissioning.

3. Co-creative art study. Co-creation is a relatively new area of artistic research to which this project contributes.

4. Environmental Studies. The project seeks to bring to light the interactions and connections of local people to the past, present and future of carbon culture infrastructure.

5. Digital geography. The project proposes new applications of well-developed expertise in 3D modelling within this field.

Non-academic beneficiaries

1. Planners responsible for landscape change decision-making for brownfield and decommissioned sites.
This project will promote co-creative and participatory democratic process as a means to more effectively manage decommissioning amongst stakeholders such as decommissioning contractors, local authority representatives, site developers, land owners, and offer a new digital tool through which planners can consider the cultural capital of such sites.

2. Local communities involved in planning decisions.
The proof-of-concept mode of data collection will offer a relatively inexpensive, flexible tool for collating the complex and varied engagements of diverse communities with large infrastructure as it becomes heritage, in a way that encourages the co-creative production of heritage and participatory decision-making.

3. Communities associated with sites at risk of decommissioning.
See 2. In addition, the project aims to establish a knowledge-sharing network of these communities in order to increase their capacity and ability to deal with the challenges posed by decommissioning and the decision-making processes that accompany it.

4. Heritage organisations, especially those responsible for inaccessible or dangerous sites.
The 3D model provides one way in which such organisations could engage public visitors in such sites, as well as reaching out to those who might not be able to physically visit others.

5. Historic England.
The project will provide a vision for how a series of HE's strategic recommendations might be fulfilled: to 'facilitate introductions between stakeholders in different places that face and have addressed similar issues', to use engagement with the historic environment to increase 'engagement with the planning system', 'engage local communities in place-making', and to to 'invest in digital technology to develop more innovative ways of engaging the public'. It will also raise the profile of one of the most significant sites on HE's heritage at risk register.


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