People, Heritage & Place: Using Heritage to Enhance Community and Well-being in Saltaire, Bradford

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bradford
Department Name: Sch of Life Sciences


Bradford is one of the youngest cities in Europe, with more than a quarter under the age of 16. Since the industrial revolution the city has welcomed people from other parts of the globe. Bradford was one of the first places in the UK to be formally recognised as a 'City of Sanctuary'.

The project will develop an exact 3D representation of Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) and historic suburb of Bradford, linked to the City along the route of the former Bradford Branch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal via a Greenway. This Digital Twin of Saltaire and its linking route will be used to explore placemaking and inform the management of heritage assets and engagement of public audiences, and will link up with the existing Virtual Bradford model. Expanding on the strong working relationship between the University and the Council, new partners from education, community groups and refugee action groups will provide tangible avenues for citizen engagement in strategic development and planning.

The partners share a common vision that health and wellbeing of our young people is rooted in community, belonging and place. Bradford was the first UNESCO City of Film and is one of only five UK cities to have a UNESCO WHS within the district. Building on these rich and diverse heritage and cultural assets, the strong partnership between the University and the Council will focus on the value of place, and the potential for Saltaire. This will foster a strong sense of identity, belonging and civic pride across the wider Bradford District, as well as for those residents and stakeholders within the 19th Mill Village.

Concepts of co-creation are at the project's core, where local residents, schools and community groups will collect, interpret, use and repurpose data, including for artistic outputs. To enable this, we will develop a co-production tool, used to create a 'dynamic' condition monitoring approach for Grade II Listed Properties on the National Heritage List for England to support fabric surveys and facilitate listed building consent for property owners towards the upkeep of the built heritage. It will inform strategic planning decisions, such as modelling air quality and the proposed creation of an Active Travel Neighbourhood for Saltaire, with the aim of reducing the volume of through-traffic for the WHS and adjacent residential areas. In recognising the potential recreational value of heritage for health and well-being, we will join the Virtual Bradford model to the proposed Saltaire model just 4 km distant from the City Centre.

To aid site interpretation for learning and visitors, we will work with partners Bradford Council and Saltaire World Heritage Education Association (SWHEA) who have secured seed-funding to develop a tourism app for Saltaire. This is not simply a technical endeavour, since we recognise that the artistic aesthetics and immersive quality of our Digital Twin lends itself to a variety of uses suited to placing historic imagery, maps, plans, demolished buildings, objects and other 'intangible' narrative content in context. This will enrich understanding and discovery linked to place, both within the UNESCO WHS and its wider setting.

Our project responds to aims and aspirations that are listed within the Saltaire WHS Management Plan. Engagement with the project will be facilitated via strong existing partnerships with Bradford Council's Department of Place and active community stakeholder groups, ensuring that impact is integral to project development, implementation and outputs. The project will leave a lasting legacy of freely available digital, artistic and educational resources, as well as informing strategic planning decisions and community involvement in Saltaire and Bradford.


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