Planning group uses phone app to create films

The team behind Berwick's Neighbourhood Plan is in the process of creating a number of films, using a special app thanks to a partnership with a postgraduate student.

Thursday, 4th August 2016, 11:00 am
View of Berwick from Tweedmouth. Picture by Jane Coltman

The filming has been taking place on the Plan’s seven key topics – employment and skills; transport; housing; tourism; built environment and conservation; natural environment; youth – and will be used to encourage public engagement and consultation.

Jen Manuel is currently studying for her MRes and PhD in digital civics funded by the EPSRC at Newcastle University’s OpenLab.

Her background is in town planning and she has a specific interest in looking at engaging the wider community in the neighbourhood planning process.

She spent some time with the neighbourhood plan steering group last week, teaching them how to use a mobile-phone app called Bootlegger, which was developed by OpenLab and originally used for filming gigs. It enables a number of people to contribute to a film project while maintaining uniformity of style and quality through a visual overlay on the screen.

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Jen said that the neighbourhood plan process is ‘complicated and challenging’, adding: “With digital tools, I want to help that process along through the course of my PhD.”

During her week in Berwick, she met all but one of the topic groups, taught them how to use the app and went out filming ‘all over the place’.

“On the editing, I will give them as much or as little support as they need,” Jen said. “I don’t want to edit it because it would defeat the purpose of giving them the app.”

Eric Goodyer, chairman of the steering group, said: “It is an innovative and novel approach to planning and Berwick Town Council is delighted that Newcastle University asked us to support this valuable research project.”

Over the course of her studies, Jen is willing to work with other communities which are developing neighbourhood plans.

“Whatever I do is with the groups,” she said. “I don’t have a set plan because I want to meet the groups and work out what they need.

“Otherwise it would defeat the purpose of neighbourhood planning.”